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Posted by on Jun 13, 2014

Aesthetic literacy: emphasizing process over output in learning

Aesthetic literacy and learning in the open from Michael Gallagher on Vimeo.

My colleague Pekka and I recorded a discussion we had the other day on ideas that came out of a recent mind map that he created (shown in the video) based on our previous discussions on learning in the open and the Pedagogy of Simultaneity. Basically, and this is my editorial here, the emphasis on current education on outputs and (standardized) assessment is off the mark. Not only is it generating learners with granular skill sets (the ability to do this task or another), it is also preparing them for work (applying those granular skills) that may or may not exist in 20 years. So the conundrum of current education (again, my editorial) is that it emphasizes an output that may or may not have significance in the lifetime of the student. Standardized assessment, teaching to the tests, education as job skilling, are all symptomatic of a larger emphasis on “tangible” phenomena. Measure, make more efficient, repeat.

This is all well and good, but we believe that learners need more for their futures. Learners need the capacity for self-directed learning, for learning without an applied outside structure (i.e., school or work), and learning that generates an acute awareness of the potential for cognitive growth in the everyday places of life. We need learning that operationalizes lifelong learning, makes it accessible for the billions who might benefit from it. Life expectancies increase and so does our need for perpetual education. What it means to contribute, to build, to learn, to interact, all of this evolves with age and time. We believe an emphasis on process over output gets us closer to that mark of developing independent learners. The following two slides from a recent presentation I did try to illustrate that.

process over output in pedagogy
To enact this emphasis on process, Pekka and I focused on the development of aesthetic literacy, which is essentially just an ability to make use of the natural environment, making learners more aware of its potential for learning. The video discusses what we believe to be the major elements of that, which include:

  1. Alignment (perception
  2. Atunement (action)
  3. Behavioral rhetorics (the logos, pathos, ethos of learning)
  4. Perceptual sensitivity (the ability to perceive meaning everywhere)
  5. Human-environment wholeness (to know the variables that are interacting in a particular context to generate meaning)

Pekka and I will post these videos as we generate them. We just want to keep our process, warts and all, open and honest.

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  1. Hi Michael and Pekka,
    Thanks for posting this discussion. I’m writing the dissertation on connections between organisational aesthetics and organisational culture and find your thoughts on aesthetic literacy very thought provoking.
    I’d suggest the word “awareness” (or maybe “sensory awareness”) to explain “perceive by” used by Pekka.
    Another thing that I thought about was the difference in ‘alignment’ and ‘attunement’… Alignment (from my perspective 🙂 ) can be connected to vision (align~line) and Attunement can be connected to hearing (tune).
    Not sure if it’s of any use in what you are trying to achieve, but thought it’s still worth sharing :).

    • Hello there, Natalia. Many thanks for the nice comments, all very useful in helping Pekka and I further articulate aesthetic literacy. We are still struggling with “perceive by” as Pekka has a clear idea that this means “looking beyond, or transcending, something”. Your explanations of alignment and attunement linked to the visual and auditory are all useful as well. Where are you studying?

      • I am at the University of Tasmania School of Business at the moment.
        I think I can understand what Pekka means by “looking beyond” and my suggestion of ‘sensory awareness’ is more like being in Now without focusing on something in particular and at the same time being ready for discovery or for [re]action. I know the feeling but never actually tried to put it into words:)

        • Very well put, Natalia, this idea of sensory awareness as being in the now without focusing on something in particular but still being ready for interaction. Very useful and has me thinking. Many thanks for contributing to this!

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