A Teacher’s Defence Mechanism

“The recognition of the importance of context suggested that the unit of analysis for understanding learning had to be larger than the individual person” (Hoadley & Van Haneghan, 2011, p. 4).

Through the learning sciences and as we decipher how people learn, we need to look at more than just the individual. Researchers conclude that isolating a person from their context and all the knowledge that they bring with them, is not a proper way to understand that learner (Hoadley & Van Haneghan, 2011). People may think a particular way because of their beliefs or past experiences. They may have specific values that mirror those of their culture and family. Ignoring those factors is ignoring the whole person.

What causes a person to embrace learning experiences and alter their ways of being? Do we react to certain scenarios subconsciously? Illeris (2008) examines these questions by looking at how an individual’s context and previous experiences influence their responses to change. He states that, “through everyday consciousness we control our own learning and non-learning in a manner that seldom involves any direct positioning while simultaneously involving a massive defence of the already-acquired understandings and…our very identity” (p. 15). People put up these defensive barriers as a way to block change and ultimately learning from happening. Does this happen intentionally? I would argue no, but in order to evolve as a learner, I think we need to start questioning our own ways of thinking. What are we afraid of?

We are afraid to fail. We are afraid of putting ourselves out into the unknown and not succeeding. Yet we consistently challenge our students and encourage them to embrace failure opportunities. We want our students to realize that failure is an opportunity for growth and that there is not only one correct way of doing things (Long, 2012). Why don’t we expect this for ourselves as well?

During the last school year, my admin gave me an article called, Who Moved My Cheese, by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It offers an interesting approach to how people respond to change through the eyes of four different characters. While reading the story and trying to decide which character I aligned with, I was consistently thinking about why we struggle to adapt to change, and came up with this conclusion: The idea of change comes with the image of uncertainty and the unknown, and the biggest barrier to change exists within yourself.

In our class discussion today, Dr. Friesen reiterated this point, in that these defence mechanisms that we put up in possible moments of growth and learning are a way to protect ourselves. They are the hardest to overcome because they are a part of our identity, but they are the places where transformational learning can occur.

As I think about implementing some ideas of the learning sciences into my classroom in the fall, I become overwhelmed with uncertainty. There are numerous things to try and places for improvement in my own teaching. I want to be the best teacher I can, but I question whether I will be successful and the extent to which I can facilitate deeper learning in my students. Is this a defence mechanism I am putting up myself? While trying to think ways to overcome this barrier, I can only find one solution. Revert to what the research says: collaborate, find a community of practice, embrace failure, and be open for opportunities of learning to occur.

References
Hoadley, C. & Van Haneghan, J. (2011). The Learning Sciences: Where they came from        and what it means for instructional designers. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.)        Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (3rd ed., pp. 53-63). New            York: Pearson. Retrieved from                                                                                                  http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/uploads/006/742/Hoadley-VanHaneghan-draft.pdf

Illeris, K. (Ed.). (2008). Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists…In Their           Own Words. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge. Retrieved from                                                 http://site.ebrary.com/lib/alltitles/docDetail.action?docID=10296951

Long, C. (2012). Teach Your Students to Fail Better with Design Thinking. Learning &               Leading with Technology, 39(5), 16–20. Retrieved from:                                                         http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ982832.pdf

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