We may think of learning as internalising knowledge. When we think of this internalisation, we may think of it only as an activity of thinking, of bringing the abstract inside the brain. When knowledge is internalised, it also embeds in the brain alongside other information that affects it – the preconceptions that enable it to be grasped, or the prior experience or values that contextualise it.
Some of the information that the knowledge finds itself alongside might be the our pre-existing values. These values might affect the way we evaluate the knowledge as to its importance, correctness, usability, desirability etc. Alternatively, these values might be modified or updated by the incoming knowledge.
It could be argued that knowledge is just information unless it has some significance for action. But action should not only be seen as ‘physical’. Action might also be further thought or intellectual development. However, the value of knowledge lies in action and practice just as the value of practices are informed by knowledge. Theory is tested and developed through actions.
Knowledge and practice are valued because they enable the learner to change their life (to be mobile). The combination of knowledge and practice (social capital) empowers the learner to pursue and practise in areas of their choice. Social capital/mobility is both affected by and affects, the knowledge, values and practices of the learner. This experience enables the learner to see the value of their actions in the real world.
What impact could embedded learning have on the way we teach and are taught?
- Use more dialogue and less monologue in the lecture room and classroom, allowing more time for the social exploration of abstract ideas.
- Link abstract ideas and theory to real-world examples in lectures and seminars.
- Create more active learning opportunities that allow learners to apply theory to practice situations on which they can reflect.
- Use more assessment for learning – assessment that involves experience and reflection for further action and learning, as a regular alternative to the traditional essay or exam that focuses on the assessment of learning only.
- Promote online peer communities of learning and dialogue between face to face sessions.
In summary, knowledge can be seen as embodied rather than abstract. It is grasped and held in the individual in a relationship with other knowledge, values and significances for practice. It is valued by the learner for its application to further thought and action. Our teaching has the potential to help learners challenge and develop their knowledge, pre-existing ideas, values and practice, through embodied teaching techniques.
Dr. Andrew Gould, Library, Learning & Teaching Innovation (LLTI, SOAS.