Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Does it need to change their life? Towards a better understanding of “transformative” learning in field based courses

Does it need to change their life? Towards a better understanding of “transformative” learning in field based courses

I recently had the pleasure of being at a workshop at my alma mater, George Mason.   The organizers brought together a group of us focused on field-based experiential courses.  I was asked to share about my own leadership of my program’s field based peace building course to Morocco.  My colleagues there significantly improved my thinking especially as regards to the idea of “being transformed” by these courses, something we as faculty and students involved in field-based courses often talk about.  What does it mean to be transformed?  Is this a reasonable expectation for a 10-16 week course, with perhaps 2-3 weeks in the field?  Is "transformation" necessary pedagogically for such courses to be worthwhile learning and professional development? Why do we assume they as students require “transforming”? 
Walkway in Fes Medina
I was inspired to sharpen my own thinking on what it means to “be transformed” by these sorts of courses.  Here are a few specifications.  I hope the field immersion component (FIC) in my field-based, experiential peace building courses will cause the student to
1.      Think about the host country differently, especially with respect to destabilizing simplistic, sometimes even neocolonialist perceptions of the host country
2.      Think differently about him or herself, especially with respect to that classic unpacking of one’s privilege
3.      Think differently about the field of peace building,
a.       to have their view of the field broadened beyond negotiation and mediation 
b.     to question much more rigorously and deeply what ethical practice in the field really means.

Is this transformative?  Will it alter the course of a student’s life?  There is scant data out there to say—but if a field-based course of mine can accomplish the three learning goals above, I will certainly call that a good day at (or nowhere near) the office. 

Mosque in Fes


Kate's Aunt Carolyne said...

Cheryl, Belatedly got to read this. I like your realistic expectations of what a course of this type can do for the student. As to transformation, which, as you noted, has not been measured, it has been my experience that people exposed to these teachings and practices, as well as those touched by those learners, do transform their view of conflict and how to address it. Good job.

Anonymous said...

The Kiss of Peace
By Gede Prama

“Why do women close their eyes when they are kissed?”, this is the question of many teenagers. Every spiritual friends who grow deep in meditation know, the true beauty is hidden within. The outer beauty is merely the reflection of the inner harmony.

Sadly, very few of people in this age who can meet deep beauty like this. Most human beings fight against themselves. On the path of compassion, it is often heard a beautiful message like this: “be kind to those who harm you. They are fighting. And they do not fight against you, they fight agains themselves”.

This explains why life is burning in many places. Hospitals are full, the victims of drugs increase significantly, the story of divorce and suicide are very touching. In short, very few of people who find the inner harmony recently. Most people are burning in the chaotic inner conflict.

As has been shared very often in meditation classes, there are many seeds of violence were planted within us. Family, schools, leaders, society planted countless seeds of violence in our inner life. That’s why many people can be easily burnt simply because of small things.

At the level of healing, meditation keep teaching the approach of selective watering. Students are suggested to water only the seeds of peace. To put it clearly, surround yourself with people who support your peace journey. Every time the memory of violence appear in the mind, learn to smile to the bad memory, learn not to react in the forms of speech or action.

Quoting the teachings of ancient Indian in America, within us there are good and bad wolves which keep fighting every day. And the winner is the one who is fed every day. With the approach of smiling to the seeds of violence within, not to react in the forms of words and actions, one is no longer feeding the bad wolf within.

In the language of meditation: “recognize mind as mind, not as a truth. Recognize feelings as feelings, not as yourself. That is how meditation cures many lives”. Anyone who diligently practice meditation like this, one day they will experience a deep healing. And they are no longer burnt by the heat of life everywhere.

At the level of perfection, the selective approach of watering is not necessary. What is needed is a consistency to witness without choosing (choiceless awareness). Every movements of life outside and inside, both are similar to snow flakes falling into the lake. It causes ripples for a while, but finally they disappear.

Meditate or not, praying or not, that’s the natural nature of life. Everything grow follow their own law. Shade trees invite the coming of birds. The blooming flowers invite the coming of butterflies. How bad or how beautiful everyday life, everything simply appear and then disappear. It is as simple as snow flakes falling into the lake.

Any inner seekers who are one with the daily meditative life like this, they can transform life into a song of harmony. This is what allows a person to find the true beauty within. In the depth of beauty within, life is the kiss of peace.

Author: Gede Prama