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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reflections on The Integral Living Room 2013, Part 5 Designing-in Orders of Learning

Constructively-Critical Reflections on The Integral Living Room 2013

Part 5: 

Theme: Designing-in Orders of Learning

This is the fifth in a series of 6 blogposts, which are supplemental to the Notes from the Field report I wrote about the Integral Living Room event for the January 2014 issue of Integral Leadership Review online journal. 
These blogposts represent my more personal constructively-critical reflections and musings, and are not purposed for reporting, as the Notes report was. They'll make limited sense if you haven't read the Notes report, but, I hope, are of some general usefulness.

Note: This blog contains only a couple of my reflections as a member of the ILR Harvest Team; there is much more to be said, and that is a future blogpost, around our questions, our process, and our relationship to various elements of the Integral Living Room happening! These are dear to my heart and closer to my Divine Passions than some of the reflections and musings below, and more important to the world, IMO, than some of what is below, but these posts got written in the timeframe I had up until now. Stay tuned!

The blogposts are about various themes I’ve organized my reflections into:

Part 5. Theme: Designing-in Orders of Learning

That's this post, read below. Find the others via the links to them.

Each theme section is independent, so you can skip around if you like!

Part 5. Theme: Designing-in Orders of Learning

First, what do I mean by these terms? Internet research will reveal a number of different definitions which seem to (and probably do) refer to different things. Here’s a capsule summary of the somewhat non-standard meanings I have developed for my own various purposes as a ministerial teacher/consultant, and that I am using for the purposes of this discussion. (A longer exploration is available here.)

Sub-theme A: What are Orders of Learning?

First-order (or sometimes called “single-loop”) learning is remembering content, gaining knowledge. That could include verbal content, kinesthetic content like a motor skill or other kind of skill. There is a direct, visible relationship between what is “taught” and what is learned, even if the “teacher” is a book or website. The ordinary “learning by doing” is still first-order learning.

First-order learning also includes what is directly “absorbed” via observation and modelling; information, especially ideas and opinions about “the way things are” which goes directly into one’s consciousness and becomes fact, truth, or “self” with no reflection involved. (Maybe we should call that zero-th-order learning, LOL!)

(The distinction between rhetorical and trans-rhetorical as Terry Patten used the terms might be mappable into this framework but I don’t easily see how to do that yet. Information and persuasion seem to be first-order learning, but beyond that isn’t clear to me.)

Second-order (double-loop) learning is what can be “learned” by reflecting on what is being taught. Diving deeper, making personal meanings, personalizing the material, asking questions that indicate a grasp of the material, gaining some wisdom and not just knowledge. Sitting back. Oh. Hmmmm.. What’s going on here? Do I make some meaning of this? Not just content pouring into the mind.

Reflecting on what was said is one thing. Reflecting on how or why it was said, or whether something else might have been said, or might have been meant, or placing any of that in a context of any of it, noting the framework from which it was said, that is a higher order within 2nd-order learning. It is still reflecting, and not meta to the reflecting itself. It is simply different objects of reflection, or different ways of going about reflecting.

Third-order (triple-loop) learning can take either of two paths, it seems to me. First is questioning what is being taught, inquiring into the validity of frameworks, looking for alternative perspectives on the material, questioning the values implicit in the material or how the material is to be put to use.

Second, is reflecting on the teaching-learning process (and the reflecting process) itself, and what its design and values are, and how it might be improved.

Third-order learning would include learning how to modify, shape, or improve the process of evoking of reflection and as part of that, learning how to question the framework, premises, and purposes of the process used to evoke reflection and/or learning different ways of going about reflecting.

(There can be fourth-order learning which would probably involve exploring and experimenting with different approaches to 3rd-order learning depending on perspectives, contexts, and taking more variables into account. It would question and seek alternatives for the framework used in the third-order learning processes.  

And fifth-order learning might be what happens in “transmission” or “merging with higher-consciousness” fields or entities in which new knowledge or wisdom or skills simply appear in the “learner” -- or perhaps they appear due to remembering or other current access to past-life knowledge, wisdom or skills. The person “knows/knows how without learning.” Maybe there’s even 6th-order learning in which 5th-order learning appears not in individuals but ONLY in a group with high-consciousness “collective intelligence.” Fun explorations!)

Sub-theme B: First and Second Order Learning at Integral Living Room
Everybody learned a great deal at ILR, it was clear, and a significant amount was learned by listening to the Hosts and absorbing it directly from what they said or did, as “the way things are,” while very little was directly didactically conveyed (except by Ken.) However, a great deal of learning was available, but could only be gained through reflecting, at some level of awareness, even just “musing” or being open to observing what one absorbed.

I can see that in many indirect ways, people were constantly being encouraged to reflect, not just “learn” or absorb. There was a lot that was created so that it wasn’t
really obvious what was to be learned or what was going on. There was quite a bit that didn’t meet the eye. You won’t find much of that at the Integral Theory Conference; that’s pretty much a WYSIWYG event. There were more subtle things going on here which made it more interesting; more to reflect on, once one realized there was a “more” going on.

Sub-theme C: 3rd-order learning at ILR
The question that arises in me, is around 3rd-order learning which asks: How could we build in something so that more of the 2nd-order learning will tend to happen? (Because it seemed to me too many participants were expecting only first-order learning experiences and just weren’t prepared in a mindset to look more deeply into what was going on and what was available to learn. Of course, for many this 2nd order of learning is second nature, but especially at events, people seem to get into a more passive-receptive learning mode.) So are there any ways to “bake it in” to the design to foster it even more greatly? And, fourth-order, who would be the best people, and best procedures, for designing the baking-in process?

I find myself wondering, too, whether 3rd-order learning could be fostered within the experience, and to what extent, and how.

And what benefit might there be of naming which kind of learning is being emphasized by particular activities?

Sub-theme D: Examples of Orders of Learning at ILR 2013
The trialogue at ILR among Terry, Jeff, and Diane around ways of dealing with the state of the world, about urgency, action, trust in evolution, and the feminine approach, can be viewed through this lens around orders of learning. There was a bit of first-order “Here’s how it is and what you can do.” There were however even more opportunities for second-order learning: “Hmmmm. Something not obvious could be going on here. I need to reflect and discover what I might learn.”

Another example of an opportunity for 2nd-order learning that somehow was too subtle for many, and seemed to me to be missed by many, was the “leadership experiment” Diane conducted. Eventually, later in the event, it appeared that this experience had been designed to help participants experience actual pain and frustration from the limitations of Green ‘we-space,’ sense when those limitations were active, and develop ways to [my term] “transcend” them.

There were a number of people who experienced the frustrations they were designed to experience, but attributed it to poor leadership of Integral we-space processes, rather than experiential immersion in the limitations of Green we-spaces, designed to encourage insight and emergent experimentation by the participants.

I understand from the interview Jeff did with Dr. Keith Witt in Jeff's Daily Evolver blog after the event, that Diane deliberately set up that whole group thing and gave instructions such that the group would absolutely end up getting bogged down in the Green, the downsides of Green we-space, very quickly. And that happened very quickly. And a lot of us were going “Well, heck, that is inexpert facilitation of Integral we-space.” Naaah, smart like a fox. The hosts set us up. So that we could reflect on that. Like “Oh, wait a minute….”

Possibly more clues that reflection would be a good mode of learning for that experience, more encouragement to not take things at face value, might have helped, because despite what was said later about the deliberateness and the point of it, I am pretty sure (from post-event conversations I generalize) many people never did get the point and never went into the desired reflection mode during that happening.

by Rev. Alia Aurami, Ph.D., Head Minister, Amplifying Divine Light in All Church

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