LO list as a practice field? LO12215

Mnr AM de Lange (AMDELANGE@gold.up.ac.za)
Mon, 27 Jan 1997 14:01:08 GMT+2

Sherri Malouf wrote in LO12170

> But Kent -- I am confused again -- aren't you saying that they are not
> superior? You assessed the McMaster microworld as more successful because
> Mike and Ben *reported progress*. While no-one reported or responded on
> how the Wheatley dialogue impacted them or if they learned from it. Or is
> that your point? That we do not see the learning taking place on a
> particular thread because people are not reporting back... I am sorry --
> maybe my brain is not functioning today! Help me out!

Dear organlearners,

Sherri, you have written so much which is important that it is difficult
to exclude anything when quoting you.

You and Kent have been comparing two dialogues on this list concerning the
work of Michael McMaster and the work of Margaret Wheatly. Kent's reasons
for considering the dialogue on McMaster's work to be more successful have
raised questions on your behalf.

I think that the uncertainty stems from the fact that two issues are
involved here. The one issue is the stucture-process of a paradigm shift.
This issue was much more present, even at a tacit level, in the Wheatly
dialogue. The other issue is using the dialogue to foster learning.

Let us first discuss the dialogue issue. The essence of learning is to do
it creatively. There are four major templates (ground forms) to promote
creative learning: dialogue (discussion), exemplar (experience),
problem-solving (task) and play (game). These templates are not specific
to humans. Whereas exemplar and play are important to apes, dialogue and
problem-solving are more important to humans. I mention this to stress the
fact that each template is best suited for certain subset of learning
creations, but not for all learning creations. I will use this fact to
discuss the first issue, namely the paradigm shift.

In my opinion the least suited of the four templates for fostering a
paradigm shift, is the dialogue BECAUSE OF THE COMPLEXITY INVOLVED. On the
other hand, the best suited is the exemplar. To tell a story is not a
dialogue (conversation), but rather to describe an exmplar, even if it is
fictious. When, after the story has been told, a discussion follows, only
then it can become a dialogue. But a story may also end up in a play. (I
am, for example, continuously reminded of these different developments in
the relationship between me and my granddaughter. I try to promote her
creativity as far as possible. Unfortunately, I was far too inexperienced
and ignorant to do it with with my own children. It seems that they have
learnt only one thing from me, namely the freedom to create - and this is
causing them pain which they cannot understand and often cannot bear.)

What do we understand under a paradigm shift? Let us assume that I am
telling a story of two people in love, but coming from two totally
different cultures at war with each other. In the end the man or the woman
or even both break away from his/her/their old culture (language, history,
religion) to become part of a new culture in order 'to live happily ever
after'. Whoever in that story has shifted from one culture to live in a
completely new culture, becoming an integral part of it, has experienced a
paradigm shift. For example, Nevil Shute's novel A Town like Alice has the
paradigm shift as its theme.

In the previous paragraph I have used the template exemplar to guide the
learner in knowing what a paradigm shift is. In this paragraph I will use
the template problem-solving. It is a problem to understand exactly what a
word means. One way to solve this problem, is to study the context in
which the word has been used TOGETHER with the user. Thomas Kuhn
introduced the concept 'paradigm shift' in his book 'Structure of
Scientific Revolutions' as a key theoretical ingredient. When people began
to study his use of the concept in the book, they could not get a clear
answer - in fact, they got confused. They challenged Kuhn with the
seemingly different interpretations of it. In response he had to revise
the concept to obtain greater clarity. In conclusion, to solve the problem
of knowing what a paradigm shift is, one solution is to set up a dialogue
(use another template).

Obviously, since we did not have any reasonable dialogue on what a
paradigm shift is, we still do not know what it is in terms of either the
template dialogue or the template problem-solving. If, however, my STORY
of the Kuhn episode touched you, then again it points to the power of the
exemplar to foster emergent learning.

Notice that both Sherri complains of feeling confused and that my story
tells about confusion. Most of you, when reaching this point, may also
experience confusion. In other words, we have three examplars (Sherri,
Kuhn and you) showing that a 'paradigm shift' and 'confusion' are closely
related. How much more empirical evidence do you want to accept this

A pardigm shift happens in a person when his/her universal (monadic)
understanding of everything shift to a new point of view (perspective).
Part of the understanding may be done formally and objectively by using a
certain terminology with a generally accepted meaning. However, suddenly
the meaning of the terminology is shifting/changing also. This is already
enough to discourage a dialogue. But it is even more important to note
that part of the understanding have to be done intuitively, informally and
subjectively. This happens to a major extent TACITLY, as Micael Polyani
have noted. By this I mean that every person knows much that has not been
expressed in words or any other symbolism before. It is plain foolish to
expect a dialogue on the tacit level of knowledge.

If a dialogue is not effective to assist a paradigm shift in the tacit
dimension of knowledge, what then should we do? We can use the templates
play and examplar. But we should never forget that we have to help each
other in letting these noble thoughts get borne (emerge) from the womb
(tacit level) into the open world (symbolic level). The second most
wonderful thing about the symbol with the Word as metaphor, is its
openness - that different meanings could be attached to it. The first most
wonderful thing is to find that meaning which saves the soul!

Sherri, notice my last two sentences. Compare them with the thread which
you have started "Disappointment -- No soul?". I sense that much of the
paradigm has already shifted for you.

Kent says, and you quote him, that people get nervous in the Wheatly
dialogue. It is very important to realise that this nervousness, as the
already discussed confusion, is also intimately connected with a paradigm
shift. If some of our organlearners experience this nervousness (or the
confusion), do not feel afraid. It is natural, like the nervousness of any
mother going into birth labour. (Is it not the case that when people
complain about the length or the frequency of some contributions, some of
them are actually trying to escape their nervousness?) That is why all
mothers, not merely humans, try to find a safe place to give birth to. If
there is only one thing which Rick has to care for on this forum, it is to
make it a safe place for emergent learning up to and including the level
of paradigms.

When a paradigm shift is at stake, the birth place should have been
extremely safe. Unfortunately, the abortion of human babies is only
symptomatic of the incredible abortion practices to put a stop to paradigm
shifts. However, this contribution is already too long to go into this
matter. If anybody is interested in wnating to know how unsafe paradigm
shifts are, I will be happy and homoured to deal with it in another

Best wishes
- --

At de Lange
Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, South Africa
email: amdelange@gold.up.ac.za


"Mnr AM de Lange" <AMDELANGE@gold.up.ac.za>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>