Sunday, July 16, 2006

Developing a learning identity

  Posted by Picasa Identity is an important idea for individuals and organizations.

Students who develop an open positive learning identity are indeed lucky. Ensuring all students develop such an identity ought to be the number one priority of all teachers well ahead of any content requirements. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Other agendas get in the way namely numeracy and literacy. Important as they are a positive learning identity (some call it ‘learnacy’) is more important.

The identify concept applies to organizations such as schools communities and countries as well.

Identity is hard to tie down but it is an essential element of such things as vision and culture - things you experience or feel. When individuals, or organizations, act within their beliefs they have coherence and integrity and are able to make confident informed choices. Without a strong sense of identity they fall apart or are indecisive. A strong sense of organizational identity or energy is based on congruent agreed behaviors.

A positive learning identity, at the individual or organizational level, provides a filter to help ‘us’ interpret and make sense of the world and gives us the confidence to be open to new possibilities. We all construct our world by what we choose to notice but the culture we live in provides the groundwork; culture can expand or diminish our identities.

A strong cultural identity reaches to every corner of a powerful learning environment – the ideas must be lived by all. Once such a strong learning identify or vision has been developed it will sustain and self renew itself continually adapting to whatever situation arises, providing all involved with the security of a unified sense of direction.

Organizations beginning such a journey must engage everyone to explore its purpose or vision so as to develop its identity; ‘what’s important around here’! What are the current concerns? What does the school want to achieve? What is possible now? How will things be different because of our actions? What beliefs and behaviors will we need to agree to? And, most important of all, everyone must say 'yes' to belonging.

If this is not done ‘we’ will end up with a jumble of contradictory behaviors with people going in all sorts of directions with an associated loss of energy.

A strong sense of identity provides the means of self reference for organizations, or individuals, allowing them to guide their choices. When we agree to work with others within such agreements we may sacrifice some of our freedom but we open ourselves to more creativity. Our individual and group identity co-evolves.

Vision, values, shared behaviours and beliefs provide ‘self reference’ giving coherence and allowing autonomous choices. Such cultural ‘relationships’ are preferable to imposed plans and procedures.

Appropriate behaviours and choices are guided by one rule – they must be consistent with guiding principles. If the culture and identity is strong then what is appropriate is not a problem.

A learning identity is all about making meaning- all positive individuals or organization are drawn, by their creativity and energy, to continually extend their knowledge. Identity is a strong ‘force’ – a seamless web of relationships, responsibity, participation, harmony, and recognition.

Organizations with a strong learning identity based on clear beliefs and trust are 'attractive' and 'inviting' to others, and those who live and work in them develop a strong passion for what they are trying to achieve. Those with rigid controlling identities cut themselves off from creative possibilities - as do individuals.

With a strong learning identity individuals and organizations are open to continual exploration, happy with the appreciation that there are no right answers and that life is a continual creative process of improvisation.

Only people or organizations with strong learning identities will have the capacity to thrive in the future.


Anonymous said...

Seeing learning from the view point of every individual ought to be the goal of modern personalised learning - the mass education system has produced a consumer mentality and alienation.

A creative identity is vital.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your blog!

Bruce said...

It is important for schools to develop 'metrics' to assess student enjoyment and engagement - just achieving set 'targets' doesn't tell the whole story.

How students 'see' themselves is the most important concept of all.

And anyway it is not the so called 'achievement targets'
you 'hit' that counts, it is all the ones you miss because you weren't even looking for them.

I bet a survey of the 'targets' schools set would show they can't see past literacy and numeracy - 'learnacy' is often not even considered!

Gavin McLean said...

Hi Bruce,
I am so glad you have raised this issue. I am interested in how video games might help develop positive learning identities, in a way, a character in a game, say, an avatar in second Life or in World of Warcraft and suchlike MMOGs, are an extension of our own selves, and perhaps through playing with and interacting with others, in a kind of virtual community these types of games could enhance positive learning identities, may be particularly for damaged learners?
My research focussed on how a group of year 9 students learned a game called "rappelz" a multi-player on-line game. I used video cameras in the room, computer screen capture software and post-play interviews using a technique called "stimulated recall". This is the first time I have heard of this methodology being used to study in-game thinking.Some fascinating data came out about social identity in the group, social constructivist stuff, and some interesting gender differences.
Cheers Bruce,
Gavin McLean

Gavin McLean said...

PS I put your blog as an RSS feed in my blog list.

Bruce said...

I am not so sure about positive identities arising out of video games but it is an area I have little experience of. Thanks for taking the time to comment.