Action, Beliefs and Inquiries

Knowledge is knowledge of order, the order created by the individual when he imposes the organization of his cognitive categories on the chaos which surrounds him.

(Riley 1985)

In moments of dramatic changes, I feel the need to re-visit maps, to reflect on knowing and knowledge, to open  boundaries which may lead my inquiries and learning further beyond. Knowledge becomes what one knows after having imposed cognitive categories in an organized fashion.

And, according to Riley (1985)

Since each individual has his own cognitive map and will add to it indiosyncratically, the most powerful aids to learning will be those which reveal to him (the learner) the nature of his map, which provides him with a model of his world. (Riley 1985:160

My maps are entwined with different knowings. Between the analogue world and the digital dimension, I seek possibly clues for answers.

In his discussion on the content of education, Stenhouse (1991) raises the following issue:

Prophets may teach private wisdom: teachers must deal in public knowledge.

(Stenhouse 1991:6)

So, when transmitting knowledge, what roles do teachers perform? How do they become apparent (Widdowson 1987:84)?

Let me thread my beliefs together:

  1. Firstly, reality is socially constructed. Its features of knowledge are shared by all members of a specific community or cultural group.
  2. Educational institutions and their classrooms from such specific cultures.
  3. Culture is fluid and this notion of fluidity, with its tensions between internal and social worlds, will be present in the classroom.
  4. Culture may be perceived through the enactment of roles. Within the classroom culture, there exist three determining role of the teacher, the learner and the curriculum. Each will sustain and be sustained by the status recognized by and recognizable of the group.
  5. These roles and statuses will determine and shape the expectations and demands of each of the participating members.
  6. Despite the “opportunistic process” (Jackson 1968:166) of teaching there exist norms and procedures. Owing to these, the classroom culture may be seen as a chess game, where power struggles are perceived through the social interactional setting.
  7. Hence, the art of teaching is confronted with the unnerving critical question: is the classroom space intended for teaching – i.e. the handing down of knowledge- or good social management? And does good social management provide fruitful learning conditions?
  8. Power is sited in discourse:   What are the implications for the classroom teacher who is often caught between theory and reality? What possible bridges exist And how are they crossed?

Educational group such as schools and classrooms are specific cultures into which their members are initiated. We may understand the educational process as formulated by Stenhouse (1967)

Education is essentially a group process depending upon communication. And the communication is not merely from the teacher to the class. If the class is to make the culture its own, it must come to found its own social life on it.”

With metaphors or without, classrooms may be perceived as dynamic social communities, with their own cultural behaviour and knowledge. In relation to knowing,  knowledge is always gained through action and for action (MacMurry, 1957, Polauyi,1958).

Hence my belief that it is of no practical use to only claim to support digital tech in education. One needs to practice one’s belief and understanding; to foster knowledge and knowing, there needs to be action. This action is not merely initiated and maintained by the teacher, but by all participants of the classroom. This action too can not be limited to the Powerpoint displays by the teacher nor only participation of learners in a LMS.

At a time when the needs of digital literacies are constantly discussed, it is impertinent that learners themselves create and become involved in their process of digital literacies. It isn’t a question of learners being “involved in their learning process” – that has been a requirement of all times. What indeed is urgent is that learners are able to understand that even using simple digital tools to create dialogues or comic strips for their blogs, are relevant skills for their future.

How? Learners need to read the screen. Locate information, and not just cry out for the teacher’s assistance. This is a skill which is learnt through practice/action. It is through active participation in digital networks and communities that learners become more aware of their role as digital citizens and their digital footprint. It is by blogging  and using class wikis that students gain experience to take beyond the classroom walls. It is by experimenting with search engines other than Google that learners may become aware of how better to locate information.

These are merely some examples which I practice in my classrooms; practices which cross the bridge of class management and the tensions between educational theory and practice.

I began this post with retracing beliefs.

I end this post by planting a garden of (adapted) questions raised by Cummins, Brown and Sayers (2007).

Journeys of inquiry do not end quickly.


Cummins, J., Brown, K, Sayers, D. – 2007 – Literacy, Technology, and Diversity, Pearson

Jackson, P.W.– 1968, Life in classrooms, Holt, Rinehart &Winston

Riley, P. – 1985, Mud and Stars: Personal Constructs, Sensitization and Learning”, in Discourse and Learning, ed. Riley, P., Longman

Stenhouse, L.       – 1967, Culture and Education, Thomas Nelson & Sons

Stenhouse, L.       – 1991, An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, Heineman

Widdowson, H. G. – 1987,  “The Roles of Teacher and Learner”, in ELT  Journal, vol1 41/2,


7 thoughts on “Action, Beliefs and Inquiries

  1. Pingback: Action, Beliefs and Inquiries | Educommunication |

  2. Let me thank you once again for a post full of pleasant reasonings.

    “Firstly, reality is socially constructed. Its features of knowledge are shared by all members of a specific community or cultural group.”

    To add from my perspective what this sentence woke up in me: If we should believe what late David Bohm suggested in his excellent book “On Dialogue”, we too are constructed socially. Things we read, what others say, what the society and other groups lay on us, they all mold our assumptions – which we mostly are, assumptions.

    Unfortunately, maybe, education too is largely a collection of assumptions about
    1) What is implicitly important for people to learn
    2) What is explicitly important for them to learn, and
    3) how will they learn it.

    Part 4, what (else) do people actually learn in the process, is often missed and ignored.

    Often these aforementioned parts are dealt in a fragmented ways and like something totally objective. Thomas Reeves wrote an interesting article “How do you know they are learning?” which might interest you. Available from here:

    I feel you’ve touched a topic which is as vast as a great ocean. Education is not culture free, and examining how it has been organized in a context, leads to understand what that specific context (society) values (or does not).

  3. Hi Marko,

    Thank you too for taking time to read and share your views. Your first 3 questions are determined by the prevailing paradigm of values and thought within a specific timeframe.

    Your 4th question is more complex to deal with precisely because one cannot put a finger on the moment something is learnt. For instance, a learner may appear to have learnt X, Z, or Y, in a lesson by giving the right answer – however was that a moment of deep learning? Often enough, the same learner will have forgotten X, Z, Y, the next day or the following. And that is no disrespect to the learner; one needs opportunities of practice and repetition to actually learn.

    On another note, there are other types of learning. The example above refers to language learning (I myself spoke 6 languages by the age of 18, so truly empathise with language learners). In terms of teaching digital literacies, for example, using a particular tool for a specific purpose, students are so engaged, feel so powerful, that they remember how to keep using it. They may not always understand the underlying reason why I am asking them to use a tool (for instance, collaborating on WallWisher or using an ether pad) but they do enjoy it.

    As an educator, that magic moment of learning is often on my mind. And yet, after so many years of classrooms, I still have no simple answer. I don’t believe that actual (deeper) learning happens in the classroom. What may occur is an understanding, a performance. Deep learning will come with time and regular engagement in what was taught/presented in class.

    Another example is business studies. When I taught undergraduates at a Business School, I began to understand how challenging their studies were, for they had no real life experience. For 3 years I happened to have 1 class with the same students; when they graduated, many emailed me saying how right I had been in my lessons. All of a sudden, everything I had taught them rose up the surface and they were able to make connections and sense of my lessons.

    As for education being a vast ocean…..yes, it is 🙂 but one that educators need to swim in and reflect upon.

  4. Pingback: Action, Beliefs and Inquiries | John Dewey |

  5. Pingback: Action, Beliefs and Inquiries | Educación flexible y abierta |

  6. Pingback: Action, Beliefs and Inquiries | E-Learning...

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