After the interesting analysis of Gadamer’s theories applied to teach, we have been asked to continue our learning process through the reading of Bakhurst’s reflections on Vygotsky’s perezhivanie.
At first I had the feeling to be in front of one of the top definition of “Ethos”, while Bakhurst unpacks the significance of the Russian notion perezhivanie by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, especially for educational theory.
The term, meaning “thick experience”, has not found a precise translation into English, and therefore has been imported as it is.
If Gadamer was somehow describing the ideal scenario of “when” education takes place, being an active exchange of knowledge between two (or more) actors, I’d say that Vygotsky rather focuses on “how” the learning curve is structured, by listing a number of 6 virtues that indicate the successful completion of the academic journey.
Those virtues are:
To begin with, I’d argue if we may consider nowadays “Inclusivity” as the 7th Virtue of educational experience, which in my view by definition it’s the one the embraces all qualities and characteristics of a “thick experience”, reflecting on the complexity of the human being as opposed to the “thin” concept of sensory experience. Furthermore, I would also question that challenges, confusion and failure, might turn out to be positive encounters through the learning process, that perhaps help the student either to reinforce her choice or clarify/modify her chosen path.
Having to reflect on how these six qualities have arisen in my own educational experience, I think it’s worth mentioning that I had already gained some experience in the industry, when I first approached the University as a student, and even now that I play the double role of Associate Lecturer at UAL, and student of the PgCert, I still keep a solid foot as a creative practitioner in the business world.
What’s the difference between students who have no working experience?
I would consider myself a “difficult customer to please”, and consequently a lecturer who is aware of, and has concretely tested, the key elements required by the business world outside academic environments.
This means that if a learning experience is evaluated by the presence of a feeling of “fulfilment”, the students might encounter a sudden discouragement when facing a similar situation in the workplace, that perhaps turns out to be rather depressing instead.
For example, if a student is given a graphic project to develop, the experience may result as:
Fulfilling and personal when developing the project, and presenting it in front of the group of peers, and tutors. Consequently, by answering questions by the audience and receiving feedback from the same can be inspiring, challenging and affirming, becoming a solid authentic experience.
But what if we take the very same assignment into the industry, and have to confront with various limits, such as budget, unfair critical evaluations, competitiveness, brand heritage, etc.
Therefore, my conclusion is that the six virtues become a true vehicle of experience when opposed to their negative counterparts, building awareness both in the students and their teachers. What would happen, I wonder, if a learning journey faced only several challenges, and very little success, resulting if not in a complete failure, halfway it? Shall we assume that the learning process stops? I’d dare say, that even negativity could turn out in a great success, if the teachers are enough equipped to help the student navigates through difficulties, challenging qualities like resilience, determination, a strong will, and ultimately an analysis of those “accidents” that instead of discouraging, may be taken as “lesson learned” and help the person to clarify the desired outcome.
As an Associate Lecturer, during my teaching, I often reflected on what can make a significant difference between myself and a colleague, as well as what concretely distinguish the UAL from any other University of the same kind. This reflection has brought me to consider the Vygotsky’s 6 virtues in form of University Ethos, to which I add the 7th, being inclusivity, as well as equality, one of the first and most important subjects at the core of our delivery. If an educational experience takes place in a situation in which everyone feels included, and equal, I believe that is the perfect ground where cultural exchange can take place, and take shape of a successful learning journey having all 6, and perhaps more virtues included.
I have visually referred to a photograph of an artwork by Chelsea College fellow student and artist Anish Kapoor, that seems to be based on the Fibonacci mathematics sequence. In the Fibonacci sequence, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. Fibonacci omitted the “0” included today and began the sequence with 1, 1, 2,
My consideration is that the Fibonacci sequence, as well as Anish Kapoor’s artwork, express both harmony and equilibrium within the art form. The numbers don’t follow the traditional sequence but create a new one, a meaningful code on which the analysis of music, astronomy, and other subjects is often based. So, I dare to say that “perfection lays in the imperfection”.
This is obviously a metaphor of my conclusions on the analysis of Bakhurst’s reflections, since I believe that by trying to keep a constant level of student’s engagement, through the delivery of multiple educational experiences (lecture, workshop, seminar, lesson), providing opportunities for working in group of peers, alone, and for networking, as well as a one-to-one moment for feedback, and evaluation through verification of the achievements, the institution in the figure of the teacher can offer a proficient learning experience in which perhaps the 6 virtues won’t always be present altogether, but the sum of each tuition through the academic year, might finally add a positive element to the process of learning, resulting in an “authentic” thick experience.