Saturday, July 14, 2018

Instead of a summary of conversation

Additional topic to cover the conversation with learning partner.

Chapter Seven in the Adult Learning - Linking Theory and Practice discusses the theory behind Embodied Learning.  The idea that the body and mind are intricately linked or as was recognized by the music educator Wayne Bowman when he noted that the body has been misconstrued as an instrument that takes away from the cognitive effort. When the body is seen "as a mere vessel housing . . . the most distinctive and important human entity, the mind." (Bowman, 2010 - page 2).

In an exploration of dance, it was noted by Snowber (2012) that "body knowledge has become endangered within the human species." Far too often, we dismiss as superstition that which is not immediately explained through logic or cognitive thought process.  Intuition and instinct are merely the bodies way of transmitting those processes that the mind cannot process, yet which are felt by the body as a whole.

Separating that which is obviously connected makes little sense, when the mind, our emotions and our physical body are clearly interwoven. In fact, so many of the seminars and courses used in the business world focus on the mind and the thought process while ignoring the greater tool at their disposal, the body.In the self development seminars that I attended both locally and down in California in 2015, the facilitators recognized the benefits of integrating the reinforcement of positive feedback with experiential learning  After seminar style learning, the participants are taken outdoors for some form of physical experience where the "lessons" are reiterated right before or during the experience.  One example is the self image exercise, the facilitator has a one on one conversation immediately before the participant, who is wearing a helmet and climbing harness, is tied off to two sets of belayers and attempts to climb a forty foot pole and standing on top. If successful in standing, the participant is instructed to turn around and face a trapeze bar and attempt to grab the bar.  It is this type of physical reinforcement that breaks up the old thought processes and drives home the new message of self worth that both the facilitator and the other participants are promoting. This type of tacit knowing Schulyer referred to in 2010 when he wrote....."It is from this part of the human"knowing" that change in values and long-standing habits is believe to be possible." (Schulyer, 2010, page 24)

There are numerous studies that have explored how embodied learning can be effective through the use of movement of the body such as physical exercise and dance. (Barbour, 2011; Snowber 2012) It was noted just a few years ago by a study published in the Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352690/#s6title) that dance was a very real method of slowing the aging effects on the brain.    Dance was also explored as a medium to encourage mental health in the field of psychotherapy by Panhofer, Payne and Parke (2011).

In a similar fashion, the science behind the effects of movement on the physical changes in the brain was studied through the use of MRI and measuring the chemical and cellular changes in the brain when participants were studied over a six month period.  Three to four groups of participants were enrolled in walking, walking with nutritional changes, dancing as well as a control group that was monitored for healthy lifestyle only   Though the other three groups showed minute changes, it was the group that was in the dance lessons that showed the least effects of aging or dementia in their physical brain.  (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352690/#s6title)

My wife and I started taking ballroom and social dance lessons two years ago to be prepared for our wedding last year.  One of the older ladies who takes lessons there has been going for nine years yet her husband had not joined her at lessons.  However, a couple of years ago, after having a stroke, his doctor had recommended that he start dance lessons with his wife.  Both physical in nature for recovery but also that same embodied knowing effect of body healing mind.  Indeed, he now dances in the twice annual festivals with his wife.

How can we utilize this re-discovery of embodied learning into the adult classroom?  In my own particular instance, in my newly gained employment as an instructor in the apprenticeship program for the Electrical Training Center, it will be very useful.  Having adult learners who are used to being in the field cooped up too long behind a desk will stunt their learning instead of enhancing it.  There will be opportunities to reinforce the cognitive with the actual.  The students will be put into groups to wire mock condominiums that have been built behind the training center from start to finish.  As well, they are given numerous hands on exercises where they are working both in small groups as well as solo, to wire several different wiring scenarios involving outlets, switches, lighting as well as motor control situations.  Finally, the theory and then the hands on training of bending conduit for wiring to be pulled through.  This has a lot of physics as well as physical experimentation on it. In my part time fire alarm courses, we also have different pieces of equipment with which the students can get physical, hands on follow through.  I try to also have the students mix and match small groups in order to keep them both moving as well as breaking up their known cliques and getting them to get to know other technicians.  This pushes their boundaries as well as allowing more movement within the classroom.

To summarize, we as instructors need to be aware of our students needs for participatory, experiential learning in order to tap into the bodies intuitive ways of embodied learning.  What the body feels, the mind creates.


References:  Merriam, S and Bierema, L (Adult Learning) 2014
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352690/#s6title)

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