The Nautilus Pedagogy

Here’s my learning artifact:

pix of mirrors within mirror and of nautilus

And here’s my explanation:

Walt Wolfram, renowned linguist and teacher, has theorized that English teachers have the toughest teaching job because they’re charged with perpetuating the culture while teaching students to think critically so that they question the status quo. It is the yin and yang of the past and the future; the classics versus the contemporary; the way things have always been and the way they could yet be.

This becomes sort of our mantra for ECI 521: Teaching Literature for Young Adults or Learning Through Literature with Young Adults as I like to call it. Finding the proper balance of old/new, transmission/transaction is a constant challenge.

When I consider Stephen Downes’s Theory of Pedagogy — that “teaching is really the presentation of a series of experiences or environment or some such that such that a person who practices in that environment is going to become more and more like the person who is doing the teaching . . . people say that learning is to acquire knowledge . . . a person who teaches is not simply presenting a set of facts but rather is presenting an entire way of being, an entire world view and the person learning is watching this world view and attempting to replicate it and emulate it” — I’m reminded of Walt’s dichotomy. So learning to teach English is all about modeling yourself after your professors and adopting their world views??? Maybe that’s the traditional perspective but it does nothing to prepare students to strike out on their own and rile against the way things have always been.

If I illustrated Stephen’s theory, it might look like “mirrors in the mirror” or the infinity of images produced by parallel plane mirrors.

Infinity by azarius, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  azarius 

But that’s not how I see my role as a teacher. If there is anything in the mirror that I do want to see reflected in my students, it’s the quest to continue to learn and constantly strive to find the past/future balance. It’s that stance that I consciously attempt to model. Maybe that’s what Stephen really means rather than what sounds more like indoctrination than learning.

The image I can see best representing how I like to think of teaching is the nautilus. I create the environment and the opportunities for students to continually spiral from what they know (personal knowledge) to the public knowledge of the class or community and beyond and in the process transform themselves.

nautilus shell

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4 Responses to The Nautilus Pedagogy

  1. Tereza says:

    I like your Nautilus pedagogy! nice idea.

    • Cris says:

      Cool. Glad you like the metaphor, Tereza. Mary Catherine Bateson said that “we think in metaphors and learn through stories” and that’s certainly true for me.

  2. or a nautilus with mirrored sides… some real and some fun house distorting mirrors as well as reflected illusions, learners have to figure out which is which or perhaps in deciding create them by deciding which is real (for them) and which ones they can walk right through. that’s lit though. math majors would just run fibonacci calculations

    • Cris says:

      You know, Vanessa, I came across lots of images on FlickrCC of fun house mirrors trying to find “the mirrors within the mirror.” That is a pretty apt metaphor for the need of the learner to decide what is real for them. In fact, I’m reading a novel now called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern that’s magical realism and Morgenstern couldn’t have picked a better setting for exploring what is real — or not. You might enjoy it — http://erinmorgenstern.com/the-night-circus/

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