Cormier uses three paradigms of different approaches to learning; the first refers to Apollonius of Rhodes who taught Cicero and Juliuns Ceasar, the second regards the practices of the University of Toulouse in 1270 and finally, the third describes Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi’s efforts to train Swiss people how to read around 1800. In the first case, knowledge is created through attentive interaction; Cicero and Caesar -both of them Apollonius disciples- had to learn how to perform public speeches by practicing patience while trying out different arguments (one to one learning). In 1270 Toulouse, learning was perceived as “hearing” as University students were offered access not to books (as printing was not yet invented) but to listening the books’ content (upscaled catechetical approach where success is to repeat). In the case of Pestalozzi, mass scale education was possible through the textbook (trade of freedom to scale).
Cormier raises his eyebrow to the textbook approach:
Teaching in a graded environment is a true position of power. You get to decide, as a teacher, what someone needs to know and whether or not that person knows it. You get to set the measures of success (…) Who am I to be in a position to decide what someone else should know? What gave me the right to exercise the power that I had over my students? (…) My own academic path and that of my peers had already shown me that learners are not an homogenous group; did the literature really expect me to accept that a one size fits all approach would be successful? How could I know what a student needed to know before I met them? Was there some canon of knowledge that I could simply go to and pick the right topics off a shelf that would be applicable to everyone? How could I decide, ahead of time, what success was going to look like for a student?
while advocating for a rhizomatic approach where:
(…) My job as a teacher is to create smooth space. To create an uncertain space where students have a chance to be ready to create their own map. To build an ecology within which students can grow, wander, break off and reconnect. A place where they can access the voices of the past and present and use them to learn. If my students can learn when they are uncertain, they’ll be prepared to answer questions that I cannot. And, even better, ask questions that I might not think to ask. (emphasis is mine)
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