Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education

By Anne Brockbank; Ian McGill | Go to book overview

2
Learning: Philosophies and
Principles

We explore how an understanding of learning as a human activity is influenced by the philosophies held about the human person. An understanding of learning relates to how the human person is perceived, and this is informed by the values and philosophies held. We maintain that such philosophies are present and influential in the stance of every teacher, whether or not she is aware of it, and may significantly affect her teaching approach (Trehan, 2004).

We present alternatives based on a variety of philosophical approaches. In offering alternatives we seek to clarify the philosophy which informs a given approach or definition of learning, particularly the model of humanity implicit within it, as a powerful influence on a teacher's stance towards learning in higher education. We do privilege a particular philosophy given below and its implicit model of learning, which we describe in Chapter 3. Suffice to say that we believe our approach will promote the learning appropriate to higher education as it now exists and may evolve. We draw on theories expounded by Vygotsky, Engestrom, Lave and Wenger and Bourdieu to support our philosophical approach to learning in HE.

We recognize that our approach carries its own embedded values and our survey of the history of learning is presented in a spirit of understanding and respect. We agree with Barnett (1997: 2) that 'the whole idea of a higher education founded on a view of critical thought is now inadequate for the modern age'. What he proposes is a broader aim for the university experience, that of 'critical being' which incorporates not just knowledge but also action and self reflection.


A philosophy of learning

Philosophy, in its original and widest sense is defined as the love, study or pursuit of wisdom. Other meanings include, moral philosophy (what we would now call ethics); natural philosophy (now called science); and

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