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Posts Tagged ‘anthony j. marchese leadership’

I am excited to announce that my book, DESIGN: An Owner’s Manual for Learning, Living, and Leading was published this month. If you feel like you have strayed far from home- from your identity or purpose- or perhaps never really discovered either, this book is for you! If you would like to learn more about it, please click on the link below! Prepare to embark on the journey of a lifetime!

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“The word ‘school’ which comes from ‘schola’ (meaning free time), reminds us that schools were originally meant to interrupt a busy existence and create some space to contemplate the mysteries of life. Today they have become the arena for a hectic race to accomplish as much as possible and to acquire in a short period the necessary tools to survive the great battle of human life. Books written to be savored slowly are read hastily to fulfill a requirement, paintings made to be seen with a contemplative eye are taken in as part of a necessary art appreciation course, and music composed to be enjoyed at leisure is listened to in order to identify a period or style. Thus, colleges and universities meant to be place for quiet learning have become places of fierce competition, in which the rewards go to those who produce the most and the best.”- Henri Nouwen in Lifesigns

The description of the ideal historical academy proposed by Henri Nouwen is undoubtedly a clear departure from what is occurring in higher education across the country. As a professor, I often began the first day of class by sharing the philosophical foundations of my pedagogy or teaching style. Contained within this discussion were my views on the nature of learning. Since I believe that the capacity to learn and create is endemic to the human condition, I am resistant to relegate it primarily to a four-year period enjoyed by those eighteen to twenty two years of age. While a more rigid, prescriptive approach may occur at this time, other, even more exciting opportunities exist. To refuse to indulge in the opportunities on a regular basis is both irresponsible and negligent. Every human is responsible for perpetuating the evolution of the human race. The ability to transcend the immediate or what is and advance our potentiality or what can be helps to ensure that the world which we leave will be better.

As I contemplate the words of Nouwen, I realize that the dichotomy that he elicits between the intention of school as a place in which one’s busy life is interrupted by the infusion of free time or space in order to contemplate the complexities of the human condition and its current state as a place where students vigorously compete for the high grades in order to obtain the best job is perplexing to me. Our country is currently falling farther and farther behind other nations in a host of academic disciplines. Emerging technologies and new knowledge, and the grave global economic forecast seem to invoke the survivalist instinct in us that we have no choice but to critically consider the pragmatic facets of learning. Does the inevitability of an accelerated, prescriptive academic experience entirely prohibit “schola”? Is authentic learning even possible without the presence of schola? I do not think so.

After serving at four academic institutions in various administrative and professorial capacities, I have determined that many of today’s students narrowly view learning as the acquisition of concrete tools to enable them to land a lucrative job upon graduation. The greater the practicality of the curriculum, the more valuable it is. Authentic learning requires three components: Analysis, Synthesis, and Application. This modified version of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning is inclusive of the pragmatic concerns of contemporary students while also incorporating the mystical and transformational elements that challenge individuals to not only consider what can be done with an education but what the education can do to them. What happens when the observer encounters something new- something that creates a level of dissonance? Is it forgotten? Is it stored within the memory for future reference? Learning often starts and stops here. In some cases, questions of utility logically follow. What can I do with this observation? Or better yet- How much must be remembered for the test? The discipline of synthesis which requires schola is absent. The mystical coalescence between the observer and the observed forces the individual into a reflective state as the appetite to evolve- to raise one’s level consciousness, to be changed, becomes insatiable. To what extent does this observation align or depart from preconceived perspectives? How does this observation resonate with the current worldview of the learner? What types of emotions are experienced as a result of this observation? Why? How does this observation connect or integrate with previous learning from other disciplines? How is it similar? How is it different? These questions allow the observation to move beyond mere recollection and penetrate the fabric of one’s being. In other writings, the importance of being informing doing has been posed. Lastly, application is necessary for authentic learning to occur. However, because synthesis has preceded it, the outcome should be more specific, strategic, and satisfying.

The world shows few signs that things are going to be slowing down. The rapidity with which we are required to function is likely to increase. However, the quest to enjoy a meaningful existence will remain highly elusive devoid of efforts to include schola into one’s life. Meaning requires both experience and reflection to occur. It cannot be bestowed upon another. It must be made by the individual. Perhaps the single greatest strategy that educators and other leaders can use to encourage a positive, holistic attitude about learning is through the intentional inclusion of synthesis. How can individuals be forced to wrestle a bit with a particular concept? How can greater ownership be cultivated? How can the process of learning be embraced rather than the product alone? How can the experience connect to the bigger picture? Finally, the absence of synthesis in the learning process cripples the creative capacities of people. Innovation is unlikely to occur.

Four years ago I published an article in a higher education periodical. The article was entitled: Engaging the Meaning-Making Power of Reflection: An Evaluation of the Undergraduate Experience. The article targeted Student Affairs professionals and received a great deal of positive feedback which eventually led to a series of similar pieces of work including national conferences and publications. Though my thinking has changed to some extent in this area, I still affirm the overall goals of this article.

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