Thinking and experience go hand in hand, active and passive activities of the body combine to create the nature of experience. It is through the experiences in our daily life that we begin to learn. Experience is change, yet these changes are meaningless unless connected consciously to the advantages or consequences that come from it.
Separation of Mind and Body
- Bodily activity becomes more of a nuisance or distraction – something to be repressed in a learning environment in favor of a more cognitive method of information retention
- However, students senses are still required: “To keep the eyes on the book and the ears open to the teacher’s words is a mysterious source of intellectual grace.” Repeatedly using their senses in this way creates a mechanical way of “learning” that is little more than automatically writing down what is heard rather than truly synthesizing and absorbing the information.
- Only using part of the body (eyes, ears, mouth) makes humans into mechanical machines rather than holistic beings. Learning uses the whole body, not just parts
- When the mind is separated from active experience, an emphasis is placed on individual things and facts rather than the ability to make connections
Faults with Learning in a Traditional School Environment
- Children do not get to learn naturally (by being curious and being able to move around, rather they are trained to become mannered, and not really experience
- Dewey argues that learning in school separates the mind and body; so that a student may learn about a subject, but doesn’t connect that subject to outside experiences or other knowledge
- How we design educational buildings dictates the manner in which students learn. i.e. Lecture halls provide a passive student experience where they are merely sponges absorbing information
Reflection in Experience
Dewey listed five general features of reflective experience to differentiate trial and error from a reflection in experience. Emphasis was placed on points three and four:
(iii) a careful survey (examination, inspection, exploration, analysis) of all attainable consideration which will define and clarify the problem in hand;
(iv) a consequent elaboration of the tentative hypothesis to make it more precise and more consistent, because squaring with a wider range of facts
Senses become gateways and avenues of information to the mind. With conscious reflection on experiences through our mind and body, these connections enable us to learn. In a modern day learning environment we must steer clear of the teacher pupil conflict we see today and work to create a more interactive, vivid learning environment.