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and Theory of Human Development,
Learning, Creativity and Genius
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Gorgeous, beautiful Mandelbrot sets, such as you and I, have as part of our definition that we take in some part of our feedback into our ongoing evolution. Yet we're still stable, still recognizably the same system, but evolving. You and I are fractals, but we are standing in a landscape not mathematically dense and so not actualizing in fine-grain detail all the different possibilities. We are outcroppings of the possibilities matrix: we choose, and the resulting difference is real.
In a changing world, living systems of any complexity, to survive for long, always have had to monitor and respond to how their surroundings are reacting to them and to their actions. Thus, all such surviving systems become and are susceptible to feedback as behavioral reinforcement, known in psychology as the famous universal natural Law of Effect: You get more of what you reinforce.
As organisms become more complex, more intelligent, one more and more has to monitor one's own output behavior, to coordinate better between goals or intentions and outcomes.
The more intelligent a system, the more complex are its actions which must be coordinated with its (often likewise complex) intentions. This feedback-directly-from-output becomes ever more important.
In humans, this dimension appeared to reach critical mass about three million years ago, in developments of speech, of hands with opposable thumbs, of cross-torso lateral musculature (which allows dance), and eventually of the phenomenal human brain. In just speech alone: tonality, nuance, phraseology, sequence, timing, gesture, context, and subtle marginally conscious side-associations became a rich tapestry way beyond any formal analysis. And one offshoot of speech music holds incredible and otherwise inexplicable power for us.
Environment is only a small, though essential, part of the feedback which reaches us and shapes us. Nearly all of our feedback is from our own outputs, to the point where, contrasted to the usual models of teaching and learning, the reality is that such learning as does happen has to ride in on the output-feedback loop almost as on a carrier wave, rather than as a meaningful input in its own right.
Everything does still get in, but outside the focus of attention, and nearly always goes to the unconscious. It usually takes some sort of engagement with the loop before the datum gets attended to or consciously learned.
Even without the clear and cogent findings to the same effect throughout the last century by Maria Montessori, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Omar K. Moore and Marion Diamond and even without what was earlier so dramatically demonstrated to us by the Socratics we are led inescapably toward the Feed-the-Loop model, in which:
Minimum requirement for survival in a changing world:
feedback from the environment.
Why have we needed such a model before we, as a society, begin finally to see that what's taught in schools doesn't matter a bit; it's what' s learned in schools (and/or elsewhere) that matters!
We clearly have not learned as a society, or as educators, that our business is not really that of accounting for what's taught in a politically and bureaucratically determined curriculum; that, instead, we must indeed be accountable for what's learned across such a curriculum. So little have we learned that when our students fall unacceptably short on standardized tests relating to that curriculum, we've moved even farther away from engaging the student's learning by trying to teach the tests, stripped even of any pretense of conveying the larger context of meaning, civilization, culture or career.
Our schools are in the position of assuming that if the kid doesn't get what we are throwing at him so didactically, it's his fault and not the school's. Or if that seems too harsh, we spread the blame among parents, television, peer pressure, and environmental conditions. And budgets. Always budgets.
What we teach the student doesn't matter. What the student learns, does. Until WE learn that, we are going to continue to lose our children to unacceptable failure rates.
Complexity theory shows a defining condition of Mandelbrot sets and fractals of all kinds to be that of an evolving system which incorporates a portion of its own feedback into its evolvement. It is this adaptability which makes it possible for us to survive and to evolve, while conserving our unique identities. Simply put, nothing less will do.
More about this rich loop model:
Make friends with this loop. It's not only a generalization about learning. It's what enables YOU to survive. At the very least, notice that you can't even sit in a chair without feedback telling you up and down and where your body parts are. That is how universal this model and physical law are, even if until now we had not conceptualized it.
Most current teaching assumes teachers should put information directly in. But virtually none of that teaching can become learning unless it rides in on the feedback of the learner's own actions as on a carrier wave.
Until now most human development models, and most therapies, have seen matters in terms of putting in stimulus and interventions just as teachers have seen matters as putting in information, in what can now be seen as a hopelessly static model of the learner, patient, person. Instead: Touch the flow. Build the flow. Feed the flow.
Build what's coming back in through the Action Point: Nearly all learning and growth occur at that singular point in this loop model where one is taking in and processing the feedback on what s/he has put out.
Nearly all actual learning and growth have been only incidental, because we hadn't conceptualized this model and learned to feed the flow.
What can we do now, directly, to build the flow of learning and growth coming through the Action Point as feedback?
Consider: like with many other circuits, when you improve or inhibit this circuit at any point, you improve or inhibit that whole circuit, including the flow of what's reaching that crucial point of action for learning and growth. So.....
With complexity and intelligence, coordinating through
feedback from one's own output
becomes much more important...
...to the point where environment is only a small but
essential part of what's going on. Any external learning
has to ride in as on a carrier wave.
It's necessary for best results that these outputs be externalized into some sort of definite action. Our immediate external sensory feedbacks are much more immediate than our internal feedbacks, and force a much closer relationship between the respective parts of the brain involved.
Once you see this whole Feed-the-Loop model, you can begin to ask some useful questions of it and get some useful answers answers which may be truly surprising in terms of how greatly can be improved the quantity and quality of flow through that point of action. With this model before us, we can now usefully ask:
Putting together from the five questions
these many answers
If each of these hundreds of apparently useful answers is factored together....
The development of these useful answers renders feasible a rather substantial improvement or increase in learning and in personal growth.
This Feed-the-Loop model itself is new, and nearly all of its development and application still lie ahead of it. Retrofitting the model with some existing practices may also result in some improvement of results of those practices. Let's to it!
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