After having had the opportunity to participate as fully as possible for 2 semesters (2009/10) in the ma programme called: Learning & Development in multicultural & multilingual contexts at the University of Luxembourg, hardly anything is the same anymore. A single word takes on multiple meanings, in relation to where and when this word has been said by whom and how. This is fascinating and confirms my belief that we shape our environment as much as we are shaped by it.
Using the ‘proposed’ grid to complete this assignment, I’ll start by using Engeström’s triangles as a heuristic device for questioning learning in the MA multi-LEARN course.
A: The activity system (course within the MA multilearn) as unit of analysis
The subject would be me as the student of the course entitled: Analysing Activity. The object of the activity is to have a better understanding of what an activity is. In order to do that, several tools are available to accomplish the task: the university, our professor, articles, papers, existing theories, interaction with other students and the classroom including all facilities. Some of them can be called mediating artifacts, like the notes we take and our ongoing reflections (I have about 17 entries in my learning diary). Some outcomes of the activity would include appropriation of tools in order to analyse activity, getting the required ECTS, and the course being a stepping stone for further personal and professional development. Completing the course and getting the credits is certainly one of my expected outcomes but as important would be the new understanding gained and/or a changed perception, expanded, enlarged, spiral. The course had a number of rules such as attending the class on time, listening & participating, sharing & reflecting before, during and after the course on the activity. The community is composed of the ma- and visiting students attending the course. When we read texts, discuss topics, and share ideas, division of labor takes place. This activity shows several relations to other systems. The course is related to other courses in the programme, looking at the subject from a different perspective, using different methods and theories. The course is connected to the programme as a whole and has been given a certain importance (course is obligatory). The course is connected indirectly to the department of the university and may benefit from a high profile due to the professor giving the course. The course is connected to the university as regards to possible esteem. Past and present students may convey positive or negative images of the course to other people internal/external, and transfer this consciously or not to the programme and the entire university. All these relations to other systems may have potentially shared objects. Deeper analysis of the objects and outcomes of other systems, such as the university as a whole may show potentially conflicting objectives and outcomes.
Multiple points of view and perspectives have allowed a broader base on a horizontal level, facilitating decision and assumption making. In the division of labor, the professor came in more as a facilitator, provider of tools and someone guiding discussions and clarifying positions. I was struck by a number of participants and their histories. They demonstrated their interest in this fairly new programme and at the same time their uncertainty about what they would actually be able to ‘learn’ and ‘take away’ as a result of completing the programme.
As we try to understand ‘time’, we are faced with many uncertainties. What seems to remain constant in the history of human activities is our need to understand what is happening with us and the world around us. We don’t give up ‘learning’.
The insertion of cultural artifacts into human actions was revolutionary in that the basic unit of analysis now overcame the split between the Cartesian individual and the untouchable societal structure. The individual could no longer be understoot without his or her cultural means; and the society could no longer be understood without the agency of individuals who use and produce artifacts. This meant that objects ceased to be just raw material for the formation of logical operations in the subject as they were for Piaget. Objects became cultural entities and the object-orientedness of action became the key to understanding human psyche. (Engeström, 2001a, p. 134) quoted in (Daniels, Leadbetter, Soares, & MacNab, 2007, p. 51).
We may only be at the very edge of new understandings about the nature of human beings and the relationship with the world around us. Interdisciplinary efforts are well reflected in this programme. Fragmentation of knowledge provides limited access to a tiny bit of reality, which needs to be explored as a whole, from different perspectives. How exciting it must be to feel to have access to ‘new’ forms of knowledge.
Too often the feeling was present that there was a lack of cohesion between participants in the course. This was increased by a constant stream of a number of participants arriving some time after the start of the course. My own learning here would be to more focused on the task and the interaction during the course, seeking help and asking questions. I would encourage certain actions in order to move from a ‘fragmented’ group of participants towards a group united in their shared objectives. Sitting closer together would be one method as part of a whole strategy to achieve this. I’m uncertain whether contradictions provide the ‘right’ motivation to ‘deliberate collective change’. When a situation is seen collectively as unhelpful in order to achieve a common goal, the need to change becomes clear (re: the French football team at the world cup). In the case of our course it appears to much harder to identify activities that would encourage us to ‘embrace a radically wider horizon of possibilities’. Interventionist research shows promising signs. In the study: Learning in and for Cross-school Working, the authors seek to find out tools that promote the development of creative activity (Daniels et al., 2007). What then might be the tools that would encourage in our course/programme a wider horizon of possibilities?
Daniels, H., Leadbetter, J., Soares, A., & MacNab, N. (2007). Learning in and for cross-school working. Oxford Review of Education, 33(2), 125. doi:10.1080/03054980701259469