Academic journal article International Education Studies

The Importance and Meaning of Learning at School in Students' Consciousness: Non Sholae, Sed Vitae Discimus

Academic journal article International Education Studies

The Importance and Meaning of Learning at School in Students' Consciousness: Non Sholae, Sed Vitae Discimus

Article excerpt


One of the most important functions of learning is the formation of identity. From a hermeneutical viewpoint the formation of ipse-identity is, to a large extent, based on the meaning of the learning experiences. The following questions guide our research: first, what meanings do Estonian and Finnish students gain from curricular facts? And second, what do students in the two countries consider important to learn for their future? The theoretical framework of the study is based on ontological and socio-cultural approaches to learning. Both traditions recognize a connection between one's personal agency as well as structural factors concerning learning contexts. It was found that in meaningful learning contents youth, on one hand, gain authentication of identity, while on the other, they feel the pressure of insecurity and coping with the idea of an uncertain future.

Keywords: ipse-identity, authentic identity, learning, school experiences

1. Introduction

Identity is one of the principal issues in education (Siljander, 2002; Uhle, 1997). The educational path of the younger generation can be seen as an identification process, or continuing self-definition, through relationships with different reality phenomena. The concept of identity integrates many important facets of the human existence. Identity can be seen as a specific theoretical-imaginary construct of the self, which allows particular ways of interpreting the world (Kuusela, 2006, Mason, 2001). Identity formation means creating a unified structure among various levels of the self-experience and external facts, in order to live one's unique and wholesome life (Straub, 1996). Of course not everyone agrees with such a narrow interpretation of identity formation as identity is a more complicated phenomenon than ever. Certainly in contemporary cultural erosion processes this concept needs further explanation. One's need for security is as great as it has ever has been, because, with change being ubiquitous, the only place one finds continuity is with the Self (Hoffmann, 1997). What kind of education best suits the purpose of leading young students into adequate self-reflection? To answer such a question, we investigate the meaning structures students form regarding things they have learned, from the viewpoint of their own lived experiences and concepts of their personal futures.

Formulation of personal identity is an act of constructivistic learning. Learning, as a process that accompanies human growth and occurs throughout life, plays a central role in identity formation and can be consciously directed. As Illeris (2007) informs us, the process of learning for youth is oriented toward, and is best seen under the light of, identity formation. At school, especially since it is such a major aspect of a young person's life, one learns more than subjects of the curriculum, such as lessons about social, cultural, and especially personal insights. Ideally, a personal understanding develops regarding one's personal development in the context of one's life in general and about the meaning of what is learned - learning to be human, learning for life and learning from life. If these principes are studied in a proper pedagogic context there is an opportunity to determine which self-experiences and identification opportunities schools offer young people and how gain experience for life.

Generally speaking, characteristics of modern European school include consistent formats, similar logic of curriculum making, and organisational structure. Schools should also become a secure places for identity development. To what extent is this possible?

2. Authentic Identity as a Developmental Value

There are different kinds of identities. The IPSE-identity, derived from a hermeneutic approach is concerned with the mode of the self and the life path. The constituents of IPSE-identity are linked to self-evaluative questions: what kind of a person one is (evaluative identity), what activity orientations are chosen (practical identity) and what is the approach to life as a whole (biographic identity) (Laitinen, 2009). …

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