Is a new kind of learning emerging?

Imagination is the key to better sense-making in these times.

Is a new kind of learning emerging?
Photo by Marija Zaric / Unsplash

There are a lot of heated discussions focused on eduction and just how it should be changing considering how the world is changing.

Some argue that children should be taught 'coding' and that there should be more emphasis put on the so-called STEM subjects, while other experts say that the way that education systems evaluate progress in learning is severely outdated and may in fact be more harmful that useful.

What is clear is that the way that we as a society organise knowledge and explore new possibilities for new futures in the 21-century needs a comprehensive renewal.

Learning needs a BIG rethink.

One of the more 'radical' suggestions as to how to do this that is increasingly being proposed and explored in this rethinking process - is a focus on the teaching of imagination.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." - Albert Einstein

In a recent post of the Aeon website - Professor Stephen T. Asma, cofounder of the Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture at Columbia College Chicago, makes some enlightening points as to why this is becoming even more important:

It is time to initiate Imagination Studies at every level of education, primary school through university. Studying the imagination – its creations, its processes (creativity), and its underlying cognitive structures – is the most exciting and accurate way to heal the terminal divide between the sciences and the humanities. But, more importantly, Imagination Studies, or imaginology, also promises to reunite the body and the mind, reintegrate emotion and reason, and tesselate facts and values.

The reason for this urgent need to explore Imagination Studies is that the divide between the rational world of STEM-subjects and the emotionally-charged aspects of the humanities is huge, and in many ways dangerous.

It is the human faculty of the imagination that has the ability to combine these into a far more powerful layered capacity of sense-making.

Humans shape reality through image and story schemas, but I have argued that these schemas are so deeply embodied that they cannot be derived from literal descriptive sense-making. Descriptive sense-making is based on a correspondence theory of truth. A proposition – a statement, a sentence, a word – is epistemically valuable if it corresponds accurately with a factual state of affairs. But imagination produces meaningful counterfactuals, rather than mirroring facts about the world. The common mistake, then, is asking how well imaginative schemas correspond with external referents. It would be better to examine the imagination’s sense-making ability to adaptively manage our emotional, somatic, affordance-rich world. The bio-semantic view that I’m suggesting (where meaning comes through the body directly) underlies linguistic, visual and motor-system sense-making processes, and provides the conditioning pathways by which art can help us handle the vagaries of the real world.

As the world gets more complex and change happens at an accelerating pace - it is the imagination that ultimately has the capability to ease our anxieties and concerns when faced with the kinds of VUCA-type uncertainties that we now face in the world.

Imaginology must cultivate a certain tolerance for ambiguity. Sense-making emerges out of nonsense, to be blunt. We need to accept stages of confusion as potentially enjoyable, playful, resources. William James called this generative grey area between sense and nonsense the ‘unclassified residuum’ – anomalous stuff that doesn’t fit in anywhere. Accepting this liminal zone of ambiguity and possibility is important for epistemic virtues such as open-mindedness and humility, providing cognitive and cultural resources for generating novel ideas and behaviours.
It’s time to give imagination its due as a core cognitive power, epistemic workhorse, therapeutic wellspring and maker of adventures. In the end, the institutionalised ‘chasm’ between forms of education is entirely of our own making and, ironically, a creation of our outdated imaginations. The yawning gulf resembles the fictional schism of the human into dualistic parts.

Intellectuals like Iain McGilchrist, in his book The Master and His Emissary, have been pointing out the same thing, but from a different point of view.

Imagination is the key to better sense-making in these times, it should be the pivotal point around which our exploration of the futures possible begins.

Changes like this one, that happen in big, important systems, have a systemic knock-on affect and can significantly alter the conditions under which a business will need to operate in the future. Agile leaders take these 'scanning hits' and workshop them to better understand the threats and opportunities that they may create. Cherryflava editor, Jonathan Cherry, has extensive experience facilitating these workshop sessions with organisations; feel free to get in touch using the 'Contact' tab above, to arrange yours.

Why we need a new kind of education: Imagination Studies | Aeon Essays
We need a new kind of approach to learning that shifts imagination from the periphery to the foundation of all knowledge
We no longer live in a VUCA world
A world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.