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Conversation in Education  

Emile Bojesen

Conversation is a topic of burgeoning interest in the context of educational theory and as a prospective means for conducting empirical research. As a nonformal educational experience, as well as within the classroom, or as a means to researching various aspects of educational practice and institutions, research on or through conversation in education draws on a range of theoretical resources, often understanding conversation as analogous to dialogue or dialectic. Although only brought into this research context in the early 21st century, the philosopher who has engaged most extensively with conversation is Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003). His text, The Infinite Conversation, originally published in French as L’Entretien infini in 1969, responded to and took forward many elements of what would go on to be described as poststructuralist or deconstructive thought. Blanchot’s notion of conversation (in French, “entretien”) is distinct from those reliant upon philosophical conceptions of dialogue or dialectic. Itself the subject of philosophical research, Blanchotian conversation has been interpreted variously as either not sufficiently taking into account the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas, or else expanding beyond its more limited scope. Some of these interpretations stress the ethical and political implications of conversation; however, none engage specifically with its educational implications. Blanchotian conversation allows for contradicting and contrasting thoughts to be voiced without being brought to shared consensus or internal resolution. Its “lesson” is not only in the thought that it produces but also in the ethical relation of sincerity, openness, and non-imposition that it develops. Unlike some recent applications of conversation to educational context, Blanchotian conversation does not re-entrench the subject to be educated but rather deprioritizes the subject in favor of the movement of thought and the ethical “between” of conversation itself. This notion of conversation has corollaries in political thought, notably with Jacques Rancière’s understanding of “dissensus” and Karl Hess’s thought of an “anarchism without hyphens,” as well as the politically informed educational ideas of Elizabeth Ellsworth and the educational practice and research of Camilla Stanger.

Article

Key Instances of Holistic Curriculum as an Alternative to National Curriculum  

John P. Miller

Holistic education as a field of inquiry began in the 1980s. Previously this field was referred to as humanistic education, confluent education, affective education, or transpersonal education. The work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow inspired many educators working in these areas. In 1988 The Holistic Education Review under the editorship of Ron Miller was first published along with The Holistic Curriculum by John Miller. However, as a field of practice holistic education can first be found in Indigenous education. Historically, Socrates, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Bronson Alcott, and Tolstoy can be viewed as working from a holistic frame. What is that frame? It is educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. At every level, education tends to focus on skills and a narrow view of the intellect. The body receives little attention while the spiritual life of the student is ignored. One image of the student from this approach is as a brain on a stick. In contrast, the holistic curriculum attempts to reach the head, hands, and heart of the student. The other main principle of holistic education is connectedness. Connectedness is one of the fundamental realities of nature. In contrast, the curriculum at every level, except perhaps for kindergarten, is fragmented as knowledge is broken down into courses, units, lessons, and bits of information. Rarely are there attempts to show how knowledge is interconnected. Holistic education seeks to be in harmony with how things actually are by focusing on connections. Six connections are at the core of the holistic curriculum: connections to the earth, community, subject integration, intuition/logic, body/mind, and soul. There are many models of holistic education in practice. They range from more structured approaches, such as Waldorf education, to schools such as the Sudbury Valley School that give students a great deal of choice. Despite these differences these schools view the child as a whole human being.

Article

The Artist-Teacher  

Esther Sayers

Artists who teach or teachers who make art? To explore the identity of the artist-teacher in contemporary educational contexts, the ethical differences between the two fields of art and learning need to be considered. Equity is sought between the needs of the learner and the demands of an artist’s practice; a tension exists here because the nurture of the learner and the challenge of art can be in conflict. The dual role of artist and of teacher have to be continually navigated in order to maintain the composite and ever-changing identity of the artist-teacher. The answer to the question of how to teach art comes through investigating attitudes to knowledge in terms of the hermeneutical discourses of “reproduction” and “production” as a means to understand developments in pedagogy for art education since the Renaissance. An understanding of the specific epistemological discourses that must be navigated by artist-teachers when they develop strategies for learning explicate the role of art practices in considering the question: What to teach? The answer lies in debates around technical skills and the capacity for critical thought.

Article

Garden-Based Education  

Dilafruz Williams

Garden-based education is a philosophical orientation to teaching and learning that uses gardens as the milieu for student engagement through meaningful and relevant curricular and instructional integration in schools. In addition to their direct academic appeal in raising test scores and grades, particularly in science, language arts, and math, gardens on educational campuses, spanning pre-school through high school, are also utilized by educators for a variety of other outcomes. These include motivational engagement; social, moral, and emotional development; strengthening of institutional and community bonds; vocational skills development; food literacy; healthy eating habits; and holistic growth of children and youth. Moreover, garden-based education shows promise as a tangible and pragmatic solution to address problems of disaffection and disengagement among youth that has resulted in a school dropout crisis in many places. While specific to higher education, farm-based education and agriculture-based education that focus on growing food have parallel agendas. The vast array of outcomes linked with garden-based education may seem impressive. However, systematic research studies of garden-based education across sites to measure educational impact are missing, largely due to their marginalized status and the decentralized and localized nature of program implementation and professional training. While the idea of including gardens on educational campuses to grow food or to serve as a means of outdoor and nature education is not new, since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in using garden-based education across countries and continents. With its accessibility on school grounds, garden-based education intersects with parallel movements such as outdoor education, place-based education, experiential education, nature-based education, environmental education, and sustainability education. Manifested in a variety of grassroots practices that include slow food, community supported agriculture, edible schoolyards, global roots, indigenous cultural gardens, learning gardens, lifelab, living classrooms, multicultural school gardens, urban harvest, and more, gardens will likely continue to be of significance in education as there are growing uncertainties globally about food security and health matters related to climate change. Despite high stakes, standardized tests, and accountability measures that pose challenges to educators and proponents of school gardens in public schools, research shows their promise as laboratories for innovation and academic learning. Garden-based education would benefit if informed by longitudinal and large-scale research studies that demonstrate instructional and curricular rigor and integration and impact on learning outcomes. Drawing on critical and posthumanist theories that question the nature of schooling, and explicitly addressing issues of race, class, and perspectives of marginalized and indigenous scholars and practitioners would bring further credence. Practice-embedded research and co-production of knowledge that accepts complexity and conjunctive thinking, while also addressing culturally responsive pedagogy across socio-economic status, would enhance the viability of this growing movement.