The Demands of Agentive Psychology

I had to laugh. Writing the title to this post, I found myself chuckling: “And you wonder why nobody reads the blog anymore…” Somehow stories of butchering pigs and flirting with soccer players in Paraguay just have more appeal than learning theory or political positing. Go figure.

A fascinating discussion with Richard Williams in our Learning Theory class finally helped solidify what is really required to embrace agentive psychology, to make the shift from an acquisitional model of learning to a participatory model–you’ve got to speak in verbs instead of nouns.

Information is not a thing. This [… ___ …] is not information, it only means something to someone who knows Morse Code. it doesn’t exist outside of the “acts of knowing” of those who interpret, use, teach and record it. In agentive psychology, or the participatory metaphor, the terms that imply the existence of some permanent, self-contained entities [like “knowledge” and “concept”] have been replaced with the verb “to know.” Thus:

  • We don’t have  “a memory,” … we remember.
  • We don’t have “emotions” … we feel.
  • We don’t have “thought processes” … we think.

It’s an interesting paradox for me. The more I think about it, the more complex it seems, the more implications I am forced to explore, the harder it is to wrap my brain around it. At the same time, every implication I explore, every hour I spend trying to wrap my brain around it makes me more and more convinced that this view is first, a more accurate view of lived experience, and second that the possibilities it opens up in terms of teaching and learning are well worth a bit of floundering in the uncertainty of it all.


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