Deepening Perspective

Andy Clark and his Critics

Reflections on Mog Stapleton’s Enacting Education

What kinds of deepening or transformation of perspective does it take to turn youngsters into outdoorsy types who stay active in the outdoors for life?

While we teach […] we hope for our students that they will leave us with more than the sum of this knowledge and selection of skills. We hope that they somehow become wiser, that they grow as people and as thinkers; that their perspectives are “transformed”. Such outcomes are hard to phrase in terms of the kinds of “learning outcomes” required by institutions in their course descriptions and syllabi because there is not a particular ‘goal’ state that we are trying to get the students’ perspectives to transform into.

Mog Stapleton – Enacting Education – May 2020

For Jack Mezirow, “Transformational Learning” involved leaving behind certain habits of mind or “orienting predispositions that act as a filter for interpreting the meaning of experience.” That’s moving beyond a particular “frame of reference” or “meaning perspective” – which is something more fundamental than a simple broadening of perspective or a shifting of perspective. This is transformation of the individual’s “landscape of affordances” – though this is perhaps simply at one end of a continuum of developmental experience.

In Enacting education we find Mog Stapleton follows Michelle Maiese in suggesting any transformation is likely to be rather more connected to moods, feelings, and attitudes than Mezirow ever allowed. That brings in a focus on “sense-making” as something rooted more firmly in how we experience the world: on “a knowing that transforms the self who knows” with “consequences on the thoughts, feelings, and judgments (and potentially perceptions).”

Mog Stapleton

I work at the intersection of philosophy, cognitive science, and neurophysiology. My research is focussed on understanding what contributions the non-neural body, and the sense of the internal body (interoception), make to perception, cognition, and experience and – in particular – how this relates to feelings, emotions, and the experience of psychopathology.

Triggering Shifts in Perspective

Mog shifts the focus from “enlarging perspectives” to “deepening perspectives” and suggests “depth consists in the holding of one’s own perspectives (as well as those of others) with an awareness that they are formed by potentially unhelpfully-biased habits of mind” – and of how this awareness “may result in triggering shifts to perspectives that are more inclusive and discriminating.”

In the paper I am referring to, all of this is used to elaborate on a familiar enough theme:

We are not aiming for them to internalise and regurgitate our point of view and way of engaging with the world […] Rather, we are hoping for them to develop their own ways of thinking to be more inclusive, more discriminating, and freer from the particular biases that they bring to thought either by virtue of natural temperament or upbringing […]”

Mog Stapleton – Enacting Education – May 2020

Joining With Others on a Journey…

Mog’s concern is with manipulating the constraints of ritual to “break up the habitual patterns of behaviour and allow other possibilities for socially engaging to emerge” – and we might reflect on how coaching (and coach-developer) spaces tend to be highly ritualised, with participants playing the role of “coach” and “learner” (or “coach educator” and “coach”).

Mog’s challenge to us might be to think of ways of using a “Community of Philosophical Inquiry” style approach where the coach / coach developer “is bound not to interfere in the discussion or guide the discussion towards what they might think are the “good” questions or some kind of goal such as what they might want the students to learn from the discussion” – perhaps joining the participants on a journey rather than shepherding them to desired outcomes!

“[…] there is no clear methodology that assures you that if you follow a particular pedagogical path you will acquire the hoped for maturation of thought and perspectival changes. Instead we […] tend to act on faith that [whatever we do] will somehow bring about these kinds of perspective transformations in (at least some of) our students. And indeed, it does seem to at times.

Mog Stapleton – Enacting Education – May 2020

For me, the larger significance of Mog’s work in this context is her focus is on what we might see as the social artist as a “valuable catalyst to perspective deepening” – with constraints as “enlargening” as they “open up possibilities for action rather than shutting them down.”

Enriching Lives

Mog’s notion of “Perspective Deepening” ties in nicely with themes in my Enriching Lives series. This starts from the notion that ” it takes a certain magic to turn youngsters into outdoorsy types who stay active in the outdoors for life.”