CCK08: Reflection for Week 5: Part 2

Notes on Taking down the walls: communities and educational research in Canada’s 21st Century by Celia Haig-Brown, Ph.D

Yesterday I stumbled upon a working paper called “Taking down the walls: Communities and educational research in Canada’s 21st Century” by Celia Haig-Brown (2000). In it, Haig-Brown cites the work of Eleanor Godway and Geraldine Finn in which the authors

…claim that community is catechresis, calling on Gayatri Spivak’s definition whereby “catechresis means that there is no literal referent for a particular word; that its definition comes apart, as it were, as soon as we begin to articulate it” (2).

Wittgenstein revisited, perhaps. Haig-Brown continues:

…In looking historically at the effects of community building, Godway and Finn question the possibility of event trying to construct such a place:

It is up to us to make community: to find it, build it, or encourage it to grow in our fragmented world. But can we? Or should we even try, when in spite of good intentions, the effects of community are often more divisive, more exclusive, and more oppressive, than the absence of community it originally intended to remedy or remove? (1994:1)

In an endnote, Haig-Brown explains her attraction to the word:

I realised that it is its refusal of “thingness” or reification of that which is in motion that appeals to me. Catechresis, even as it is a noun, works to address the transience of notions such as community. As as we name it and define it — or even try to do so — it becomes something else (10).

This reflection lends itself well to the group-network distinction:

Despite such warnings or perhaps because of them, I am committed to trying. If we keep in mind the dangers of past efforts, perhaps we can do a better job of creating spaces which allow difference to be a constant, unpredictable part of who we are together. Striving to work respectfullly with difference may broaden our work in ways that serve to enrich what I am coming to see as the limitations of centralized theorizing whether it is within disciplinary walls or university walls. Confining ourselves to particular and familiar theoretical or material contexts leads to impoverished and/or obscure theory based too often in work we do primarily with and for people just like us. Outside the university, taking community seriously addresses the other kinds of walls, the ones which we cannot wish away, the borders of our physical plant: it may mean getting out of our offices and into the schools and into the streets. Sometimes, it even means getting in a boat or onto a snowmobile. Ultimately, it means learning to listen [my italics] just when we thought our positions in academe, whether as graduate students or faculty, gave us the credibility to speak and be listened to [my italics] (6).

Haig-Brown’s work has stong ties to design-based research, and in her own context pertains to the development of A Pedagogy of the Land. In this capacity, Haig-Brown is committed to bringing researchers into Anishinaape communities in Northern Ontario to structure a curriculum and research based on that curriculum:

The Pedagogy of the Land is a pilot project which involves traditional indigenous knowledge keepers who have some fluency in their language and whose knowledge arises from traditional Anishinaape world view in a programme that allows them to build on one another’s knowledgee and to prepare to pass it on to others who know less than they do (6-7).

In terms of curriculum development, the Pedagogy of the Land project contains elements that are also found in a Connectivist pedagogy:

The curriculum which must have endless flexibility is based on what people do as they live together in a place. So much for minute by minute lesson plans and predetermined performance indicators: one does not set a net if the wind is blowing too hard (7).

Siemens’ reflections on contextuality in terms of the Connectivist framework are worthy of consideration here, as they relate to local knowledge, culture and custom, and their places in a connected world.

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