Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Applying Learning to Life: A Theoretical Framework in Context

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Applying Learning to Life: A Theoretical Framework in Context

Article excerpt

This paper places the educational framework of Rachel Lauer in the context of psychology, philosophy, and education. Lauer has developed a broad theoretical framework, as well as a pedagogy and curriculum, aimed at human development. Her work responds to deep educational questions of what we should consider progress, how to unify the disciplines, and how to apply learning to life. She emphasizes empathy, choice, and cooperation. Her overall approach aims at cultivating changes in the ways people conceive of their experiences, and heightening the degree to which people are aware of their own consciousness and choices. Lauer suggests that to evoke such consciousness requires sensitivity to the way people develop over time.

Some background in human development and the evolution of worldviews will serve to show the uniqueness of Lauer's contribution, which I will then summarize. Related theories will then be discussed, and finally, ways to encourage development will be suggested.


Arguably, past accounts of student development have been most strongly influenced by the pioneering research of Perry (1970, 1981; see King & Kitchener, 1994; Knefelkamp, 1974; Knefelkamp & Cornfeld, 1979; Moore, 1994; Parker, 1978; Widick, 1975). A second influential body of groundbreaking research is that of Piaget (1926/1963, 1950). Lauer (see note 1) (1965-66, 1971, 1974, 1983, 1990a, 1991, 1996-97, 1998, 1999) provides a third and comprehensive framework. Her work elaborates on that of Piaget (1926/1963, 1950), Fromm (1941/1961, 1947), Horney (1945), and Rogers (1961), among others, and builds upon the general semantics of Korzybski (1933), the "epistemics" of Bois (1970), and critiques of science by Capra (1975, 1982), Harman (1988), Bohm (1980) and others.

Lauer's work brings together approaches from psychology, history of science, general semantics and epistemology, in an attempt to yield a cohesive, evolutionary system for cultivating awareness of patterns of thinking, and applying such awareness to issues in all domains. Her theory (called "Roots of Knowing") is arguably unique in the way it engages with active transformation of human consciousness through an interdisciplinary conceptual framework, pedagogy, and curriculum. Lauer's framework has advantages for its particular comprehensiveness, clarity, explicitness, consistency, practical usefulness, and communicability.

To describe what factors encourage or inhibit growth, a theoretical base is necessary (Knefelkamp, Widick & Parker, 1978). Lauer presents such a base, as she emphasizes: 1) the need for awareness of patterns of consciousness, 2) the usefulness of conceiving of such patterns in terms of five major epistemological orientations or worldviews, 3) application of such awareness to life issues through four basic universal operations used daily, 4) application of such operations in ever expanding contexts, from intrapsychic to interpersonal to increasingly large communities, 5) the usefulness of identifying interdisciplinary, connective "meta-concepts" that may be organized either under the five orientations (see Table 1) or four operations, or in terms of structure, order, and relations, 6) a pedagogy for evoking awareness and facilitating application of all of the above. Lauer has argued that the aim of education should be to encourage growth in clear, creative, and critical thinking, as applied to life issues (Lauer, 1990).

Why worldviews?

Development of worldviews. It has been empirically observed in human development (King & Kitchener, 1994; Perry, 1970; Piaget, 1926/1963, 1950) that individuals tend to think in distinct patterns, and that this thinking develops according to characteristic stages, orientations, or worldviews. It has further been theorized (Bachelard, 1940/1968; Bois, 1970; Korzybski, 1933) that western culture as a whole has evolved through distinguishable periods of development characterized by overall patterns of thinking and knowledge. …

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