DESIGNING THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR GLOBAL LEARNING OR
'MAP LEARNING': THE HOLISTIC APPROACH TO 'LESSON PLANS'
theme: The global approach to lesson planning is based on the educative effect of the environment. Successful teaching depends on the planning of lessons designed to provide environmental conditions which offer a contextual framework for effective learning or 'optimal learning'. Optimal learning involves learner participation and active involvement. The teacher's function is to provide a growth promoting climate which is emotionally supportive and intellectually challenging... to orchestrate complex, real life learning experiences or 'lessons' with the appropriate use of 'lesson plans'.
"We never educate directly, but indirectly by means of the environment. Whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environments for the purpose makes a great deal of difference. And any environment is a chance environment so far as its educative influence is concerned unless it has been deliberately regulated with reference to its educative effect." (John Dewey. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: The Free Press 1966)
Learning involves both conscious and unconscious levels of brain functioning The brain constantly engages in the learning process at both the conscious and unconscious levels. Conscious learning involves the processing of environmental stimuli in the field of focused attention. Subconscious learning involves the processing of stimuli - 'perception' - which are peripheral to the field of focus. The brain processes peripheral stimuli at the subconscious level of brain functioning even if they are unrelated to the stimuli in focus. The 'peripheral context' of the learning environment stimulates the brain to engage in personally meaningful learning. The subconscious processing involved in learning is a function of the instinctive motivation for learning i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'.
Intrinsic motivation is natural organismic motivation derived from organismic values or 'operative values'.
Intrinsic motivation originates in intrinsic motives for behaviour or 'human needs'. Intrinsic motivation originates in the organismic instinct for self-preservation and its efforts to adapt to the environment i.e. the intrinsic motives for human behaviour or 'human needs'. Human needs are developmental needs which determine learner interests. Learner interest is the fundamental guideline in the design and planning of learning experiences or 'lessons'. The most essential function of the lesson is to provide the opportunity for concentration on meaningful engagement with the environment in the form of creative and productive activity i.e. 'work'. Concentration on work is the medium through which the individual actively engages in the construction of 'moral consciousness' or 'conscience'. Conscience is the 'moral faculty' - an emergent property of the social 'brain'. As a function of motivation for work the conscience preserves personality integration or 'integrity' which is required for effective adaptation to changing social conditions. Motivation for work is influenced by environmental stimuli of the peripheral context i.e. environmental conditions or 'learning environment'.
The subconscious processing of environmental stimuli is the basis for preparation of the learning environment as a crucial aspect of lesson planning.
Learning environment is a function of emotional and intellectual climate The proper environmental conditions for concentrated work include not only the right physical conditions - ventilation, lighting, noise level, temperature and so on - but the right emotional and intellectual climate which stimulates learner interest and motivation - is non-threatening and challenging. Preparation of a stimulating and nurturing environment depends on positive teacher attitudes or 'attributes' which are crucial to the establishment of the right climate for active learning.
Teacher attributes which are conducive to meaningful learning are maturity or 'personality congruence', respect and trust or 'unconditional positive regard' and compassion or 'empathic understanding'.
Nurturing environment fosters development of human potentialities A nurturing learning environment provides the opportunity for growth and fosters the unfolding development and maturation of natural human potentialities i.e. 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation is based on optimal functioning of the brain i.e. optimal learning or 'optimalearning'. Optimal learning is active learning which . integrates learning with here and now life experience i.e. 'experiential learning'. Experiential learning is learning which stimulates the brain to make connections between learning and life... engages the power of the brain to create mental representations of interactive relationships i.e. 'spatial maps' or 'mind maps'. Learning for the construction of mind maps is 'map learning'. Map learning is 'explicit learning' of the 'locale memory' or 'spatial memory system'.
The spatial memory system consolidates experience into the mental space of 'short term memory', a function of the 'hippocampus'.
The holistic approach to lesson planning: map learning or 'brain-based learning' Recognition of the function of the hippocampus leads to appropriate design of lesson plans for map learning. The aim is to stimulate natural inquiry or 'curiosity' which engages map learning or 'global learning'. Global learning is 'holistic learning'. The holistic approach to lesson planning is based on the brain's intrinsic capacity to search for meaning in experience.. to make sense of unfamiliar environmental stimuli... to make sense of life experience i.e. 'brain-based learning'. Brain-based learning involves development of the capacity to make meaning of experience through the detection of relationships and the creation of connections and patterns - to understand or 'learn'. Learning is a natural function of the brain - organ of learning or 'meaning maker'. The brain processes information by way of natural 'brain functions': physiological processes such as the propagation of electrochemical signals or 'nerve impulses' along nerve cells or 'neurons' and their transmission across the points of connection between them - the 'synapses'.
Those teaching and learning methods which are based on the natural functioning of the brain enhance learning because they enhance the formation of synaptic connections i.e. 'synapse modification'.
Brain-based learning: importance of exploration and real life experience Lesson planning for holistic learning involves the design of learning experiences which encourage learners to utilise the resources available to them in a process of. Holistic learning involves the brain's natural capacity to extract meaningful patterns, to see relationships and make connections between parts and wholes i.e. 'holistic perception'. The aim is to facilitate understanding of content in its meaningful context through the use of 'unifying themes' and 'thematic organization'. Focusing on themes enables the learner to capitalize on the brain's natural capacity to make sense of environmental stimuli and to derive meaning from experience. The learner makes connections between different subject areas within the framework of a chosen theme. Different facets of a given issue or topic are related in terms of the organizing theme. Teaching with themes - 'thematic teaching' - is based on the planning of lessons around a core of learner interests.The foundation for lesson planning is the organization of exploratory experiences - field trips, excursions, demonstrations - in the context of the school community, the local community and the global community.
Each lesson is meaningful because it relates to real life experience and each is made more challenging with its simultaneous treatment as a whole and as part of a whole.
Importance of expression in the learning process Lessons related to life experience build on the role of socialization in the learning process and thus stimulate learner participation and active involvement. Lesson plans are designed to encourage self-expression in expressive activities which engage the feelings and the senses as well as thinking or 'cognition.' Cognition based on natural curiosity is directed into practical and creative investigations. Learning becomes cooperative. Appropriate social interactions of communication and collaboration involve inquiry and research. Cooperative learning increases meaningful knowledge or 'personal knowledge'. Mastery and understanding of subject matter is enhanced with the use of multisensensory activities which allow for expression in many forms - verbal, tactile, emotional and intellectual expression of learning... the use of language in discussions, projects and presentations. Exploration of stories and myths contributes to the understanding of personal quests and challenges which explain peoples' motivations. The story form is based on a natural brain process of organizing information and connecting it with life experience.
The sharing of stories contributes to consiousness raising and mutual understanding as the basis of education for 'freedom to learn' i.e. 'libratory education'.
Facilitative teacher is an educator of the person as a whole: 'holistic education' In the context of freedom in education, learners are confronted with real life problems and lesson plans are 'problem-centered'. Problem-centered teaching depends on the teacher's function as a facilitator of learning. In contrast to the authoritarian teacher who reveals and transmits the so-called 'truth', the facilitative teacher is an 'educator' who gives the learner responsibility for their own learning and helps them in their search for knowledge of reality or 'truth'. The educator is an authority by virtue of knowledge and experience. The educator's function is to create a learning environment which enables learners to develop their own potential for critical and creative thought or 'intelligence'. Development of intelligence depends on the facilitation of self-initiated learning which involves the exploration of new content as it relates to previous learning experience. The facilitative teacher is a resource and a provider of resources who gives the learner the responsibility for making decisions concerning the use of resources. The facilitative teacher is a resourceful guide to the channels through which learners can meet their own needs for meaningful learning and meaningful work. The process is one of understanding the responsiblility of freedom i.e. 'self-empowerment' or 'inner freedom'.
Education for the responsibility of freedom is education for development of the person as a whole or 'holistic education'.
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