Learning as sense-making
I'm helping my daughter as she writes up her final dissertation at the end of her first degree in Theatre Studies in Manchester, UK. A significant part of her course was working with different Theatre companies and, because she majored in Prison Theatre, she did a number of workshops in high security juvenile prisons.
I am fascinated as she searches for and devours books and theories that help her make sense of her emerging practice. American anthropologists, Brazilian writers about theatre, subultarn theories, Bakhtin on heterglossia, carnival and parody and Foucault on sexuality - these are just some of the writers who talk to her about what she's doing.
From the beginning of the course she was encouraged to keep a log and a reflective diary, which is as much a part of her repertoire as reading books and writing essays. In it she takes notes of conversations and observations of ...anything ... She has learned that they are an integral part of sense-making, an important resource for helping her understand the world she's learning about and helping to create.
The other day a friend of mine said that her daughter was doing a course of Theatre Studies in Portugal but was fed up because they did very little practical stuff. That conversation reminded me of a fundamental mind-set difference in education in Portugal. Ingrained is the idea that you have to be taught something first, before you can go away and apply it. The entire school and Higher Education system is based on the paradigm of knowledge as object to be transmitted from one person to another and which then can be applied. Your aula prática is where you do exercícios. Practice means being a student who does excercises - it's not related to doing and being a professional.
That you should learn by doing and being and making sense of that process is an anethema to the whole system where so much power is invested in hierarchies, in downward transmission of content, and in people trying to control learning rather than valuing the learning that happens. It's what I see at every level of the system, not just the classroom. And I think that the high level of insuccesso escola is just the first manifestation of what is to be tested in a more global social and economic system. Until the whole systemic problem of top-down vision, thinking and control is challenged, I don't think there is any hope for creating real change.