Thursday, 6 February 2014

#rhizo14 Challenge Week 3 - Embrace Uncertanity

Week 3 Challenge - How do we make embrace uncertainty in learning? How do we keep people encouraged about learning if there is no finite achievable goal? How do we teach when there are no answers, but only more questions?

Photo by Roadsidepictures

I have not been able to document my thoughts on this until now (better late than never?). Anyway after reading great posts by Jenny Mackness and Cathleen, it inspired me to put my thoughts into words. 

What is uncertainty? To me things that are not predictable that can have a great influence/affect other connected things are uncertainties. For example, if I am to pick children from the nursery and I were to travel by train it is an uncertainty for me. If I am on train and there is a signal failure or the like (which unfortunately happen so often) I will be stuck not being able to collect kids on time. Will there  be careers until I get there, will the children be scared, will they refuse going back to nursery, hefty fine etc are the repercussions. Another example as Jenny has shown is employment. As I have been on couple of short term contracts when the end of contract is near I get the feeling of uncertainty kicking in. 

When we get into a routine it becomes more or less certain. So for example when I started driving every day was a challenge - a uncertainty for me. I still remember coming home and thinking to myself 'thank god, I'm alive, I managed today'. But now a little more than a year into driving (unless there is something major) it  is my routine. 

Our routine is a comfort zone to us. We know it inside out and we know how to handle things within that. If we step out of that, it is unknown, uncertain territory where we feel uncomfortable and perhaps fearful?. But once we stay in that for long enough it becomes our comfort zone. In the previous example, driving was out of my comfort zone but once I stepped there it came with in my comfort zone. Effectively widening or expanding my comfort zone. I loved reading "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers which talks about the fear of unknown and taming that fear.

Going back to the second part of the question how to encourage learning if there is no finite achievable goal? Well... in my view at lower levels of learning it may be overwhelming to know this but when you are learning at higher levels I think when you read more and more into a topic you discover that there is more unknown than known; unless you take the things at face value and stop questioning - which is not what is expected at that level. For example if I told my son or daughter who will be starting primary school this year about the unknowns and the uncertainty in learning: they might not understand it at all; they may not be interested in learning at all as it is all an unknown so what is the point; or anything in between. It is highly unlikely that a learner at that stage will embrace the uncertainty. (This is not the same as letting them know that I do not know the answer to something but I will find it out.) But if the conversation was between a PhD student and his/her supervisor, it may even inspire the learner. So I think as educators we need to help the learners build that - I would like to call it learner maturity.

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