Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

In education, Bloom’s Taxonomy highlights the complementary nature of the cognitive (intellectual), affective (emotional) and psychomotor (physical) domains. Generally, even though cognition usually ends up taking precedence, educators are aware of the importance of addressing all three domains to enable effective learning and teaching.

Conative people imageOne of the many points to ponder from Tom Reeves‘ workshops at Shar-E-Fest 11 (and his visit to the Open Polytechnic yesterday) is the concept of conation, or the conative domain. These terms are new for me, even if the concepts underpinning them are not. Dating back to the work of Aristotle, conation refers to a natural tendency, impulse, striving or directed effort and is considered one of three parts of the mind along with cognition and affection. The conative domain drives how one acts on those thoughts and feelings. Key words include volition, will, desire, follow through, intention, doing, striving, ethics and self-determination – all tendencies we want our students to have but don’t necessarily help them develop.

Apparently there is a 40% drop out rate from students in New Zealand tertiary education, the second highest in the OECD and only ‘beaten’ by the United States. Could addressing the conative domain through effective learning and e-learning design go some way towards ensuring a higher level of retention and success from our students?

Art Costa‘s Habits of Mind go some way to support the conative domain; they address concepts relating to value, inclination, sensitivity, capability and commitment. Mason Durie‘s philosophy toward Māori health, Te Whare Tapa Wha, which has also been adapted for an education context, is underpinned by four dimensions representing the basic beliefs of life: wairua (spiritual), whānau (social), tinana (physical) and hinengaro (cognitive). It is metaphorically represented by a whare (house) and each dimension becomes a wall. With even one dimension missing, the whare is unbalanced and cannot truly exist. Perhaps a similar metaphor could be used to represent the four domains for learning and allow conation to be aptly acknowledged and addressed in our learning and teaching?

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