Meaning-Centered LearningMay 28, 2013 in M
Meaning-Centered Learning (MCL) is a learning theory that holds that human learning is the self-motivating and self-regulating process of creating personal meaning in one’s life-world through reflective, critical, and inquiry-based activities that occur across all learning domains. Thus, according to this meaning-centered learning theory, the learner constructs personal meaning from his/her own experiences and their relationship to prior experiences within multiple life contexts in order to continually self-evolve as a mature personality who is capable of authoring his/her life.
Theories, as opposed to philosophies, identify real-world events needed for learning to occur; they rely on research findings to substantiate the veracity of their claims and they identify a specific set of principles that form the essence of the theory. Thus, in this sense, MCL expands the following philosophical and psychological principles of the learning process: holism, self-regulation, and the self-creating experiential personal life–world.
MCL is human centered and is oriented around holistic human development because a human being represents the means, the aim, the subject, the result and the criteria of the MCL learning process. Holism in education corresponds to the humanitarian tradition (Gessen, 1998, Ventzel, 1993) as developing the humane in a human being and as the non-completeness of a human being who strives for completeness.
MCL provides diverse authentic life contexts for learning and for creating one’s own life world. Based on the broad concepts of MCE as an educational philosophy, MCL can be viewed as a human centered approach to learning that facilitates the holistic integration of all learning domains (affective, cognitive, social) and diverse life contexts, which is self motivating and self-regulating process of creating personal meaning in one’s life-world through reflective, critical, and inquiry-based activities that occur across all learning domains. MCL domains (dialogical, authorial, developmental) explain the holistic approach in designing MCL strategies, curricular and relationships between learners and educators, which makes it humane while accounting for individual development in personal, social, and cultural spheres.
MCL is learning from life, in all its complexity and variety, through all meaning making processes inherent in human consciousness. The self-motivating and self-regulating character of MCL originates from the autonomous and self-strengthening nature of personality (Frank, 1992). According to this character of MCL theory, the learner constructs personal meaning from his/her own experiences and their relationship to prior experiences within multiple life contexts in order to continually self-evolve as a mature personality who is capable of authoring his/her life.
MCE principles are pedagogical pluralism and learning diversity, agency and authenticity, holism and humaneness, which explain the goal of MCL, the nature of MCL environment, the focus of MCL and the MCL instruction mode. The MCL environment is individualized and personally meaningful to each unique learner. It provides a setting where students and teachers are free to explore and develop diverse personal meanings within diverse life contexts that take place within the broad social milieu of life. In such a way, MCL brings more understanding of oneself in relation to the world, and a heightened awareness of multiple truths, multiple perspectives, and multiple modes of inquiry that exist in the world.
The focus of learning is on independent, critical and creative thinking, as well as on ethical and psycho-social self-development (e.g., moral and psychological maturing, creation of personal value systems, social and relationship oriented actions). The preferred mode of instruction is dialogical and authorial. The instructor is the author of her/his teaching mode, and collaborator and co-creator of knowledge, so she/he learns alongside the student. The student is the author of her/his learning processes that involves a high degree of self-regulation and autonomy in order to authentically create her/his personal life–world.
MCL seeks to develop highly mature, integrated, and well-rounded multi-dimensional learners who have the capacity to function in a multiplicity of contexts or situations and as lifelong learners (Fischer, 2000). This includes thinking from different ontological perspectives (what is reality, objectively and subjectively), from different epistemological perspectives (how we know, empirically-sensing and rationally-intuiting), from different logical perspectives (how we reason, ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’), from different axiological perspectives (how we value, intrinsically and extrinsically), and from different phenomenological perspectives (how we experience reality, individually and relationally).
MCL seeks to develop knowledge and learning experiences that traverse across all learning domains and across all disciplinary areas using appropriate modes of inquiry (e.g., scientific, philosophic, artistic) to develop self-regulating personalities who are capable of lifelong sustainable learning. The result is to develop personalities that are knowledgeable, skillful and able of making meaningful contributions to their community (citizenship), their profession (leadership), and their fields of study (scholarship).
To that end, MCL seeks to use contextualized and appropriately integrated problem-based and inquiry-based reasoning approaches (e.g., deductive, inductive, reductive, reflective, reframing, analogical) to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate complex phenomena at multiple levels (e.g., individual, group, organizational, national, global) and across multiple learning domains (e.g., affective, cognitive, socio-cultural) in order to equip students with the ability to think and judge critically and creatively, to evaluate common themes/patterns across disciplines, to gain a comprehensive, 360 degree view of an issue/question, to generate new knowledge, and to explain a claim/statement from multiple positions (e.g., apologetic, dialectic, polemic) and from multiple theoretical perspectives (e.g., scientific, philosophic, ethical, psychological, political, sociological, anthropological, historical, humanistic, technological) in order to provide multiple, contextualized answers to complex questions.
Fischer, G. (2000). Lifelong Learning – More than Training. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, Volume 11 issue 3/4 pp. 265-294.
Frank, S (1992) Moral Foundations of Society. M.: Respublika
Gessen, S. (1998). Theory of Pedagogy. Introduction into the Applied Philosophy. M: Nauka.
Ventzel, K. (1993) Free upbringing: Selected works. M: Pedagogika
This encyclopedic entry was edited by Peter C Taylor.
Kovbasyuk, O., & Blessinger, P. (2012). Meaning-Centered Learning. The Encyclopedia of Meaning-Centered Education. http://patrickblessinger.com/meaningcentered//encyclopedia/meaning-centered-learning
Copyright ©  Institute for Meaning-Centered Education (IMCE), Olga Kovbasyuk, and Patrick Blessinger
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