In my last post, I referenced John Seely Brown’s mention of dispositions, and I think it’s worthwhile to try to represent and discuss his point here, as it’s relevant to social learning, organizational culture, and success, topics I’ve mentioned in the past.
In The Power of Dispositions, JSB & Douglas Thomas (Ubiquity) argue that we need more than skills for 21st century education. They suggest that there exists an innate disposition of productive inquiry, an inclination (in particular contexts) to engage in a continual cycle of questioning and answering that leads the individual through a process of ongoing learning. It’s about knowing, not about knowledge. They suggest: “more basic than a skill; it is an embodied element of how we understand and perceive the world”.
They argue that by placing questions of meaning, and focusing on contexts and inquiry rather than content and results, we make environments conducive to these dispositions. Naturally, some of their observations are based in computer games, where I’ve argued contextualized challenge creates the most meaningful exploration and, consequently, learning.
I believe there’s something fundamental here, but am also left a bit dissatisfied, as there’s no obvious prescription, and I’m impatient to change the world. However, I have to agree that what I see in the schooling my children face, specifically in the transition to middle school, is that the teachers are not providing any context about why it’s important, nor working to make it meaningful, and focusing on product and not process. (This is true of too much of our learning, organizational as well.)
I do believe that if we put up interesting challenges and support the process of exploration we can make more meaningful learning, and if that leads to a development of disposition, we’ve had a good outcome. I certainly know that we need to make our learning more meaningful, even when the outcome is known, if we want it to stick. That we could create a culture of productive and continual inquiry, however, is the bigger opportunity on the table, for schools, organizations, and society. And that’s worth shooting for.