No more resolutions
by Tracy Westell
Anne Moore, from Action Read in Guelph, conducted a discussion about goal setting at a recent event put on by the Festival of Literacies at OISE. She is working on updating Action Read's popular goal-setting workbook, A Dream that Walks. She discussed some of the tensions about using goals as a way of charting a learning path. As it turned out many people in the room (all literacy workers) were not all that comfortable with using goals in their own lives. Many of us found we didn't meet our stated goals and have resorted to a more organic and dynamic way of learning for ourselves. It's easy to chart a linear path that takes us towards a goal but it is much harder to predict the many complications that will arise to lead us off that path. For people marginalized by poverty, poor health, racism and other oppressions, the path is even rougher. Anne's session at OISE left me wondering why we ask learners to do what we have figured out is nearly impossible to do.
I've been reading
a lot about complexity theory, especially as it relates to learning
and policy development. Briefly, complexity theory comes out of chaos
theory, quantum physics and dissipative structure theory (in other words,
it comes from scientists studying natural and man-made systems). Complexity
theory is concerned with complex adaptive systems, systems whose behaviour
is patterned and unpredictable. Complexity theory guru Ralph Stacey says:
Over the holidays I read an article by Harvey Goldstein
Having aspirations, intentions, hopes and dreams is part of being human and part of what moves us to learn. But to tie us to goals, outcomes, targets etc. developed by centralized bodies that do not live with local realities seems counterproductive. And for us as individuals to succumb to that ever-present voice in our heads telling us to set goals and punishing us when we don't meet those goals seems counterproductive. It would be good to explore with other literacy workers what kind of policies and practices might work better to reflect the complex, dynamic and organic nature of learning.
Reading a book, she says. Good. Takes your mind off your troubles. I'm wedged beside this woman, large in her long-sleeved sweater, corduroy pants.
Humid mid-summer day. She would tell me more, but I'm under the protection of poems. (No need to read the ads.) Where is she headed? I look up
near my stop. Her words send me off: Books keep you busy, keep your mind going.
by Sheila Stewart
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*Tosey, Paul. Complexity Theory: A Perspective on Education, 30 July 2002, Unversity of Surrey, retrieved January 2005 from www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources.asp?process=full_record§ion=generic&id=53
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