David Demant, Museum Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
The talk is about learning; about making connections between the known and the unknown; about facilitating learning. The sub-title of the talk is 'Learning on the periphery', which, for me, is a restatement of that well-known phrase: 'starting from where the learner is'.
When we interpret material, we operate within the conceptual framework that has evolved during our life experience at school, college or university, and our life generally. Learners, interpret too - they operate through their own conceptual framework. Their understandings of data are not the same as the
facilitator's, for example a teacher.
Often, learners don't say the things we want to hear. In these cases, their observations are often regarded as peripheral. I would like to take a look at these peripheral things; at what I like to call 'peripheral' learning' or more accurately 'learning from the periphery'. I hope to show that they are
anything but peripheral!
We have all experienced the effects of 'peripheral' thinking. Teachers will recognise the following: the student will interrupt a flow of thought, or disturb other students with interesting but 'irrelevant'
diversions', perhaps hold up a well-prepared lesson. The student has clearly missed 'the point'. For all sorts of reason, the teacher might feel obliged to correct the 'error' and so allow the 'proper lesson' to continue. The student's observations are peripheral to the main theme.
However, if we are interested in facilitating learning; in engaging the learner, the student, or whoever; in incorporating new meanings and understanding into our own conceptual frameworks and those of the students, then we ignore the periphery at our peril! It has a habit of catching us unawares.
This talk attempts to put the periphery at the centre of our work in engaging audiences.