Teaching to Promote Intellectual and Personal Maturity: Incorporating Students' Worldviews and Identities into the Learning Process

By Marcia B. Baxter Magolda | Go to book overview
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Meaning-making, the process of how individuals make
sense of knowledge, experience, relationships, and the
self, must be considered in designing college curricular
environments supportive of learning and development.


1
Meaning-Making in the Learning
and Teaching Process
Michael IgnelziRobert Kegan, whose theory of meaning-making is the focus of this chapter, relates a story told to him by a mother about her preschool-age son. The son, named Johnny, comes to his mother one day and tells her he needs some cow toenails. Living in the suburbs, the mother’s first thought is how in the world she will obtain cow toenails, but she is even more intrigued by why her son needs these items. When she asks, Johnny informs her that he is starting a farm and wants to plant the cow toenails to grow some cows. Mom’s initial thought is the confirming sense of how inventive and cute her son is. Upon reflection, however, she decides that since Johnny raised the issue, it might be a good time to teach him a little about “the birds and the bees” (or in this case, “the cows”). After telling him a few basic facts about reproduction, she says, “So you see, Johnny, that is where baby cows really come from.” Johnny, who had been listening intently, pauses for a few moments and then replies, “Not on my farm!”Children, who tend to be very honest about what they are thinking and feeling as well as what they do and don’t understand, often provide clear insights into truisms about how human beings function. Although this volume is dedicated to developmental considerations in the learning and teaching of college students, the story about Johnny illustrates some key developmental principles that are useful in considering how all humans experience and learn:
1. Humans actively construct their own reality. William Perry (1970) states that what an organism does is organize and what a human organism organizes is meaning. Kegan (1982, 1994) calls this process meaning-making.

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