Re: Emergent Learning LO1934

Michael McMaster (
Tue, 4 Jul 1995 18:44:49 +0000

Replying to LO1921 --


My operational definition of "emergent" is a phenomenon which occurs
from the interplay of (a relatively few) elements but which has
characteristics that are not found in the original and cannot be
traced directly to any specific input element or force. That is,
something which is emergent has a character of its own. (It may also
have some of the characteristics of its sources.)

The only sense in which learning *isn't* emergent is where what is
learned is a copy, a "by rote" approach, where there is nothing added
to what has been taught or presented. (I doubt that this is strictly
possible for a human being.)

I recommend that a path with much promise is to start from "learning
is emergent" and see what we are doing that is getting in the way of
this natural process. Things as surface as demanding "right answers"
and as deep as reductionist presententations of material as the main
source of information will begin to be discovered.

I assume that all individuals are learning organisms - like your
children - and that tendency is inhibited or suppressed in various
ways. I also assume that all organisations are learning entities and
that same applies to them.

I think we get too complicated trying to figure out how to do it
rather than just figuring out how to let it happen, how to get out of
the way, how to create the space for it and trust that it will occur.

A couple of design tips that help. Find non-verbal or non-rational
ways to explore things so that they cannot be represented neatly in
logics that don't allow for the context, the creativity and the
change of assimilation.

Michael McMaster