Seeking balance in learning


I’m using versions of this matrix a lot in my research. To see it in detail click on the image or go here. I find it is helping to go beyond a frustrating binary view that learners are either ‘Academic’ (aka ‘Bright’ or ‘Intelligent’), or ‘Vocational’ (aka ‘practical’, and by implication, not very bright). Instead, learners can be seen to develop competencies in ways that are either more Kinaesthetic or more to do with Abstraction or symbolisation, and/or in ways that are more methodical (Techne) or more inventive (Poiesis).

Of course, the well-known model of Multiple Intelligences has tried to overcome this binary. The problem with this is that it identifies too many distinct types of intelligence, some associated with different senses or parts of the body, some associated with contexts of practice such as nature or social groups. I also don’t like the assumption, that has evolved with its use, that people have distinct or inherent preferences or styles.

I’m finding that my matrix model also helps overcome the unhelpful binary distinction between ‘Art’ and ‘Science’. I agree there are cultural and functional distinctions to be made between communities of practice of artists and scientists. However, there is no clear distinction when you drill down to mind-body interactions with the world. Scientific activities such as positing advanced or highly speculative theories are in the Abstract-Poietic quartile. Artistic activities that are highly mechanistic and material are in the Kinaesthetic-Techne quartile.

In another use of the matrix I’ve mapped onto it Bob Hughes’ Taxonomy of Play.

It has struck me that most activity in schools or subjects is in the Abstract-Techne quartile. Vocational schools or subjects might include more Kinaesthetic or material activity but the ‘good students’ are still indicated by their abilities in Abstract Symbolisation. They are pulled into this quartile by the requirements of exams. The mindset question in Abstract-Techne is ‘How can I make this system more precise?’ Or, how can I make the calculation work? How can I write an essay to the set specifications? How can I be more effective with the use of systems of abstract meaning? These are the hardest questions for young minds, and the least intrinsically motivating. The best learning provision would give much more time to the other three quartiles, starting with the Kinaesthetic-Poietic quartile for the youngest children.


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