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A Narrative of Learning and Longevity. Prepared for the Hong Kong Institute of Education Nancy Lloyd Pfahl, Ed. D. February 20, 2009. Abstract.

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a narrative of learning and longevity

A Narrative of Learning and Longevity

Prepared for the Hong Kong Institute of Education

Nancy Lloyd Pfahl, Ed. D.

February 20, 2009

abstract
Abstract

The historical search for longevity—a long and vibrant life—has become an archetype across cultures. Recent brain imaging studies indicate that learning changes the brain; other studies identify the contribution of learning to lengthening lives. If this is the case, how does learning contribute to longevity? This seminar will explore learning as a lifelong narrative process of making connections. Story is a means for linking past experience, interpretations of the present, and future implications. Creating narratives to make meaning of experience becomes a form of learning with potential to enhance human wellbeing and lengthen the human lifespan.

research questions
Research Questions
  • What is the longevity revolution?
  • How do the findings of current brain research relate learning and longevity?
  • How does learning influence longevity?
theoretical question
Theoretical Question
  • How can we describe commonalities of human learning regardless of chronological age and cultural context?
practical question
PracticalQuestion
  • What are the implications of this research and theoretical interpretation of human learning for the Elder Learning Institute and other education programs for the elderly?
learning and development
Learning and Development
  • Both learning and development contribute to creating human identity.
  • Learning processes constitute development, and development organizes and structures learning processes (Keller & Werchan, 2006).
learning and development7
Learning and Development
  • Both learning and development are shaped by
  • socio-cultural context,
  • processes of rational and somatic reflection on experience,
  • and the role of community in learning (Merriam & Clark, 2006)
learning and development8
Ecological systems theory states that development occurs as knowledge accumulates within a nested set of related environments (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).

System of Related Environments: Microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem

Learning and Development
learning in context
Learning in Context
  • Human learning involves mental and physical processes in context (Dewey, 1938).
  • Dialectical thinking to deal with the “mental demands of modern life” integrates contextual and psychological details (Kegan, 1994)
learning in context10
Learning in Context
  • Political and cultural influences shape learning in social contexts, and critical pedagogy helps us interpret meaning beneath surfaces and behind words (Kincheloe, 2008).
learning in context11
Learning in Context
  • Education is not a neutral process, but one that either brings about conformity or “becomes the ‘practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world (Friere, 1970, p. 129).
learning in context12
Learning in Context

For these reasons, among others, Lave and Wenger (1991) value situated learning that takes place where the learning is applied.

how significant are learning differences by age
Pedagogy The art and science of being a teacher. Its etymological Greek meaning is “to lead the child” (through the science of educating).

Criticism of the concept: Learning is a human process, not a process that is done to people.

Andragogy The art and science of teaching adults by applying adult learning strategies.

Knowles’s emphases for adult education include self-concept and motivation to learn, experience, readiness to learn, and orientation toward learning. But don’t they apply to younger learners as well?

How Significant Are Learning Differences by Age?
why consider narrative for learning
Why Consider Narrative for Learning?
  • Analytical Thought +
  • Narrative Thought =
  • Holistic Learning that Uses Both Halves of the Brain
joan didion the white album 1979
Joan Didion, The White Album, (1979)
  • We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
how have humans sought longevity
How have humans sought longevity?
  • Religious thought
  • Conceptualization perpetuity of humanity
  • Attacking structural human weaknesses
longevity revolution
Longevity Revolution
  • The average human lifespan is lengthening worldwide to 66+ years at present.
  • Both the absolute number of older citizens and the percent of the citizenry who are above 60 is increasing.
longevity revolution19
Longevity Revolution
  • Revolutionary changes in ideas and concepts, roles, capacities, and expectations at later stages of life
longevity revolution20
Offers new opportunities and challenges to adult educators, healthcare providers, city planners, and other who serve the common good

For adult educators realization of opportunities depends upon actions that are within our control

Longevity Revolution
longevity revolution21
Longevity Revolution
  • What will be your “new distribution of the stages of life” (Boia, 2004, p. 177)?
brain research
Brain Research
  • Neuroflexibility or neuroplasticity characterizes the brain as a responsive, flexible structure that changes with environmental stimulation and learning (Dowling, 1998; Kotulak, 1997).
implications for learning
Implications for Learning
  • The concept of neuroplasticity “reinforces lifelong learning” (Hill, 2001, p. 79).
brain research24
Brain Research
  • Brain imaging studies indicate that learning changes the brain itself (Taylor & Lamoreaux, 2008).
  • In fact …
brain research25
Brain Research

Although we are born with most of the brain cells(neurons) we will have, and they are not replaced in the same manner as other cells, neurons “get changed by learning …[which changes] the way they connect with others (Damasio, 1999, p. 144).

implications for learning26
Implications for Learning
  • “People’s experiences differ and so do their brains (Hill, 2001, p. 79).
  • Older adults retain the capacity to learn; sometimes their learning is characterized as “crystallized learning” that differs from the “fluid learning” of younger people.
brain research27
Brain Research
  • Although older people may not form new brain connections as quickly as before, they compensate in making meaning of their experience because they have more experience to draw upon to make neural connections.
implications for learning28
Implications for Learning
  • Learning involves the creation of meaning (Hill, 2001, p. 79), and older adults want to engage in meaningful activities that lead to what Erickson described as inspiration rather than despair.
brain research29
Brain Research
  • The brain sorts information by content (rote learning) and by context (Fishback, 1998/1999 and Jansen, 1996 in Hill, 2001).
  • Rote learning creates lasting neural patterns (Taylor & Lamaroux, 2008) but contextual learning requires more flexible patterns to make meaning of experience.
implications for learning30
Implications for Learning
  • Information that is contextually embedded is easier to learn (Hill, 2001, p 79).
  • Contextual learning is narrative in nature; it draws upon our human capacity to think relationally (Bruner, 1986; Sarbin, 1986).
brain research31
Brain Research
  • Emotions are an integral part of memory, thought, and learning; emotional states are the link between learning and memory (Hill, 2001, p. 79).
implications for learning32
Implications for Learning
  • Employing multiple sensory experiences helps to activate learning by creating different pathways in the brain (Hill, 2001, p. 79).
brain research33
Brain Research
  • The brain constructs the mind, a process of both “conscious and unconscious operations” (Demasio, 1999, p. 337).
implications for learning34
Implications for Learning
  • Using narrative processes, both cognitive and behavioral, to advance learning and change is engages narrative thinking that draws upon the conscious mind as well as the subconscious (Pfahl, 2003; Polyani, 1967/1983)
slide36

Input

Input

Learning in a Narrative FieldInteraction Between a Storyteller and a Listener to Advance Learning and Change

Revised Narrative Scripts that Prompt Learning & Action

  • Experience
  • Past & Present Reality
  • Consciousness
  • Experience
  • Past & Present Reality
  • Consciousness

Input

Critical

Reflection

Input

Critical

Reflection

Output

Output

Storyteller

Initiator (x)

Listener

Respondent (y)

  • Acting to Effect Change in Life-world for
  • Individuals
  • Groups
  • Organizations
  • Communities
  • Society

Input

Narrative

Reflection

Input

Narrative

Reflection

  • Imagination
  • Future Possibility
  • Subconscious
  • Imagination
  • Future Possibility
  • Subconscious

Life-world

Life-world

Narrative Field in the Life worlds of Learners

listening to learn in a narrative field feedback loop between a storyteller x and a respondent y
Listening to Learn in a Narrative Field Feedback Loop Between a Storyteller (x) and a Respondent (y)

Time

Modernity

Postmodernity

x1=telling

y2=listening + reflecting + reinterpreting

y3=retelling

x4=listening + reflecting + reinterpreting

x5=retelling

y6=listening + reflecting + reinterpreting

y7=retelling

x8=listening + reflecting + reinterpreting

Narrative Field in the Life worlds of Learners

an ecology of learning differentiating integrating critical reflection narrative refraction
An Ecology of Learning Differentiating & Integrating Critical Reflection & Narrative Refraction

Time

Modernity

Postmodernity

Life-world of a Learner

Modes of Thought

Analytical Thinking

Narrative Thinking

Analytical: linear thought processes of deduction & separation from context to discern the truth

Narrative: relational thought processes of induction and integration (thought + emotion + context + action) to interpret & understand why and how things are happening as they are in a changing life world

Telephoto Lens

Wide Angle Lens

Learning Processes

Critical Reflection

Narrative Refraction

an ecology of learning interaction between motivation to act means to learn
An Ecology of Learning Interaction Between Motivation to Act & Means to Learn

Time

Modernity

Postmodernity

Life-world of a Learner

Learning Processes

Critical Reflection

Narrative Refraction

Motivation

to Act

1. Desire for Progress

3. Inadequacy of

Current Solution to

Solve Problem

5. Desire to

Understand Context

7.Examining New Problems in Context

2. Rationality

4. Questioning

Assumptions

6. Restating Inadequate Solutions as New Problems

8. Storying and Restorying Experience

Means to

Learn

implications for elder learning
Implications for Elder Learning

Using narrative processes draws upon and integrates multiple elements that reinforce learning: context, emotion, thought, lived experience, and tacit knowledge of the subconscious.

implications for elder learning41
Implications for Elder Learning

Im

  • Develop new education curricula around factors that influence longevity including benefits of learning, nutrition, exercise, healthcare and medical advances, and social engagement
implications for elder learning42
Implications for Elder Learning
  • Consider offering more intergenerational programs to re-emphasize cultural values that respect the elderly as a source of experience and wisdom
implications for elder learning43
Implications for Elder Learning
  • What do you see as important?