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ANNO 4 N. 1 Gennaio-Giugno 2013

Education Sciences & Society Bio-education, simplexity, neuroscience and enactivism. New perspectives for education?

ARMANDO EDITORE


SUMMARY

Editorial MICHELE CORSI, ELIANA FRAUENFELDER, SIMONE APARECIDA CAPELLINI

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ARTICLES/ESSAYS 9 Bio-education, simplexity, neuroscience and enactivism. A new paradigm? ELIANA FRAUENFELDER, PIER CESARE RIVOLTELLA, PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI, MAURIZIO SIBILIO 11 Didactics and “Simplexity”:Umwelt as a Perceptive Interface PAOLA AIELLO, STEFANO DI TORE, PIO ALFREDO DI TORE, MAURIZIO SIBILIO 27 Enactivism and Didactics. Some Research Lines PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI, VALENTINA PRENNA, LORELLA GIANNANDREA, PATRIZIA MAGNOLER 37 Enactivism in mathematics education: moving toward a re-conceptualization of learning and knowledge JÉRÔME PROULX, ELAINE SIMMT 59 Interpreting enactivism for learning and teaching ANDY BEGG 81 Approche énactive de l’activité humaine, simplexité et conception de formations professionnelles GERMAIN POIZAT, DELI SALINI, MARC DURAND 97 The Enactive Mind. An Epistemological Framework for Radically Embodied Didactics GIANLUCA BOCCHI, LUISA DAMIANO 113 Body and Didactics. Possible directions of international research CATIA GIACONI, MARIA BEATRIZ RODRIGUES, PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI, SIMONE APARACIDA CAPELLINI, RODOLFO VASTOLA 135 Didactic “Harmonies” in a Bioeducational Perspective Nadia CARLOMAGNO, ALESSANDRO CIASULLO, CARLO OREFICE, ELIANA FRAUENFELDER 151 PEDAGOGICAL LEXICON Bioeducational Sciences ELIANA FRAUENFELDER Action and Practice STEFANO CASULLI

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ADDITIONAL REFERENCE LIST Ed. by Valentina Prenna, Paola Aiello

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BOOK REVIEWS M. Sibilio (a cura di), Ricercare corporeamente in ambiente educativo STEFANO DI TORE P.G. Rossi, Didattica enattiva. Complessità, teorie dell’azione, professionalità docente LOREDANA PERLA M. Sibilio (a cura di), Il corpo e il movimento nella ricerca didattica RODOLFO VASTOLA P.C. Rivoltella, Neurodidattica. Insegnare al cervello che apprende PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI L. Damiano, Unità in dialogo. Un nuovo stile per la conoscenza PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI F. Santoianni, Modelli e strumenti di insegnamento. Approcci per migliorare l’esperienza didattica PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI F. Zannoni (a cura di), La società della discordia. Prospettive pedagogiche per la mediazione e la gestione dei conflitti ROSITA DELUIGI

181 182 183 185 186 187 188 190


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EDITORIAL

MICHELE CORSI, ELIANA FRAUENFELDER, SIMONE APARECIDA CAPELLINI

There are many challenges facing the current scientific system. Among them, there is pedagogy, along with it, is also neuroscience. Or, rather, it is from these two that overhang a fair part of current research and the relative practices. Above all comes the choice of internationalisation as first and mandatory “password”, faultlessly marking scientific progress, totius et partibus scientiarium, as well as its effects that benefit also the quality of life of (all) individuals and of the whole mankind. Specifically, as editor of this Journal, allow me say, I sign this Editorial together with my most authoritative colleagues and friends Eliana Zeuli Frauenfelder from the Universitarian Institute “Suor Orsola Benincasa” of Naples (Italy) and Simone Aparecida Capellini from University “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” of São Paulo (Brazil), whom I would like to thank with sincere esteem and affection, which they well know. I would like to remark and record, with strength and satisfaction, a further increment of a larger and more consistent opening towards an international dimension that the articles contained in this number, beyond any doubt, testify. This issue has been looked after in particular by Pier Giuseppe Rossi of the University of Macerata, the already mentioned Eliana Frauenfelder, Pier Cesare Rivoltella of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan and Maurizio Sibilio of the University of Salerno, who I equally thank, with the same appreciation. A “deal” to research, globally represented, whose essential weight lies in the common pedagogical-didactical interest. It unfolds in the shape of a “four-leaved clover” clustered around a stem identifiable with bio-educational sciences, which represent a thread throughout the entire journey: a holistic approach to system Man. The bio-educative problem, that starts and returns to the prevalent relationship between biology and pedagogy, and able to channel, now, many of EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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the educative problematics around neuroscience, and represent, at the same time, its foundation and evolution. On the other hand, “simplexity”, equally argued and widely discussed here, identifies the thinking of Berthoz as focused on the intentional dimension of the “act” (along the lines of Faust: “in the beginning was the act”). It becomes, in this perspective, synchronic action of mnemonic processes and the re-organising the suitability to future actions. With the adaptation of the organism to the environment, and with the functional mechanisms that preceded action, that converge in a thick and continuous relation between biology, pedagogy and didactics. Making allowance to the simplification of these pages, for a functional didactic investigation, which would lead to a correct focus on structured processes of human formation, in whose interior enter dynamics of teaching-learning, resulting from a perennial interdependence of educational, environmental and biological variables. A further insight, in this seventh issue of Education Sciences & Society, is left to enactivism. It shows itself capable to successfully outline a possible reciprocity, also in the partial concepts of objectivism and subjectivism. The interaction and integration of these, consequently cause one effective interpretation of the classroom as an “us-centred” space, where “transformative” knowledge causes a further coordinated and simultaneous evolution of teacher and learner. While the sequence brain-body-artifact-world causes eventually a different perspective of knowledge and of corporality related to cognitive processes. It also locates, by inference, a new eventuality of its synergic portrait through the use of technological artifacts. Artifacts become systems of building, amplification and propagation of the biological/cultural system that projects and simulates environments, situations and contexts of meaningful learning. The wide scientific and operative representation, in theory and practice, examined here, underlines the peculiarity, which belongs to the genetic code of everybody, to be susceptible to biodynamic shaping by the environment. Also, the knowledge of the genetic potential, qualitatively analysed, becomes, at one time, founding requirement for the structuring of learning environments and for building appropriate stimuli. Formation and education chances that lay inside the image of the “fourleaved clover”. However, starting from the operative potential of bio-educational sciences, they are presently led back to the modalities through which BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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prove to be able to transfer and manage, in these environments, the keys to the interpretation of knowledge and the criteria to orient observation, similarly to codifying and de-codifying, to organise and connect, in meaningful ways, the information data. Therefore, it is precisely through organisational models and schemes derived from experience, that the individual might obtain, finally, the capacities of critics of comprehension and orientation, essential to substantiate the learning process with real individual contributions. Finally, an adaptive learning capable to offer the articulation and systematisation of knowledge through networks for evolutionary and finalised relations. In last analysis, it follows that all the thematic addressed in this issue, have a unique signification both in the pedagogical and in the didactical contexts, where they represent essential conditions for any experience of growth and change. Here, the sciences of bio-education, simplexity, enactivism and neuroscience, all together, prove to be vastly suitable to be traversed from the specific viewpoint of pedagogy, and its perspective of research and investigation. They all concern, all of them, the understanding of the individual in its entirety and, at the same time, in its specificity, to build hypothesis of global training that express themselves in the concepts of learning, development and adaptive process. Equally, it refers, on this path, to an inter-subjective mind, distributed and placed in the contingency and in multiple contexts. This perspective leads also to a bio-educative pedagogical line, which unites the dimensions of learning and training. On the other hand, outlining a critical and constructive learning able to involve the entirety of the future man, not accepted anymore as a passive recipient of behaviours and models, but as active protagonist able to innovate and transform his horizon to grow, yet, equally linked to its specificity, environmental stimulations and to the organisational mediation that binds them. It also designs a teaching architecture where all these elements rise as spaces of self-affirmation and as harmonisation of different perspectives and possibilities of decantation and synthesis. Consequently, purely pedagogical paths are essential for each individual’s growth, who, by transforming himself, intends to be a real autonomous builder of its subjectivity. It is along these scanty premises, that runs the thread that binds this issue of Education Sciences & Society ready to be published, and, as said above in this “Editorial�, it contemplates, beside many qualified Italian colleagues, significant contributions by authoritative European and nonEuropean colleagues. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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An issue titled: “Enactivism, Neuroscience, Simplexity: New Perspectives for Education?”. The list of authors harbours, beside the studies and praised research by Eliana Frauenfelder, Pier Cesare Rivoltella, Pier Giuseppe Rossi and Maurizio Sibilio, by Paola Aiello, Stefano Di Tore, Pio Alfredo Di Tore and Rodolfo Vastola from the University of Salerno, by Lorella Giannandrea, Patrizia Magnoler and Valentina Prenna from the University of Macerata, by Alessandro Ciasullo and Nadia Carlomagno from the University of Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples, as well as Gianluca Bocchi and Luisa Damiano of the University of Bergamo, important and dense pages of authentic scientists from three different continents. This does not belong to the logics of “provincial subjection” – that does not belong to us, since science and culture cannot be split in “nations”, or, rather to be collective heritage for mankind – but in an authentic spirit of shared global and international interest. We refer to the articles by Marc Durand and Germane Poizat from the University of Geneva, by Deli Salini from the Federal Universitarian Institute for Professional Training (IUFFP) of Lugano, by Jérôme Proulx of the University of Québec of Montréal, as well as Elaine Simmt of the University of Alberta in Canada and Andy Begg of Aukland University, New Zealand. The national-international work by Catia Giaconi, Pier Giuseppe Rossi (both from the University of Macerata), Maria Beatriz Rodrigues of the Brazilian Institute of Management (IBGEN) of Porto Alegre and Simone Aparecida Capellini of University “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” of São Paulo (Brazil) is the proof of an auspicable literature able to connect the intelligence of different countries. Meanwhile, the pedagogical lexicon on “Action and Practice” is taken care by Stefano Casulli of Macerata University and the reasoned bibliography has two contributions, both of great value: Valentina Prenna, University of Macerata, on enactivism, and Paola Aiello, University of Salerno, on simplexity. With this seventh issue Education Sciences & Society we are sure to have offered to the research in pedagogy and neuroscience a contribution of absolute scientific value, in favour of its virtuous reciprocity and toward further and worthwhile studies to come. We wish that the readers might use the best of this results and inspirations for their own present or future investigations and reflections.

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Articles/Essays


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Bio-education, simplexity, neuroscience and enactivism A new paradigm?

ELIANA FRAUENFELDER, PIER CESARE RIVOLTELLA, PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI, MAURIZIO SIBILIO

Abstract: Four lines of research, which are present in Italian context, have been compared in the present paper, they share a common origin within the bio-educational studies. This paper analyses the elements of proximity amongst the four perspectives. The reflection captures the possibility of a new paradigm that provides new potential educational research and teaching leads. The topics covered include: the centrality of action, the relationship between body and knowledge, the notions of simplexity and enactivism. Riassunto: Nel contributo si sono confrontate quattro linee di ricerca presenti nel contesto italiano della ricerca che, aprendosi al dialogo, hanno ritrovato la loro comune matrice negli studi sulla bio-educazione. Il contributo analizza gli elementi di tangenza tra le quattro prospettive e coglie la possibilità di un nuovo paradigma che offra nuove potenzialità alla ricerca pedagogica e didattica. Gli argomenti trattati riguardano:la centralità dell’azione, la relazione tra corpo e conoscenza, gli input delle ricerche nel settore delle neuroscienze cognitive per l’educativo e i concetti di semplessità ed enattivismo. Keywords: Bio-education, Simplexity, Enactivism, Knowledge.

Introduction “Non-linear Trajectories in Research. New Interdisciplinary Scenarios” was a day of studies, held in Salerno, Italy on 8th and 9th November 2012. In this context, four lines of research, present for a long time on the Italian pedagogy and didactic panorama, were compared and, after open discussion, rediscovered common origins in the bio-educational studies. Eliana Frauenfelder, opening the works, proposed the suggestive metaphor of the four-leaved clover to refer to the four lines of research represented in the debate. The intervention pointed to their convergence within an emerging paradigm that is making itself known in the present sociocultural context, inside and outside pedagogy.

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Eliana Frauenfelder, Pier Cesare Rivoltella, Pier Giuseppe Rossi, Maurizio Sibilio

Here is a brief note of the four leaves (to follow the metaphor). Eliana Frauenfelder introduced the issue of Bio-education in the final decades of the last century and perhaps it is the one (of the four lines) that has the longest history. It highlights the need for studies in education to have a reference to the biological processes that have an impact on the learning mode, and on the results of it (Frauenfelder, 1994). Bio-educational research, originated from Eliana Frauenfelder’s studies on learning as “the multiplicative converging centre, to which the contributions of all those disciplines whose competence is always intertwined with a specifically pedagogical one can be brought back” (Frauenfelder, Santoianni, 2002, 39). Specifically, bio-education paved the way to the scientific establishment of the principle educability, creating “an alliance” between biology and pedagogy “as a result of sharing some degrees of epistemological compatibility and of partial reflection” (de Mennato, 2006, 49). A second leaf is Simplexity. Simplexity is a property of living organisms: “life has found solutions to simplify complexity. Nor does it evoke the utterly remarkable ability of living creatures to create borders delimiting closed spaces, such as the cell and the body itself. These solutions are indeed simplifying principles that reduce the number or the complexity of processes. They make it possible to rapidly analyze information or situations, taking into account past experience and anticipating the future-which helps to grasp intention-all the while respecting the complexity of reality” (Berthoz, 2011, X-XI). The research team of the University of Salerno, led by Maurizio Sibilio, is investigating, analogically and biologically, the possible didactical use of simplexity’s properties and principles shown by the physiologist of perception, Alain Berthoz. The third leaf is the one of Neurodidactic and its contribution in the analysis of the processes that governs learning production (especially now that access to knowledge is significantly marked by the mediation of digital technologies) and the strategies that they require. The studies of Pier Cesare Rivoltella and his research team (2012) at CREMIT, University of Milan, showed the importance of picking the effects of cognitive neurosciences in the educational context to develop innovative and sustainable didactics on the learning level. Finally, the fourth leaf is the one of Enactivism that starting from Varela’s studies, it analyses complex systems, showing the circularity of action and knowledge and the brain-body-artifact-world sequence. Pier BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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Giuseppe Rossi research team (2011) is analysing the fall out of Varela’s systemic method in the didactic field. Many elements of tangency present in these researches and in possible synergies of research, pose questions about the existence of a paradigmatic perspective shared by all of them. The paper picks up elements of contact in this direction and suggests working avenues, fully acknowledging that research today presents liquid qualities that do not allow conclusive analysis. New realism and post-modernity. The centrality of action Recently, there has been a heated debate, in philosophy, between new-realism and post-modernism. Ferraris “opened the dances” with the Manifest of new realism on the Repubblica, Italian newspaper, issued on 8 august 2011. During spring 2012, Gabriel (in Bonn) and Bojanić (in Belgrade) organised the meeting “New Realism” with the participation of Boghossian, Eco and Searle. Central to Ferraris is the unavoidability of a reality and of a friction of reality that we all confront every day or, as Eco would say, the need to deal with the “hard clog” of reality. Since the start of the millennium there have been various signs of a turnaround, also underlined by Berthoz who speaks about a “return to reality” (2011, 162). If in the 90s the constructivist trend played the main role, that made some cognitivist like Reigeluth (1999), and Merril (2002) sustain the presence of a new paradigm, characterised by personalisation, autonomy with responsibility, cooperative relations, initiative, diversity, web, holistic structure and oriented to processes, client’s centrality (Reigeluth, 1999, 17), however, from the start of the millennium something began to squeak. The concept of embodiment is put at the centre by various externalist views (Rowdinds, 2003) both in its phenomenologist shape ( Jackson e Pettit, Dretske, Lycan), and in its semantic one, while dialoguing with the most recent studies in the neuroscientific field. Radical externalism (Rocwell, Honderich, Manzotti) discusses the “Fossato Galileiano” and proposes overtures where knowledge and experience intertwine. However, the new millennium’s return to realism cannot deny the role of the subjects that did not only mark constructivism, but also the physics of the 1900s. It hints on overcoming the contrast between realism and EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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constructivism, giving to action the central role. In philosophy emerged the term post-constructivism to indicate the dichotomy between representational, realism and the classical socio-constructivism (Rouse, 1996, 2002a, 2002b; Joas, 2001; Asdal, 2005; Wehling, 2006; Solé, 2011). Knowledge “is not to be comprehended as simply the mental «possession» of a knower, non-knowledge is not merely the lack thereof but an (unrecognised) implication of materially and socially situated research practices” (Wehling, 2006, 81). Rouse proposes “a shift from thinking about a putative object that a concept could describe, to thinking about the practices in which the concept is used” (Rouse 1996, 199), while Wehling sustains that “knowledge is not to be understood (and “reified”) as an independent and coherent entity or object which is discovered by science and thus explains and justifies scientific practices” (Wehling, 2006). Two texts were published about the actions and practices of 2001, in two contexts: the French speaking and the English speaking ones, that seem to be concerned by similar topics. They are: Théories de l’action en education edited by Baudouin and Friedrich, and The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory by Schatzki, Knorr Cetina and Von Savigny. Action is doubly connected and in a recurring mode with knowledge. It does not consider the computational model that is the algorithmic consideration of processes as built on the linear sequence information-processing-action. The central point becomes the situated practice, in which knowledge is embodied, and the reflective processes. The studies on action turn toward Aristotelian theorisations, expressed especially in Nichomachean Ethics, with some significant changes brought by the reception of those theories against a background marked by neopragmatism, from sociolinguistics to hermeneutic. Contemporary researches monitor the presence of qualifying elements such as reflection, intention, awareness and self-interpretation that unites words with actions (Baudouin, Friedrich, 2001; Schatzki et al., 2001). At the same time, they move away from Aristotle on three points: – there can not be a relation of mechanical dependency on means and ends: in a complex scenario, the end can not be seen as an absolute and abstract to which action should turn to, because the “unemendability” of the real” (Ferraris, 2012) requires a continuous and recursive review of the ends during the action; – in the action there is a structural coupling among subjects, it causes a BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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co-specification process with the other subject, this is why a subject cannot be autonomous from the others, and from the context; – to set action in the forefront brings the necessity to take a holistic vision of the person: in action the person performs in all his entirety. In particular, there is a revaluation of the body role, not just in action, but also in the process of knowledge, a body that acts in interchange with the world ( Joas, 2001, 29). An approach based on action has at the same time an ontological value, as the constructed world is always real and testable; epistemological, as action converses in a recursive mode with knowledge; axiological, as man is not only a detached observer anymore in a world that follows autonomous processes, totally independent from him. Man is also an actor who interacts continuously with the world while transforming it, and becomes responsible for directions that he gives. The action and the four-leaved clover In the educational field too, the approach based on action raised to an interesting role that depends both on the general elements of the present socio-cultural context, and on the peculiarities of educational acting. Is it possible, helped by the magnifying lens of action, to see the link between the four leaves of the clover mentioned at the beginning of the contribution? Body and knowledge The first effect of the centrality of action is to consider didactical acting in its various dimensions, and to fully exploit the relational modes of interaction between the teacher and the classroom. Communication requires also non-verbal channels. Each teacher has his way to live the lesson, because of his way to act it physically, because of his way to “move around the classroom”. Once the Cartesian distinction of res estensa and res cogitans is left behind (a distinction marked by the non-communicability of the two dimensions and their belonging to ontologically different plans), the body stops being a useless instrument or the simple tool through which information EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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reach the mind that elaborates them sending executive orders to the body. A thinking body emerges, a body where there is a constant circulation between perception and action. Perception is in itself an action derived from a previous decision: la perception est en fait non seulement une action simulée mais aussi et essentiellement une décision. Percevoir, ce n’est pas seulement combiner, pondérer, c’est sélectionner. C’est, dans la masse des informations disponibles, choisir celles qui sont pertinentes par rapport à l’action envisage. C’est lever des ambiguïtés, c’est donc decider (Berthoz, 2003, 10).

Since the development of physics in the 1900’s emerges the active role of observation that denies the researchers’ classical and scientific approach where the observer should have been neutral, unable to pollute the context. Interpretations on the function of waves in the analysis of quantum objects show, after Heisemberg, how it is just the measure or the interaction between observer and observed, to establish that among many probable futures it builds up a hic et nunc. After each event the system takes an unpredictable direction or, better, not entirely predictable before the junction. Something similar happens in the educational context: the interaction between the system and the event acknowledges the relationship between subjects and system. The role of the body obtains three different focuses: in classroom interactions it processes learning and teaching (1), in the psychomotor approach (Lapierre and Aucouturier, Le Boulch, Pierre Vayer) that has corporality as the meeting place of the cognitive, socio-affective and relational dimensions in constitutive processes (2), the teaching processes show the function of the teacher’s bodily communication in the classroom (3). It is worth to return to the repetitiveness in action between acting and learning that refers to a knowing body, a body that actively participate in the learning processes. In this view the analysis of Merleau-Ponty should be recovered, it examines, showing reciprocal influences, conscious and subconscious processes. The centrality of an “intelligent body” (Sibilio, 2002) binds the four leaves of the cloves: it is central in Bio-education; it belongs to the sequence brain-body-artifact-world, the departing point of enactivism; it is present in Berthoz simplexity, who comes to many of his conclusions departing from human physiology; it is confirmed in the neuroscience field, if it is true that the various forms of human learning – BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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repetition, simulation, contextualized experience – find in the body their point of access (Rivoltella, 2012). Below comes an exploration the last two positions. Complexity and Simplexity To put action as the focus of research implies a non-reductionist approach. The action reifies the recursion between the doing and the knowing, the analysis of the action allows underlining the relationships between the various movements, a passage that would not be allowed by a reductive process. But the complexity causes problems for knowledge. Firstly, it does not define the scope and it requires infinite processes. Morin and, later, Berthoz, underline how reductionist approaches deny access to complexity. At the same time, to cross complexity, processes should simplify the paths that lead to knowledge. On this subject, Berthoz finds in the concept of “Simplexity” a trend to repeat identical or similar schemes whose identification would free the human learning potential, trapped in a thick web made of inter-retro actions that generates unpredictable and difficult to decipher behaviours. “Identical or similar motifs are used throughout the living world to minimize energy, reduce entropy end even to transmit transmission faster” (Berthoz, 2011, 7). The notion of simplexity, although tied to the organism’s adaptation mechanism to the environment, seems to be applicable to all levels of human activity. It offers properties and principles that appear to be original solutions, not simple, but capable to elaborate, “very rapidly, elegantly, and efficiently, taking past experience into account and anticipating the future” (Berthoz, 2011, 5). “Simplexity – Berthoz says – is not simplicity. It is fundamentally linked to complexity, with which it shares the common roots” (Ibidem, X). “Simplexity is complexity decoded, because it is based on a rich combination of simple rules” (Ibidem, XI). The principles of anticipation and prediction are blocked by a representation of reality according to which nothing seems predictable any longer. These principles reconquer their space, “this double strategy, both perspective and retrospective, situates the present in the dynamic flow of a changing universe. It enables comparison of sensory data with the results of past EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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action and prediction of the consequences of the ongoing action” (Ibidem, 15). Simplexity “seems to resolve complex problems by rejecting dry determinism in favor of probability-change- the idea that order can emerge from disorder” (Ibidem, 17), leaving to the observer the possibility to choose which measure to take, tuning his instruments accordingly. The shooting of non-linear problems, in a simplexical view, poses as a prerequisite a series of detours that often involve the use of composite variables, instead of the so-called simple variables. “Paradoxically, expressing the problem in terms of composite variables simplifies it. If a system exhibits complex behavior that normally can only be represented by «thirdorder» equations, using composite variables gives first-order system that is simpler to calculate and whose dynamic behavior is easier to predict” (Berthoz, 2011, 18). The reflection on “simplexity” does not give space to the conclusion that it should be regarded at the basis of a scientific revolution. The model proposed here does not intend to deny what has already been theorised, imposing a new paradigm to the scientific community. The theory of “simplexity” offers, in short, potentially translatable new standards found in devices apt to adjust and justify, from a complementary rather than an alternative view, the activity of educational research, elaborating the complexity of systems that interact in the wider educational system through solutions that are not simple but simplexical (Aiello, 2012). Among the principles that Berthoz (2011) proposes to deal with complexity he points out the principles of specialisation and selection (Ibidem, 14). He focuses on the role of decision in the complex analysis of action: “One species scans the world only for cues important for its survival”the indicators that are important for its survival […] Most animals acts according to their Umwelt […]. Deciding involves selecting from the information around us whatever is pertinent to the goal of action” (Ibidem, 14). Another principle is the probabilistic anticipation that has a direct and indirect impact on many of the elements that characterize complex acting. Anticipation is not planning one activity, but the building of a wide range of possibilities for action, based on the modeling of the system and to the simulation contained in it. Therefore, anticipating couples with simulating and with the processes pointed out by many authors as fundamental to planning in many contexts. Gallese speaks of incarnate simulation to describe the mechanism of mirror neurons, which will be seen below. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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Gero (Gero, 1990; 1994; Gero, Kannengiesser, 2002) re-thinks design and believes that the process does not end in plotting of the route to be followed. After the first design is done, there is a simulation process in which the path is read mentally, to understand how the system might evolve. Simulation and anticipation require a relocation of the designer. While the first design starts from the viewpoint of the designer, in simulation he detaches himself and tries to observe the system from other perspectives. This is to understand how a proposed activity may change the system, and how the system may react, “adaptating� to the intervention. The focus shifts to the relationship and to the indirect effects that may arise in the action. At school level, designing surely requires from the teacher this attitude of detachment. Every time he thinks of proposing one activity, immediately he asks himself questions such as: what reactions will students have? How much time will I need? Which difficulties will they meet? Which minor problems may arise affecting the flow of the process? Another principle, suggested by Berthoz to face complexity, is the one of redundancy. The author recalls Wittgenstein’s criss crossings, where the diverse perspectives allow action through dialogue and the comprehension of complexity. Berthoz also affirms that for living organisms, simplexity is what give meaning to simplification, insofar as simplex solutions are motivated by intentions, goals, or functions. The basis of the meaning is in the actitself. Meaning cannot be superimposed on life; it is life. The concept of simplexity includes the idea of meaning. Elaborating a theory of simplexity thus also entails elaborating a theory of meaning by redefining the term to incorporate the intended or desired act as fundamental (Berthoz, 2011, 21).

Cognitive neuroscience and embedded knowledge Another element common to each clover leave is the interest in cognitive neuroscience. This is a research paradigm (or, in better words, a multidisciplinary field of research) in which some of the most debated questions of Western thought return to be asked. A main question is the relationship between mind, body and the world. Cartesian dualism has already been mentioned, it is the father of modern epistemology. To declare selfreflecting and non-communicating res cogitans and res extensa means, usEDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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ing Vanni Rovighi’s beautiful metaphor (1984), to consider our mind “a locked room, furnished with ideas”. According to Descartes, thought does not think things, but it thinks ideas, including the problem of showing not only how things are “out there”, but also “that” they are there. This first “error” of Descartes (responsible for the philosophers’ headaches at least until idealism) was followed by a second (Damasio, 1994), which consists in homologating the body with the other “things” assigning it to a deeply devaluating mechanist consideration. For centuries, it prevented the understanding how some crucially important processes did actually happened, from knowledge to affections. Overcoming this vision is at the centre of the debate among those who rethink the role of the body in knowledge (Sibilio, 2002). Begg (2004) emphasises that the little interest devoted to cognitive neuroscience, just like for constructivism, has been a limit and shows the right synergy that should be developed between neuroscience and enactivism today; Varela and Thomson (2001) underline that the discovery of mirror neurons supports many of the intuitions of the 80s, especially by favouring the understanding of the mechanisms that connect the intra-psychic to the inter-psychic. Equally, Damiano (2008) underlines how experimental neurophysiology meets the emerging inter-individual subject. If starting from past analysis of physiological problems, was highlighted how knowledge was accumulated, now the analysis of the body-brain system lets us indicate that knowledge passes through the physical dimension of our own corporeality, even at the most abstract level. The research on mirror neurons (Rizzolati et al., 1999; Gallese, 2007, 2009) has shown that we see with our whole body, not just with our eyes. Generally, a number of aspects concerning the relationship between our perception and cognition – as observed also by Berthoz – have to do with the function that our body has as real “geometrical recognition”, according to Merleau-Ponty’s famous definition. Experimental studies […] have pointed out the impossibility of conceiving the motor system as an apparatus deputed only to the performance of actions. They have shown that in monkeys and in humans it plays a purely cognitive role, operating significantly already in the perception phase (Damiano, 2009, 221).

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Co-activity and structural coupling The relationship between subject and world is an element that caused the contrast between and idealism. A world objective and independent from the subject seems to require a passive observation and knowledge as a mimetic representation of the real world. On the contrary, a learning process as the construction of somebody’s world, that for Collins “has a small or non-existent role in the construction of scientific knowledge” (Collins, 1981, 1), seems to be totally self-referential and preclude any possibility of validation. In the educational field, the instructive hypothesis, where knowledge is transmitted from a subject who knows to another one who does not, and the constructivist hypothesis, in which knowledge appears to be built by the person while learning, appears insufficient and maimed to explain the complexity of the educational process. The first case undervalues the role of the subject learning, the second the second does the same with the teaching. The ring between doing and knowing during action, the interaction between inter and intra-individuality, the simultaneous surfacing and the structural coupling proposed by the enactivism, and the concept of empathy in Berthoz, seem to provide possible ways to exit the contradiction described above. The closure of the system is a structural feature of in the enactivist hypothesis, but the border between internal and external has a permeability, which allows the system to receive inputs from the outside. Various authors describe, using different concepts, the inputs that seem, at first sight, to have strong convergences. Ferraris speaks of “the friction of reality” to point out that the surrounding world puts up obstacles to our working. The complex approach underlines how reality presses at the borders of the system, Varela speaks of emergency to describe how the balance of the system could be questioned. In any case, there is a system, and an external environment that, with its inputs, creates a state of discomfort such as to trigger an adaptive and auto-poietic process of the system. The external input does not determine the next state, it does not impose, in any mechanical way, the future. It undermines the system, it breaks the previous equilibrium, it sets limits and stimulates the system to build a new coherent balance provided with its inner characteristics. Such a path, in educational terms, aptly describes the processes of learnEDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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ing and teaching. The system re-organises itself during the learning; it is a conscious choice, motivated by the subject. However, it is the teaching hat undermines the system, it highlights where the balance can be broken, it sets up the process and places limits the possible avenues. The four cloverleaves, although in different ways, overcome the instructive-constructivist dichotomy. In relation to the educational applications of cognitive neuroscience Rivoltella (2012), it is evident that in the processes of learning, the building up knowledge demands, at the same time, the governance of the teacher and the attention of the student, with a come back to traditional methods (cannot learn without repetition, there is not learning without effort and fatigue) and the use of didactic techniques and contextualised experience. Enactivism speaks of structural coupling to show the shared emergencies between two independent systems. The term structural coupling has many affinities with co-activity, introduced by Altet (2012) and Vinatier (2007). Conclusion. Paths for research The next papers will decline and deepen the above. What the paper wants to emphasise in closing is that in addition to research in different fields, it is essential to focus also on the research methodology to be adopted. The return to reality and the need for a return to rationality after recent populisms and skepticism (SolÊ, 2011; Latour, 2004; Ferraris, 2012) has, in many areas, resurfaced the temptation to positivist drifts. It is the case of the Evidence Based Education, where it seems possible the rise of the myth of the absolute numerical value, and the external observer of the system made a comeback. The bet that we wage today is of a steady and contextualised research, that, on the one side contemplates, the centrality of action and a relation between observer and observed. And, on the other, it produces new experimental devices equipped with well-calibrated and measurable indicators. We believe, that in this case too recursion is a potent instrument. The recursions between action and decision, doing and learning, were dealt earlier. This time, it is the recursion between immersion and removal. As it is known nowadays the surrounding reality, even with its systemic laws, changes daily through the dialogue with human acting and the political choices design the outside world, interacting with reality’s own laws. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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In educational acting cannot be but relative to systems that we observe and act upon at the same time. Seeing the process as external and alien to our acting, as an expression of an independent and absolute reality, denies the systemic relations that they contain. Here is therefore the need to encourage a dialogue between the system and the environment (Varela et al., 1992) or, as Berthoz would say, the simple and the complex, the particular and the universal (Berthoz, 2011, 164), the story and the map (Ibidem, 137), the description of the set (the story) and the construction of interpretative hypotheses (the map). “It is unnecessary to assume a subjective quantity apart from the act. It suffices in itself, which leads to a principle of economy involving the primacy of the act and obviating the notion of representation as an independent act” (Ibidem, 166). Author’s Presentation: Eliana Frauenfelder is Full Professor of “General and Social Pedagogy” at University of Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. Pier Cesare Rivoltella is Full Professor of “Technology of teaching and learning”at University Cattolica of Milano. Pier Giuseppe Rossi is Full Professor of “Didactics and Techonoly of Education” at University of Macerata. Maurizio Sibilio is Full Professor of “Didactics and Special Pedagogy” at University of Salerno.

References Altet, M. (2012), “L’apporto dell’analisi plurale delle pratiche didattiche alla coformazione degli insegnanti”, P.C. Rivoltella, P.G. Rossi (Eds.), L’agire didattico, La Scuola, Brescia. Aiello, P. (2012), “Appunti per una fondazione epistemologica semplessa dell’agire didattico”, Traiettorie non lineari nella ricerca nuovi scenari interdisciplinari, Lecce, Pensa Editore. Asdal, K. (2003), “The Problematic Nature of Nature: The Post-Constructivist Challenge to Environmental History”, History and Theory, Vol. 42, n. 4, Theme Issue 42, Environment and History, 60-74. Baudouin, J., Friedrich, J. (Eds) (2001), Théories de l’action et éducation, Bruxelles, De Boeck. Begg, A. (2000), Enactivism, a personal interpretation, http://www.ioe.stir.ac.uk/ docs/Begg%20Enactivism%20.DOC (verified in October 2012). Berthoz, A. (2003), La Dècision, Paris, Odile Jacob. — (2011), La semplessità, Torino, Codice Edizioni.

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Collins, H.M. (1981), “Stages in the Empirical Programme of Relativism”, Social Studies of Science, volume 11, 3-10. Damasio, A. (1994), Decartes’ Error. Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, New York, Avon Books. De Mennato, P., Orefice, P., Sarracino, V. (Eds.) (2006), Cinquant’anni di pedagogia a Napoli. Studies in honour of Eliana Frauenfelder, Naples, Liguori. Dewey, J. (1925), Experience and Nature, Chicago, Open Court. Ferraris, M. (2012), Manifesto del nuovo realismo, Bari, Laterza. Frauenfelder, E. (1994), Pedagogia e biologia. Una nuova alleanza, Napoli, Liguori. Frauenfelder, E., Santoianni, F. (Eds.) (2002), Le scienze bioeducative. Prospettive di ricerca, Liguori, Napoli. Gallese, V. (2007), “Dai neuroni specchio alla consonanza intenzionale. Meccanismi neurofisiologici dell’intersoggettività”, Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 53, 1, 197-208. Gallese, V. (2009), “Mirror Neurons, Embodied Simulation, and the Neural Basis of Social Identification”, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19, 519–536. Gero, J.S. (1990), “Design Prototypes: A Knowledge Schema for Design”, AI Magazine, Winter, 26-36. — (1994), “Computational Models of Creative Design Processes”, T. Dartnall (Ed.), AI and Creativity, Kluver, Dordrecht, 269-81. Gero. J.S., Kannengiesser, U. (2002), “The Situated Function-BehaviourStructure Framework”, in J. Gero (Ed.), Artificial Intelligence in Design ’02, Kluver Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 89-104. Joas, H. (2001), “La créativité de l’agir”, in J. Baudouin, J. Friedrich (Eds.), Théories de l’action et éducation, Bruxelles, De Boeck, 27-44. Latour, B. (2004), “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern“, Critical Inquiry, 30, 2, 225-248. Reigeluth, C.M. (1999) (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: An new paradigm of instructional theory, Volume II, Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Rivoltella, P.C. (2012), Neurodidattica. Insegnare al cervello che apprende, Milano, Raffaello Cortina. Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. (2001), “Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the understanding and imitation of action”, Nature Reviews, Neuroscience, 2, 661-670. Rossi, P.G. (2011), Didattica enattiva, Franco Angeli, Milano. Rouse, J. (1996), Engaging Science. How to Understand Its Practices Philosophically, Ithaca/London, Cornell, University Press. — (2002a), “Vampires: Social Constructivism, Realism, and Other philosophical Undead”, History and Theory, volume 41, 60-78. — (2002b), How Scientific Practices Matter. Reclaiming Philosophical Naturalism, Chicago/London, University of Chicago Press.

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Rowdinds, M. (2003), Externalism. Putting Mind and World Back Together Again, Chesham, Acumen Publishing Limited. Schatzki, T., Knorr Cetina, K., von Savigny, E. (Eds.) (2001), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, London/New York, Routledge. Sibilio, M. (2002), Il corpo intelligente, Naples, Simone. Solé, R. (2011), Phase transitions, Princeton, Princeton University Press. Varela, F. J., Thompson, E.T., Rosch, E. (1992), The Embodied Mind:Cognitive Science and Human Experience, MA, MIT Press. Vanni Rovighi, S. (1984), Istituzioni di filosofia, Brescia, La Scuola. Vinatier, I., Numa-Bocage, L. (2007), “Prise en charge d’un enfant en difficulté de lecture par un maître spécialisé: gestion de l’intersubjectivité et schème de médiation didactique”, Revue française de pédagogie, 158, 85-101. Wehling, P. (2006), “The Situated Materiality of Scientific Practices: Postconstructivism – a New Theoretical Perspective in Science Studies?”, Science, Technology & Innovation Studies - Special Issue, volume 1, July, 81-100.

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Didactics and “Simplexity”: Umwelt as a Perceptive Interface

PAOLA AIELLO, STEFANO DI TORE, PIO ALFREDO DI TORE, MAURIZIO SIBILIO

Abstract: This paper presents an approach to teaching within the simplexity framework. The authors present didactics as a complex science and highlight the link between mind, body and digital environment. Finally, the concept of Umwelt is presented as the basis to envisage new Educational Technologies that allow the creation of an “extended body”. Umwelt is intended as a Perceptive Interface that increases the range of action. Riassunto: L’articolo presenta un approccio alla didattica nello scenario della semplessità. Dopo aver proposto la didattica come scienza complessa e aver sottolineato il legame tra mente, corpo e ambiente digitale, viene presentato il concetto di Umwelt come base progettuale per tecnologie educative che permettano di realizzare un “corpo aumentato”, un’interfaccia percettiva capace di aumentare le possibilità d’azione. Keyworks: Didactics, Simplexity, Technologies of Education, Umwelt.

Didactics as a Complex Science “Jusqu’au début du XX siècle – oùelle entre en crise – la science “classique” s’est fondée sur quatre piliers de certitude qui ont pour cause et effet de dissoudre la complexitépar la simplicité. Le principe d’ordre, le principe de séparation, le principe de reductio, le caractèreabsolu de la logiquedéductive-identitaire” (Morin, 2002). In the XX century we have witnessed a gradual and increasing crisis of this epistemological perspective, and it’s interesting to note that the first signs of the “crisis” have been just observed in some of the “natural sciences”, such as physics and biology, that more than the others had contributed to its spreading and legitimation. In particular, concepts like chaos, unpredictability and relativity of points of view are legitimated and assimilated in a new scientific perspective: complexity. Pedagogy and didactics, as other

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sciences, have absorbed this new gnoseological conception, adapting their methods of research and their models to the new scientific scene. From the epistemological point of view, complexity, for its interdisciplinary nature, emerges as the study of complex adaptive systems and their related emerging phenomena. “Examples on Earth of the operation of complex adaptive systems includebiological evolution, learning and thinking in animals (including people), thefunctioning of the immune system in mammals and other vertebrates, theoperation of the human scientific enterprise, and the behavior of computers thatare built or programmed to evolve strategies – for example by means of neuralnets or genetic algorithms. Clearly, complex adaptive systems have a tendency to give rise to other complex adaptive systems” (Gell-Mann, 1995, 4). Complexity, in the educational research, is presented as a functional approach bringing back the attention to the complex and articulate process of human education, involving teaching-learning dynamics characterized by antithetic and complementary dimensions, constituents of a unique interdependent, interactive and inter-retroactive texture (Morin, 2001). Though it doesn’t exist an univocal definition of the concept of complexity, we could assert, even in the didactic scope, that complexity seems to be historically determined by the observer who acknowledges to the system some conventionally complex characteristics: 1. The presence in the didactic system of several components constituted by a variable number of elements that in turn can be simple or presenting different levels of complexity. 2. The presence of interactions among the non linear components of the complex didactic system forming the basis of an emerging behavior and recognizable in the self-regulating mechanisms of the system itself. 3. The “hologramatic” structure, reflecting the characteristics of the teaching-learning process, in which each component expresses information about the whole system where there’s no component that all alone can rule the behavior of single parts or of the system itself. 4. The adaptive interaction with the environment, that is the fundamental property of the didactic action (Sibilio, 2012a). Thinking about didactics as a “complex science” calls the scientific community for a definition of its own object considered as the synthesis of teaching and learning interacting in a systemic perspective (Aiello, 2012). From an epistemological point of view, this concept has leaded to a clariBIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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fication of the methodological backgroundtraditionally attested on formal, theoretical and operative synthesis, nourished by systems of interconnection on several levels of analysis (Orefice, 2009). The concept of complexity therefore stands out as the only approach that is able to offer to didactic research the complicated connection of elements interacting in educational processes, stimulating scientific research in gathering local modifications by means of approaches allowing the comprehension of data emerging from didactic system, though they act in full awareness of the impossibility of anticipating the future state. Indeed, if systems tending to balance, which are object of study of quasi- classical domain (Gell-Mann, 2000), can predict, after having described the initial state, the following states by means of the analysis of the perturbing elements, didactic system seems to be unpredictable, due to its interaction in a non linear way, inside and outside, changing its structure and making necessary a re-modelling of its own characteristics in each state, causing at the same time either the impossibility of predicting the future course of the phenomenon, or a computational explosiondue to the need of recalculating, at every state, the structure and the characteristics of the system itself. What does it happen to the educational research when the need of new representations and theoretical models require different ways of interpreting and coping with complexity? (Sibilio, 2012a). Specifically, it means to answer to the need of a reduction of the dimensionality in order to offer new interpretative patterns, new ways of adapting and solving practices; these solutions don’t misrepresent complexity, even if they can provoke a number of deviations, an apparent additional complexity, but sure they always can address problems in an original way (Berthoz, 2011). Therefore it’s increasing a conception of didactics acknowledging to teaching-learning process its nature of complex adaptive system which needs an epistemological redefinition and refounding in order to consider and find new methods, tools and procedures of research required by complex systems. From this point of view, it seems to be very interesting to introduce the concept of simplexity created by Alain Berthoz in its homonymous work which emerges as the study of all properties and principles that living beings – complex adaptive systems themselves – use to decipher complexity.

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Umwelt, Simplexity and Didactics It doesn’t exist a forest considered as an objectively fixed environment: there is a forest for the park watchman, a forest for the hunter, a forest for the botanist, a forest for the wanderer, a forest for the nature lover, a forest for the carpenter and, at the end, a fabulous forest where Little Red Riding Hood loses her way (Agamben, 2002)1. With these words Giorgio Agamben introduces his consideration on environment, in relation to zoo-biological research made by Jakob von Uexküll and to “Die Grundbegriffeder Metaphysik” by Martin Heidegger, who in turn referred and commented von Uexküll’s work. Where “classic science saw a unique world which included all living beings organized in a hierarchy, from the most elementary species to higher ones, von Uexküll, instead, considers infinite varieties of perceptive worlds, all perfect and connected as in a huge musical score and however not in relation and reciprocally exclusing” (Agamben, 2002)2. The word used by von Uexküll to indicate this “perceptive world” is umwelt. Umwelt includes the world of things in environment, the perceiving world, the signs produced by the subject and by the objects, and all the actions that species are able to carry out. Above all, it includes the meaning of objects for each subject, and how they interact in survival and social relations of the subject. In the description of dog’s umweltUexküll paints (literally) a room whose chairs and dishes constitute significant elements in canine world, unlike school books which are totally irrelevant for the dog. It has got an idea, a researching image. All the characteristics of objects are perceptive characters given from the subjects they interact with” (von Uexküll, mentioned in Berthoz, 2008, 17)3. Therefore umwelt is a dynamic and interactive concept defining the relationship between physical world and living beings, and constitutes the basis and premise of intersubjectivity (Berthoz, 2009), an interface where “the significance is conferred by the act of the subject” (von Uexküll, Müller, 2004). The subject builds up its world in accordance to its basic needs and its action tools in a perspective which refers to Bergson, to phenomenological tradition and authors such as Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, to enaction concept proposed by Varela (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 1992), to the secondorder cybernetics idea by Von Foerster, until the Mille Plateaux by Deleuze and Guattari on a different level. Alain Berthoz proposes a perspective where the subject sails in its umwelt guided by a series of simplifying prinBIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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ciples which optimize the process of perception-action and minimize, or even reset the computational need (Di Tore, 2012a). “The price for these simplifications is, of course, the reduction of the understanding we have about the world; it creates an Umwelt” (Berthoz, 2009, 22). These principles recognize to the subject its role of active creator of its own umwelt and define the umwelt as an interface between an acting subject and a “Umgebung” that is the surrounding that our umwelt can’t incorporate (Merleau-Ponty, 1956). In this perspective, simplifying principles indicated by Berthoz, nucleus from which the author will develop the concept of simplexity, have to face a complexity measurable in terms of data elaboration and decision among different opportunities, in relation with the meaning of complexity developed by the hard sciences. “A measure that corresponds much better to what is usually meant by complexity in ordinary conversation, as well as in scientific discourse, refers not to the length of the most concise description of an entity, but to the length of a concise description of a set of the entities regularities” (Gell-Mann, 1995, 2). Learning as main strategy to deal with complexity, is a typical adaptive process of living beings, which develops in the umwelt. “Cognitive abilities are to be seen as the result of evolutionary and developmental adaptations to an extremely narrow segment of the world as it is known to us today. This has for reaching consequences for epistemic considerations and perhaps also for management of cultural conflicts” (Singer, 2009, 39). Learning-teaching processes reveal themselves as complex dynamic and adaptive systems which differ for their attitude to grant the global coherence in non-linear interactions, similar to other complex systems which are the key for understanding complexity in nature. (Prigogine, Stengers, 1984) “We should think about learning environments in terms of the students’umwelten, because these contain the structures that students perceive and acttowards. It is these umwelten that change as students interact with their peers, teachers, and material structures” (Roth, Lawless, 2002, 17). Learning umwelt therefore (inter)act as a non-trivial machine. “A nontrivial machine is mathematically unpredictable because every time it runs a function it changes the state from which the function will run the next time. In this way the next run becomes unpredictable” (Brier, 2008, 17).

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Educational Simplex Technologies Umwelt can be then considered as a sort of perceptive interface, being a simplex principle itself which, together with other simplex principles, rules and guides all the processes that living organisms, and probably the other complex adaptive systems too, carry out in the relationship with their Umgebung. The umwelt is also conceived as a dynamic concept, partly biologically determined, partly built through direct experience. In this theoretic perspective body is no more considered as a simple medium between our brain and the external reality, and it becomes the main device through which, while living experiences, we learn and produce knowledge (Rivoltella, 2012, 109)4. The idea of a new possible alliance between biology, pedagogy (Frauenfelder, 1994, 2000) and didactics, in this way, can be inscribed in a new theoretical background. Educational corporealities (Sibilio, 2012b) become in this way the support of a teaching science based on the assumption that “all doing is knowing and all knowing is doing” (Maturana, 1992, 27). In the educational thinking, both in didactics and pedagogy, the concept of body as the place of simplex processes and its relation with environment becomes the focus. Similarly, the link between mind, body and digital environment becomes the focus of educational technologies which seem to underline the need of a passage from technologies providing an “extendedmind” (Menary, 2010) to technologies realizing an “augmented body” (Di Tore, 2012b). That is, technologies whose aim is to redefine, develop and give back to digital context the strategies that body carries out in learning processes, in full awareness that “motoractivity–not representationalist verisimilitudeholds the key to fluid and functional crossings between virtual and physical realms” (Hansen, 2006, 2). In the didactic and pedagogic field, therefore, attention moves from mind to person conceived as an inseparable unit of mind and body, orienting didactic-pedagogic educational research to new types of interfaces and H.M.I. (Human Machine Interaction) which consider “human body as an input device” (Harrison, 2010, 453). In this context, the NUIs (Natural User Interfaces) supporting an efficient use of body and senses, could represent a useful didactic tool (Di Tore et al., 2011). They indeed allow a more natural interaction with digital environment, integrating the digital realm to the user’s umwelt, increasing action possibilities and the opportunities of meaning co-definition, developing and redefining BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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processes that body carries out to face the complexity of reality (Berthoz, 2011). Author’s Presentation: Paola Aiello, Stefano Di Tore, Pio Alfredo Di Tore, belong to research group coordinated by Maurizio Sibilio, full professor of Didactics at Department of Human, Philosophical and Educational Sciences, University of Salerno.

Notes 1

“Non esiste una foresta intesa come un ambiente oggettivamente fissato: esiste una foresta-per-il-guardiano-del-parco, una foresta-per-il-cacciatore, una forestaper-il-botanico, una foresta-per-il-viandante, una foresta-per-l’amante della-natura, una foresta-per-il-carpentiere, e, infine, una favolosa foresta in cui Cappuccetto Rosso smarrisce la via”. Agamben, G. (2002), L’aperto: l’uomo e l’animale. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. The English translationisours. 2 “La scienza classica vedeva un unico mondo, che comprendeva dentro di sé tutte le specie viventi gerarchicamente ordinate, dalle forme più elementari fino agli organismi superiori, von Uexküll pone invece una infinita varietà di mondi percettivi, tutti ugualmente perfetti e collegati fra loro come in una gigantesca partitura musicale e, tuttavia, incomunicanti e reciprocamente esclusivi”. Agamben, G. (2002), L’aperto: l’uomo e l’animale. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. The English translationisours. 3 “Tutte le caratteristiche degli oggetti sono infatti nient’altro che i caratteri percettivi che sono attribuiti ad essi da parte del soggetto con il quale hanno una relazione”. Berthoz, A. (2008), Neurobiology of “Umwelt”: How Living Beings Perceive the World: Springer-Verlag Berlin: Heidelberg.The English translationisours. 4 “Dispositivo principale attraverso il quale, realizzando esperienze, sviluppiamo apprendimento e produciamo conoscenza”. Rivoltella, P. C. (2012), Neurodidattica. Insegnare al cervello che apprende. Milano: Raffaello Cortina. The English translationisours. References Agamben, G. (2002), L’aperto: l’uomo e l’animale, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri. Aiello, P. (2012), “Appunti per una fondazione epistemologica semplessa dell’agire didattico”, Traiettorie non lineari nella ricerca nuovi scenari interdisciplinari, Lecce, Pensa Editore. Berthoz, A. (2008), Neurobiology of “Umwelt”: How Living Beings Perceive the World, Springer-Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg.

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— (2009), “ The human brain “projects” upon the world, simplifyingprinciples and rules for perception “, Neurobiology of Umwelt, Heidelberg, Springer-Verlag, 17-27. — (2011), La semplessità, Torino, Codice Edizioni. Brier, S. (2008), Cybersemiotics: Why Information is Not Enough!, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. Di Tore, A. (2012a), “ Umwelt, interfacce, semplessità: premesse di un approccio bio-costruttivista”, in Traiettorie non lineari nella ricerca nuovi scenariinterdisciplinari, Lecce, Pensa Editore, 37-40. — (2012b), “Augmented body: principi semplessi nell’interazione uomo-macchina in ambiente didattico-educativo”, in Traiettorie non lineari nella ricerca nuovi scenariinterdisciplinari, Lecce, Pensa Editore, 157-159. Di Tore, S., Aiello, P., Di Tore, A., Sibilio, M. (2012), “Can I Consider the Pong Racket as a Part of My Body? Toward a Digital Body Literacy”, International Journal of Digital Literacy and Digital Competence, 3, 2, 58-63. Frauenfelder, E., Santoianni, F., Striano, M. (2004), Introduzione alle scienze bioeducative, Roma-Bari, Laterza. Gell-Mann, M. (1995), “ What is complexity”, Complexity, 1, 1, 16-19. — (2000), Il quark e il giaguaro. Avventura nel semplice e nelcomplesso, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri. Hansen, M.B.N. (2006), Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media, New York, Taylor & Francis. Harrison, C., Tan, D. (2010), Skinput: Appropriating the body as an input surface, in Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 453-462. Maturana, H.R., Varela, F.J. (1992), The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding (rev. edition), Boston, Shambhala. Menary, R. (2010), The Extended Mind, Cambridge, MIT Press. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1996), La natura, Milano, Raffaello Cortina. Morin, E. (2001), I sette saperi necessari all’educazione del futuro, Milano, Raffaello Cortina. Orefice, P. (2009), Pedagogia scientifica, Firenze, Editori Riuniti. Prigogine, I., Stengers, I. (1984), Order out of chaos: man’s new dialogue with nature, New York, Bantam Books. Rivoltella, P.C. (2012), Neurodidattica. Insegnare al cervello che apprende, Milano, Raffaello Cortina. Roth, W.M., Lawless, D. (2002), “Scientific investigations, metaphoricalgestures, and the emergence of abstract scientific concepts”, Learning and Instruction, 12, 3, 285-304. Sibilio, M. (2012a), “La dimensione semplessa dell’agire didattico”, in Traiettorie non lineari nella ricerca nuovi scenariinterdisciplinari, Lecce, Pensa Editore, 1014. — (2012b) (Ed.), Il corpo e il movimento nella ricerca didattica. Indirizzi scientificodisciplinari e chiavi teorico-argomentative, Napoli, Liguori.

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Singer, W. (2009), “The Brain’s View of the World Depends on What it has to Know”, Neurobiology of “Umwelt”, Heidelberg, Springer-VerlagBerlin, 39-52. Varela, F. J., Thompson, E. T., Rosch, E. (1992), The Embodied Mind:Cognitive Science and Human Experience, MA, MIT Press. Von Uexküll, J., Müller, P. (2004), Mondesanimaux et monde humain: suivide Théorie de la signification, Paris, Pocket.

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Enactivism and Didactics. Some Research Lines PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI, VALENTINA PRENNA, LORELLA GIANNANDREA, PATRIZIA MAGNOLER*

Abstract: From the beginning of the new millennium several authors coming from various different fields have addressed the topics related to enactivism. These topics were introduced in the Eighties by Varela and then developed by Thompson and Rosch who worked on embodiment and embodied cognition. In the didactical field, the contributions by Proulx, Begg and Li explored the potentialities of the enactive approach to interpret the teaching and learning processes.The present article aims at exploring experimentation paths in the educational field, which are based on the enactivist approach, and at presenting the first results of those studies already started. After a short focus on the theoretical aspects, to catch the topical elements of that approach, we will set the attention on the action and on the role of perturbation in the teaching/learning processes. Riassunto: Dall’inizio del nuovo millennio vari autori appartenti a campi di indagine differenti hanno affrontato ricerche con un approccio enattivista. Tale approccio fu introdotto negli anni ottanta del secolo scorso da Varela e poi sviluppato insieme a Thompson e Rosch che hanno lavorato sull’embodiment e sulla conoscenza incorporata. In campo didattico i contributi di Proulx, Begg e Li hanno esplorato le potenzialità di un approccio enattivista per interpretare i processi di apprendimento e insegnamento.Il presente articolo, sempre partendo dall’approcccio enattivista applicato alla ricerca in campo didattico, analizza se e come il concetto di “accoppiamento strutturale” proposto da Varela possa essere utilizzato per studiare la relazione tra i processi di insegnamento e apprendimento. Indaga inoltre sull’affinità di tale concetto con quelli di empatia (Berthoz), simulazione incarnata (Gallese), co-attività (Altet e Vinatier) e propone piste di ricerca sul campo per validare l’ipotesi proposta. Keyworks: Enactivism, Didactics, Perturbation, Teaching/Learning Processes.

Autonomy, Structural Coupling and Perturbation In enactivism, every system has a dynamic autonomy, that is, a structural closeness that is at the basis of its self-organization that explains the endogenous randomness of the autonomous systems (Damiano, 2009, 33). *

Even if the work is an all authors’ collaboration, the pages 37-40 are made by Valentina Prenna; the pages 40-57 are made by Pier Giuseppe Rossi.

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Such a concept is complementary to the Piagetian idea of “thermodynamic openness, to show the properties of a system to exchange energy and substance with the outside” (Idem). Also, the learning subject is at the same time autonomous and immersed in the world, thanks to his/her body with a biological, neurological, sensori-motor structure, with its own skills and competencies, a body that offers specific options of action1. The “living body” (Thompson, 2007) puts the subject in connection with the other, interacts with the surroundings, en-acts reality catching the offered triggers (Proulx, 2004). The interaction between the subject, with his/her living and active body, and the environment, creates co-emergencies and produces the “structural coupling”. In this way, the subject and the environment are supposed to be connected, in a relationship of co-specification, a relationship of interdependence, in which there is no direct action of the one on the other, but reciprocal perturbations and compensations that result in compatible configurations. Such a modelling can find an analogy in what Gallese calls attunement (Gallese et al., 2007). The concept of emergence is central to enactivism, that is, the production of new properties from the interaction between processes and from elements already existing. An “emergence” (Di Paolo et al., 2010) has its own identity that redefines the properties of the sub-units forcing them to a collective and coordinated new organization. The system is autonomous and chooses the modalities with which it wants to act. The perturbation per se determines just a phase of disequilibrium, but it does not affect in an automated way the further organization. Just analysing the perturbation, it is not possible to predict the effect on the system or the trajectory that it will take during the adaptation, since the transformation it will experience depends on the specific structure of the system itself, and on the way it catches the triggers and reacts to them. The coupling is contextual and the cognitive identity which co-emerges is temporary (Damiano, 2011), since it is the product of the relation between a specific destabilization of the system and one of the possible choices and configurations than can emerge in reply to it. We-Centric Space and Co-Specification Gallese connects the concepts of attunement and of we-centric space to the structural coupling. If the subject, immersed in reality, is in relation BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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with the other, knowledge is not only a cognitive/rational process and specifically individual, but conversely, it seems to arise from the circular and continuous flow of sensori-motor interactions between the mind-bodyartefact-world that produce an attunement (Gallese et al., 2007). The findings on mirror neurons (Rizzolatti et al., 2001) in the field of neurosciences have contributed a lot to enhance the connection between the mind-body-artifact-world, embodying what Varela realized: the relation between inter and intra psychic. Our seemingly effortless capacity to conceive of the acting bodies inhabiting our social world as goal-oriented persons like us depends on the constitution of a “we-centric” shared meaningful interpersonal space. I propose that this shared manifold space can be characterized at the functional level as embodied simulation, a specific mechanism, likely constituting a basic functional feature by means of which our brain/body system models its interactions with the world (Gallese et al., 2007).

Gallese (2007) discusses the mentalist vision of intersubjectivity. He supposes the existence of a neural mechanism in charge of the “Intentional Attunement” that characterizes the dimension of intersubjectivity. According to such a hypothesis, when the subject enters a relation with the other, a neurophysiological mechanism of “embodied simulation” would activate, thanks to the action of mirror neurons. We mean a shared place, a we-centric space, in which the system body-mind modulates the interaction with the outer space (Gallese, 2003) and in which the coupling subject-object creates knowledge and dynamics, and reciprocal, symmetric (even if not identical) transformations. The attention is focused on the embodied simulation. When we observe the other doing an action, the same neural process activates when we do an action. Acting and observing are specular processes and Gallese defines “embodied simulation” (2005, 2009) as the process that implies the understanding of the other and his/her expressions (actions, emotions, conceptualizations), activating the same neural processes in his/her body. We suggest referring to Gallese (2003) and Damasio (1999; Adolphs, 2003; Shiv et al., 2005; Rudrauf, Damasio, 2005) for the relation between empathy and simulation, but also to Berthoz (Berthoz, Jorland, 2004; Berthoz, 2003; EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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Berthoz, 2009) who highlights the symmetry between neurosciences, simplexity and enactivism. The action becomes the place in which the subject, the subjects and the environment, meeting each other, interact co-specifying themselves. When the action puts the subject in relation to the other, it acquires the dimension of intentionality. Thompson and Stapleton (2009) offer a phenomenological notion of intentionality: A relation to that which transcends the present state of the system (where what transcends the system does not have to exist in the sense of being a real entity). In saying that the mind is intentional, phenomenologists imply that the mind is relational.

The action creates a dimension of intersubjectivity when it connects the body-mind-world. In the relation, subject and object create an interactive organization, units in dialogue (Damiano, 2009). Every element specifies in the interaction with the other, but it keeps it own organizational autonomy. The relational dimension acquires a strategic relevance: when the individualities couple an autopoietic, space-time occurs. None of the individual elements can guide this space, since it is their interaction that gives the direction whereby the whole system evolves. Enactivism and Education In the didactical action, two systems exist that interact with each other and with the same environment: the teacher and the student. Each of them perturbates the other and changes according to its structural characteristics. Such a perturbation happens, and when it happens, in the didactical practice, that is, in the space-time during which the students and the teacher interact and accomplish tasks, it puts into crisis their equilibrium. Learning can be described as a process of reorganisation of the subject due to the external inputs. Learning co-emerges in the situation and both the teacher and the students learn, even if what is learnt are different procedures, knowledge and dimensions for each system. Autonomous, reciprocally consistent, multiple trajectories are created. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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The perturbation can present different characteristics. It can be the event (Morin, 1972), that is something that was not initially foreseen in the designs of the teacher and that modifies the plan. Morin (Ibidem) highlights that events “are the moments in which the system passes from a state to another” (Ibidem, 278) and the relation between events and systems is at the same time uncertain and determined. Learning consists of making events significant, in transforming the eventrumour in the event-sign (Ibidem, 285). Besides, Morin states that the event does not have the same value for all observers, but that it depends on the perspective of the observer. Speaking about the event, thus, implies that the perspective of the observer has a primary role (Damiano, 2009). The event, in this case, is often characterized by different results from the ones expected, by questions and solicitations proposed by the students. In such a case, the break is perceived as such by the students and the teacher. In other cases, perturbation is the obstacle (epistemological, didactical, ontogenetic) that the student meets in his/her path (Brousseau, 1983; D’Amore, Pinilla, 2007, 46-49). In such a case, it is the teacher who perceives the perturbation, that is, he/she identifies the hiatus between the conceptualisations that the student has built and the scholarly body of knowledge. According to his/her analysis, the teacher can propose to the student some activities which destabilize him/her. An example of those activities is the critical experience of the didactics for concepts that makes the student aware of the hiatus itself. In both cases, the teacher has a relevant role: in the first one, because he/ she accepts that the break will become the starting point for further action; in the second, because he/she activates the process itself, by proposing situations that destabilize the conceptualizations of the students. The presence of perturbations, events and subsequent intentional actions creates the premise for the processes of reorganization of the relations and for the creation of we-centric spaces, that is, spaces in which the two perturbed systems bring into question themselves. In such a situation, often, an attunement is produced and the two systems behave as “units in dialogue” (Damiano, 2009). The interactive dimension between the teacher and the students is more and more often the object of analysis, through the use of different theoretical grounds, that point out aspects which are not similar, but are aimed at an understanding of the dynamics of listening and reciprocal understanding. Being able to go deeper into the analysis of the interactions EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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lets the teacher focus, according to the different perspectives used, if, how and why subjects affect each other and the subsequent evolutions of the situation. Altet and Vinatier, even if they don’t speak about we-centric spaces, use the word co-activity to describe the episodes in which the interactive relationship between teacher/student reifies (Vinatier, Altet, 2008). The two authors find the same conclusion produced by Tardif and Lessard, who highlight the centrality of the connection between the interaction of students/ teachers and events and they state that they “are the interactive plots with students that guide the rationale of the events in class” (1999). According to Altet (2012), the analysis of interactions enables the highlighting of a process of interpersonal adaptation in class, through which it is possible to identify modalities of adjustment – or not – between the teacher and the students in their action. “The management of the interactivity is one of the organizing of elements of the didactical practice” (Ibidem, 300). The articulation of learning-development is created in the co-elaboration with the students. The communication and didactical agreements are created through the dynamic of exchanges. The interlocutors build an interrational organization that redefines those agreements in situ, subjectively creating a space of conceptualization of the created object. The activity of the single is addressed to the activity of the others; the work of the single is the activity of the others and vice versa. In relation to an object, the knowledge. We can speak about co-activity (Ibidem, 305).

The concept of co-activity is proposed by Vinatier and Numa-Bocage (2007). L’hypothèse que nous partageons est que le contrat de communication et le contrat didactique, les systèmes d’obligations, ainsi que les normes, valeurs, et règles qui déterminent l’activité sociale de chacun, sont chahutés par la dynamique des échanges. Nous concernant, nous avons été amenées à considérer qu’il se construit, entre les interlocuteurs, au-delà de toute détermination contractuelle, ce que nous appelons une «organisation interactionnelle», laquelle redéfinit ces contrats in situ, en élaborant subjectivement un espace de conceptualisation de l’objet travaillé (Ibidem, 87).

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A crossed analysis, between the cognitive and relational aspects, enables us to identify a “kind of stable and strong co-activity that arises from a tension between inter-subjective needs and epistemic games” (Ibidem, 88). The two authors propose the analysis of a lesson, whose actors are a maître spécialisé and a student. In this situation, the attention is focused on two indicators: the level of conceptualization, both of the student and of the teacher, and the nature of the interpersonal relation. The lesson is analysed through the verbal exchange between the teacher and the student. It is divided into four episodes. In the first two, the teacher is dominant and the student has a low profile and communicates with long silences. In the second, the resistance of the student forces the teacher to use some indicators and give orders, while the student still shows a low understanding of what the teacher is proposing. In the third episode, the frame changes, since the teacher proposes a new approach to reading and a reasoning based on inferences. Specifically, he takes into consideration a question by the student, which looked back to activities previously done. The student then shares with the teacher the difficulties met during the class work. With the fourth episode, the sequence is closing with the anticipation of the activities to be done in the next lesson. In the moment in which the interaction was to arriving at a break (at the end of the second episode): l’activité du maître s’appuie sur un changement de mode et de registre d’action en fonction de l’articulation d’indicateurs situationnels de deux ordres: relationnel et cognitif. Le changement de registre d’exigence, dans la tension entre apprentissage nécessaire et soutien de la personne pour permettre son développement, semble être une dimension centrale du travail des maîtres, il constitue selon nous une dimension pragmatique de l’organisation interactionnelle entre l’enfant et lui (Ibidem, 93).

The change in the register, which occurs at the beginning of the third episode, produces a break in the previous situation and lets the interaction take place; with such a change, the processes of adjustment activated by the teachers concretise. It is also interesting, the change of pace highlighted by the authors: “Les moments de ralentissement dans l’approche métacognitive semblent correspondre aux moments de maintien de la relation et semblent éviter la perte de confiance en soi de l’élève” (Ibidem, 94).

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Enaction and Didactics. The Experimental Path We can describe the didactical action as a sequence of linear and dialogic processes (Rossi, 2011). In linear processes, the activity is made by a sequence of actions made by the teacher and by the student (explanation, questions and answers, tasks, task execution, assessment). In dialogic processes, determined by a break in the equilibrium, interactive processes take place in which the simultaneity of the action of the two actors, characterized by quick exchanges, prevails compared to the sequence of actions. We need to specify that the two typologies of processes are synergic between them, since the linear processes prepare and, later, organize what happens in the dialogues, while the dialogic processes perturbate the linear ones and explore them in a multi perspective and multimodal way. The dialogic processes are often activated by perturbations that bring into question the previous equilibrium of the two systems, the teacher and the student, and require that both put themselves in line, even if at different levels and objectives. We cannot speak about identical processes, but of attunement between the two processes. If a teacher and a student, for example, become aware of an obstacle met by the student during his/her path, the possible further equilibrium implies that the student overcomes the naive conception and an approach to the scholarly body of knowledge. For the teacher, the knowledge of the naive conception and the identification of its origin and, often, the identification of some complexities of the scholarly body of knowledge that had previously been underestimated – and that come from a symmetry between the ontogenetic and phylogenetic processes, as highlighted by D’Amore (2007). The Event in Class Video recordings, with a total amount of 60 hours, have been made in three classes of primary schools, of three different institutions located in Ascoli Piceno and Ancona. Some episodes, lasting few minutes, have been isolated and the emergence of an event has been caught. The focus is specifically on the identification of those moments in which the perturbation destabilizes the path, producing a deviation from the planned path. The analysis aims at highlighting if, and how, the teacher BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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catches and reacts to the event, and describes, in qualitative terms, what happens in the class. Experimental Data (Teacher 1) We will analyze three episodes regarding Teacher 1 when it seems to be related to an event. In the first episode, while the teacher is explaining the progress as a monotone and a continuous process, a student says “But something from the Sumerians to the present day has remained the same” (Episode 1). In the second one, a student asks: “but in the future, will students at school only study our civilization or maybe even the Egyptians?” (Episode 2). In the third one, a student asks if, in barter, is it important to count only the quantity of the goods or also is the quality as being important (Episode 3). A premise. Sometimes the event is “prepared”, introduced by words or behaviour (which the teacher is not always aware of ) that show the happening of a structural coupling, an attunement. For example, in the first episode, a few minutes before the student’s question, the teacher had said: T1: Soon, we will see what happens when, and how, writing evolved, right? Because it follows a natural development, like everything else right?… By primordial forms… then everything evolves slowly, and what does it do? It tends to improve… S2: Improve? T1: Improve, yes, like everything right? That is, with the passage of time… Then just look, we have done the framework of civilization… to improve is a great word because it is a process, isn’t it??? [progress is better]. And then: T1: Well, in theory… but here you see… if you take a house in the twenty-first century, do you manage to understand the evolution when comparing it to a house of the Sumerians? There were only two open-

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ings, one to get into the house and one to make the light enter… there has been an evolution, everything tends to improve… in theory, because the improvement comes out of other problems that we do not list now. You can sit down.

In the analysed episodes, it can be perceived, that when the event appears, there is an initial disorientation of the teacher, who takes time with sentences like “good question”, “I had not expected that, however, you’re right”, “you have said something very important, I did not want to start from here, but we got there”. Often, when pronouncing these phrases, the teacher turns towards the camera, as if he is searching for some distance from the situation to reflect upon what to do. This can be perceived (by the teacher’s face and the tone in which the sentences are put) as “taking time” for making quick assessments (in the order of one or two seconds) related to the epistemological dimension (relevance of the question raised, its impact on the key concepts of history), the dimension of didactical engineering (how much time to devote to the subject, how to re-organize the projected path), and the dimension of values (respect and promotion of the questions issued by the student). At the same time, the teacher explicates, even unconsciously, that he is reorganising the path due to a good and constructive intervention by the students (“good question!”), and recognising them having an active role in the didactic path. Section provides an analysis of Episode 1. (T1 is the teacher, S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6 are the students) T1

Now …

T1

tell me S3

S3

regarding food, one thing is neither improved and [is]

T1

I like what S3 is saying, about food! (commento: towards the entire class in a high tone of voice – many students turn towards him)

S3

one thing is neither…

T1

Neither the worse… [what?]

S3

[worse] the water… men have always used water

T1 notes that S3 has raised his hand asking to speak. He has decided to devote space to the question…

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T1

This is interesting… but…

Teacher smiles, looks at the camera as if he’s looking for support, there is silence for a few seconds, then he tries to answer

T1

Although I would say… in my opinion, I do not know what do you… well I ask you: he said that the water has maintained the same characteristics that it had at the time of the Sumerians, has it not? In your opinion, today, in the twenty-first century, water is a beverage, it is necessary, it is a source of life…In your opinion, has water the same characteristics of that time? Has it improved? What can you say about it? Raise your hands and I’ll let you speak…

S2

Teacher, one thing that has changed is that at the time of the Sumerians, water was respected; it was used to do things, but now when we get water, we drink it and maybe some of it is thrown away.

T1

… that could be so… so now you can say that we should what? (0.2)… save water, right?… You see, the positive aspect is that you come home and get the [water]

S1, S3

[fresh water]

T1

… currently bottled water, you don’t have to go with your bucket [and take it] to the river

S2, S4

[or get it with the pitchers]

T1

and the water is also clear, isn’t it?

S3

Clean

T1

You turn on the tap or open the bottle, you drink, ok… now you see you’ve raised an issue of respect, then maybe our bad attitude towards water, leaving the tap running, or… […] Then, something else?

S6

That water at the time of the Sumerians was not good to drink and now it is [in practice]

T1

Yes, but…

S3

[But I read] in the books, that they built a machine to remove the sand from the water

T1

Over there!

S3

[a small filter!]

T1

Yes, they [tried] to make it good to drink…then it is obvious, they had different physical characteristics and capabilities to ours so [the system]

S1

[They were more accustomed to…]

T1

Their immune system; they were able to defend themselves; maybe today, we’re used in a different way… but… is there any other aspect that comes to your mind?

T1 recognises a question

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T1

… that… someone else…

He calls for participation, S2’s hand is always up!

T1

… do you think… Regarding S3’s contribution, is there any other way in which modern man perhaps, in his actions…

S4

He/She is wrong

T1

… maybe he has an attitude, perhaps not too much respectful for the water in your opinion? Of for the environment in general? Despite all this progress?

S5

Yes… cut down trees

S3

But we’re talking about water

T. agrees, but somehow he tries to save the contribution

T1

well… in general (…) the attitude towards water, but also the environment…

He waits, S2 raises his hand

T1

Do we now respect the water?

There are 3 children with hands raised up, one of which is S3

S3

No

In choir

T1

Apart from using this resource often improperly, as he has highlighted, that is, there is so much water that we don’t have to care… about the waste…What else, what comes to mind?

S7

… and then, when they built the dams (…)

S4

…as we listen sometimes on the News, men have cast oil into the river…

T1

Oh…our attitude… we have spent much of our time to discuss this; ok, then, we’ll move on to reading the text, that everything evolves and theoretically improves, we are more comfortable, we have a much more comfortable home, transport is faster [ comfortable]

S3:

[advanced]

Audio isn’t good

Does he show an awareness and willingness in having supported the dialogic parenthesis?

The teacher’s attitude of acceptance and the revival of the question posed by the student opens a parenthesis which lasts for 8 minutes, during which, through dialogue, the entire class is involved in an interactive process that enriches both subjects (teacher and students), and that builds new connections between prior knowledge.

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Video analysis also highlighted that the behaviour and the postures of the students in the classroom has changed compared to the episode before the dialogic parenthesis. In the previous episode, the teacher is sitting in the chair, while four students are standing next to him in front of the other students, and only three or four children are sitting and are following the lesson with interest. Among the other students, some are resting lying on their desk, others are chatting in a low voice, a couple are manipulating a pencil making marks on the bench, and one is playing with a toy car. There are few students who are looking towards the teacher. While the students, who were standing up, are coming back to their benches, S3 asks the question: “regarding food… there is one thing that has not improved and neither has worsened”… The teacher reacts immediately “I like what he’s saying about food” (towards all of the students in a high and firm tone of voice); and the children that were distracted turn towards him to listen; the others, who were standing up, sit down quickly. After the teacher’s second sentence, the other children focus on him, and a student that was sitting relaxing on a chair stands up in an upright position to follow the speech. When the teacher requests for a contribution, five children raise their hands, and even those who do not participate have changed their positions on their desk. They are sitting on their chairs, but with their backs straight, or they are kneeling. A few of the students continue with their other activities. Furthermore, the majority turn their gaze to the subject who in turn is speaking. At one point, the teacher invites the children on the right-hand side of the classroom to speak, but they seem to be less involved. During all of the time of the dialogue, the teacher is on the sidelines, sitting near the window, in order to put the class group in the centre of the scene and to make it the protagonist of the dialogue. When the teacher closes the parenthesis with “We were a bit caught up there, let us go back to reading the text…” we perceive a reduction of emotional tension and many children take up their previous positions on their chairs, indulging in the class once more. Throughout the discussion, 5 children are more involved, while the majority listen with interest looking up to the speaker. Only 3 children have continued with their activities.

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Episode 2 begins with the following exchange. S1

If after a thousand of years, these people (historians) begin to study how we lived, will they forget about the Egyptians?

T1

You’ve come up with a great question!

T1

In your opinion, why is history important? Can people in the future forget about the great civilizations of the past to study… just our civilization?

There is a pause for reflection that lasts 3 seconds

In this case, the teacher uses a rhetorical question to guide the continuation of the debate, and this dialogue, then highlights the relevant aspects of the epistemology of history and its purpose, thanks to a statement by the student Episode 3 begins as follows: T1

The Sumerians used writing to record who had paid tribute and what he had paid.

S

Teacher… but the amount of what they had paid depended also on the quality or… The teacher smiles, takes time, almost 6 seconds, then

T1

That is a wonderful question! Because of the quality, right… if I have to pay a tribute, I have a box of apples, and I give you all the… […]… it is a great question… and there is also a logical reassignment… I can answer that… I do not know… Indeed… What do you think? You have to answer, not me!

Experimental Data (Teacher 2) The lessons of a second teacher have been analysed. We report a single episode, in which an event emerges. The episode has the following opening. T2

T2 shows a copy of a conceptual map on the issue of Australopithecus

T2

What does this remind you of ?

S

Something in the text!

Some in choir;

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T2 T2

T2 asks for clarification, then says Interesting! I did not think… I did not think of this when I asked this question… but you’re right!

The students then support their analysis and the teacher shows how their observation has changed his idea modifying the flow of the lesson. The context in another episode, relating to the same second teacher, is the collective reading, followed by guided underlining, with the addition of information from the teacher. T2

For several years, they lived contemporary to Neanderthal man… T2 reads and then asks what does that mean?

S

they lived at the same time.

T2

The sapiens sapiens Man is an evolution; but at the same time, in the same period, Neanderthal man and homo sapiens sapiens both lived together in the same place

S1

In fact, the DVD shows that Neanderthal man moved because homo sapiens sapiens invaded the places where he lived…

T2

Oh… look, S1 is giving an input… repeat aloud please… […]… this observation. This is very beautiful; we will finish the lesson today with this concept and re-open tomorrow!

In chorus.

A discussion in class starts

And again (Episode 2): T2

Where there are big natural disasters, what do people do? They move away if they can!

S1

But they don’t invade another place!

T2

Very good! S1 has said something very important!… which is the difference between the conquerors who go to other lands, and those who go away to… I do not know… let S1answer to this question. I had not planned this; however, it’s a very intelligent remark!

From the video analysis of the third teacher, we have not detected any possible disruption on a first reading. A closer analysis, however, highlighted that dialogic situations were created, thanks to questions posed by the teacher himself, who plucked conceptualisations previously expressed by the students during their activities, or took into account the misconceptions in the literature. Even in this case, the questions generated a different level of attention in the classroom. They expressed both the desire to par-

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ticipate in the debate, and showed their interest, indicated by the different postures that they adopted. The Videos and the Research through the Case-Studies Analysis The analysis of the video recorded allowed us to discover special routines that the teachers put in place while they were not aware of them. The first teacher, for example, always adopted the same routine, but he became aware of it only after re-viewing it and after a discussion with the expert: 1. At first, he welcomed the question with a giggle. 2. “Beautiful question!” 3. “Well, I would say…” 4…“No, try to answer by yourselves…”. The sequence of actions described reflects the dynamics of the decision analysed by Alain Berthoz (2004, 302), recalling that the brain, when making decisions, evaluates “the difference between the forecast and what really happens”. The initial phase in which the teacher faces the event that suddenly appears and breaks the ordinary course of the lesson is designed as a moment of acceptance of the new (“I did not want to start from here”) and a further distancing. According to Berthoz, in fact, the decision making process involves three elements. The first element is to keep in the memory the present, and simultaneously, retrieve the past, in order to be able to identify the elements that are capable of providing clues to act appropriately. The second aspect of the decision process, in fact, requires a quick and almost immediate assessment about gains or losses that may result from a choice that leads to an estimation of the elements involved and to a projection of future developments that may result from the choice. The temporal dimension in this process is extremely significant: the teacher has to take a decision very quickly, and this leads to a necessary selection of information, that can be perceived in a hierarchical manner, through a process of supervisory attentional systems (Miller, Cohen, 2001). This highlights some of the visions and perceptions of the class and the context in which the event takes place. The third element of the decisionmaking process in the situation described is the desire to root the decision in the reality of the moment, so that the choice of the teacher to grant the application and raise the question, asking for the active involvement of students, in response to a perceived need to involve the class in the management and development of the argument. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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Finally, it could be said that the decision develops a “movement back and forward between the intention of the action and its end” (Berthoz, 2004, 66). It is made explicit in the sequence and indicated by the behaviour of the teacher and his verbal interactions. The presence of routine is common to all of the teachers’ activities and emerges especially in the critical moments when the teachers need to decide quickly. In such a situation, automatic, consolidated behaviour prevails, rather than the behaviour suggested during the didactical event. The viewing of the video allows the teachers to highlight their routines, to become aware of them, to improve them, and to understand the situations in which they have performed most effectively. In addition, it improves the personal luggage of each teacher for coping with particular cases of emergency. Training teachers to assume behaviour or their best practice would not have the same impact on the action in the case of “emergency”, because of the role of automation in such situations, the importance of the teacher’s habitus in the teaching and the situated characteristics of the teachers’ actions. The event is episodic and contextualised, and it could raise a doubt about the usefulness of the proposed analysis for educational research. In fact, although it is not possible to transfer or re-perform what has already happened, from the examination of the video several invariants and routines come out. They can affect two important issues for teacher training: the relationship of the teacher with the event and the relationship between linear and dialogical approaches. First of all, how to react when faced with an event? Examination of the video shows three possible answers that the teacher can display when faced with the event: 1. The teacher does not recognize what is happening as an event occurs or, if perceived, he/she does not express this perception. The teacher does not consider the event and proceeds on his/her path; the teacher ignores the event; or he/she considers it not useful to address a deviation from the planned lesson. 2. The teacher recognizes the event, but postpones the discussion to another time. The teacher points out what happened with phrases like: “The question is interesting, but we will answer it at a later time” and/or does change his/her path, or only marginally and in a controlled way, but highlights the question. 3. The teacher collects and manages the event. The event becomes a EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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moment of questioning of the two perspectives and strengthens an attunement. The analysis made on the videos show that the teacher emphasises the question, does not hide the initial disorientation, and also brings out explicitly the role of students in the reorganisation of the route. The video of the episodes reported in sections 3.2 and 3.3 were reviewed and discussed and there were some reflections about how to act toward the event. The teachers emphasized the role of time, and the search for an epistemological coherence between the deviation and the global path to take. It also emerged that the more experienced teachers, who felt themselves more competent, are more than likely to accept the event. All of the videos were analysed by the researchers and the disciplinary experts have found out some interesting questions that have arisen from the students that the teacher had not perceived. During the “co-explicitation�, the discussion between the teachers and the researcher, following the analysis conducted by the researcher (Vinatier, 2011), the researcher asked the teachers why he/she had not collected a given question. The teachers answered that they ignored a question only when they did not perceive the question as an event, or when they believed that the question would be dispersive and feared not being able to control the dynamics. In such a situation, the teacher stated that he/she was so concerned about the behaviour of a child, that he/she had not noticed the statement, while, in a second situation, he/she had not seen the epistemological significance of the question. The analysis of the events highlights the variables that the teacher simultaneously monitors during the teaching action. Although the event is a unique and unrepeatable process, it is possible, thanks to the vision of the video and to the subsequent discussions, to make the teachers aware of the variables in context, to know how they act in emergency situations, and to discover how they place themselves and act in front of the event. Through the analysis of the sequences, which follows the work done in class, the teacher takes advantage of a larger amount of time to deal with the live action. He/she makes the different systems (the teacher, the students, the class) the object of his/her study, to identify those moments that become relevant for the development of the teaching sequence itself. The presence of more professionals, teachers and researchers, involved in this path of co-analysis, offers the chance to examine verbal communications, behaviour and productions, each of them with its power in influencing the BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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others. Identifying the modalities, with which we create a we-centric space in which the unit’s dialogue makes us explore the decision of the subjects in action, mostly implicitly, and that guides the choices towards one of a possible world that can be created. Teaching and learning represent a situation of co-determination that needs to be deepened to give visibility to that dynamic between productive and constructive processes (Rabardel et al., 2004; Altet, 2012). While people act, they create objects, interactions, and situations that represent, at the same time, the fundamental space-time for the identity construction, both for the professional teacher and for the student. The perception of change, as a system in dialogue with other systems, is to be investigated and to be made explicit, in order to offer a further contribution to the professionalism of the teachers, who are not just involved in listening to the situation that replies to their interventions (Schon, 1993), but also perceives themselves as a unit, with dialogues, that affect and build conceptualisations in relation to the situations. The research of different trajectories to deepen the awareness of the teacher finds, in the enactive perspective, an interesting space to make explicit the modalities of dialogue, the answers and the decisions, the conceptualisations, the true objects of study in the development of the professional identity. Author’s Presentation: Pier Giuseppe Rossi is Full Professor of “Didactics and Technology of Education” at University of Macerata. Valentina Prenna is Ph.D. student at University of Macerata. Lorella Giannandrea is Assistant Professor of “Techonoly of Education” at University of Macerata. Patrizia Magnoler is Assistant Professor of “Didactic” at University of Macerata.

Notes 1 “Cognition

depends on the kinds of awareness that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities”. F. J. Varela, E. Thompson, E. Rosch, The Embodied Mind, London: MIT Press, 1991, p. 173.

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References Adolphs, R, Tranel, D, Damasio, A. (2003), “Dissociable neural systems for recognizing emotions”, Brain and Cognition, 52, 61-69. Altet, M. (2012), “L’apporto dell’analisi plurale delle pratiche didattiche alla coformazione degli insegnanti”, in P.C. Rivoltella, P.G. Rossi (Eds.), L’agire didattico, Brescia, La Scuola. Begg, A. (2000), “Enactivism, a personal interpretation”, http://www.ioe.stir. ac.uk/docs/Begg%20Enactivism%20.DOC (verified in October 2012). Berthoz, A. (2003), La Décision, Paris, Odine Jacob. — (2009), La Simplexité, Paris, Odine Jacob. Berthoz, A, Jorland, G. (Eds.) (2004), L’Empathie, Paris, Odine Jacob. Brousseau, G., (1983), “Obstacles épistémologiques en mathématiques”, Recherches en didactique de mathématique, 7, 2, 33-115. D’Amore, B., Fandino Pinilla, M. (2007), Le didattiche disciplinari, Trento, Erickosn. Damasio, A. (1999), “How the brain creates the mind”, Scientific American, 281, 74-79. Damiano, L. (2009), Unità in dialogo. Un nuovo stile per la conoscenza, Milano, Bruno Mondadori. Damiano, L. (2011), “Vita, cognizione e scienza come processi di co-emergenza. Segmenti dell’evoluzione teorica ed euristica della scienza dialogica”, Riflessioni Sistemiche, 5, 45-58. Di Paolo, E., Gapenne, O., Stewart, J.S. (2010), Enaction. Toward a new paradigm for Cognitive Science, Cambridge, MIT Press. Gallese, V. (2003) “La molteplice natura delle relazioni interpersonali: la ricerca di un comune meccanismo neurofisiologico”, Networks, 1, 24-47. — (2007), “Dai neuroni specchio alla consonanza intenzionale. Meccanismi neurofisiologici dell’intersoggettività”, Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 53, 1, 197-208. — (2009), “Mirror Neurons, Embodied Simulation, and the Neural Basis of Social Identification”, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19, 519–536. Gallese, V., Eagle, M.N., Migone, P. (2007), “Intentional attunement: mirror neurons and the neural underpinnings of interpersonal relations”, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55, 131-176. Li, Q., Clark, B., Winchester, I. (2010), “ID and technology grounded in Enactivism. A paradigm shift?”, British Journal of Educational Technology, 41, 403-419. Miller, E.K., Cohen, J.D. (2001), “An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function”, Annu Rev Neurosci, 24, 167–202. Morin, E. (1972), “L’evento sfinge”, in E. Morin (Ed.) Teorie dell’evento, Bompiani, Milano. Proulx, J. (2004), “The Enactivist Theory of Cognition and Behaviorism: An Account of the Processes of Individual Sense Making”, Proceedings of the 2004 Complexity Science and Educational Research Conference, Canada, 115-120.

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— (2008), “Some Differences between Maturana and Varela’s theory of cognition vs Constructivism”, Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 5, 1, 11-26. Rabardel, P., Samarçay, R. (2004), “Modèles pour l’analyse de l’activité et des compétences, proposition”, in R Samarçay, P. Pastré (Eds.) Recherches en didactique professionnelle, Toulose, Octarés, 163-180. Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. (2001), “Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the understanding and imitation of action”, Nature Reviews, Neuroscience, 2, 661-670. Rossi, P.G. (2011), Didattica Enattiva, Milano, Franco Angeli. Rudrauf, D, Damasio, A. (2005), “A conjecture regarding the biological mechanism of subjectivity and feeling”. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12, 8-10, 239265. Schön, D.A. (1993), Il professionista riflessivo. Per una nuova epistemologia della pratica professionale, Bari, Edizioni Dedalo. Shiv, B., Lowenstein, G., Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Damasio, A. (2005), “Investment behavior and the negative side of emotion”, Psychological Sciences, 16, 435-439. Tardif, M., Lessard, C. (1999), Le travail enseignant au quotidien. Bruxelles, Éditions de Boeck. Thompson, E. (2007), Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, London, Harvard University Press. Thompson, E., Stapleton, M. (2009), “Making Sense of Sense-Making: Reflections on Enactive and Extended Mind Theories”, Topoi, 28, 23-30. Varela, F.J., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (1991), The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience, London, MIT Press. Vinatier, I. (2011), “Comment penser la possibilité «d’apprendre des situations” pour des enseignants en formation: une co-élaboration entre chercheur et praticiens?”, Education Sciences & Society, Competenza e professionalità, Roma, Armando Editore, 2, 1, 97-114. Vinatier, I., Altet, M. (2008), Analyser et comprendre la pratique enseignante, PU Rennes. Vinatier, I., Numa-Bocage, L. (2007), “Prise en charge d’un enfant en difficulté de lecture par un maître spécialisé: gestion de l’intersubjectivité et schème de médiation didactique”, Revue française de pédagogie, 158, 85-101.

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Enactivism in mathematics education: moving toward a re-conceptualization of learning and knowledge

JÉRÔME PROULX, ELAINE SIMMT

Abstract: The paper explores three topics: interpretations and the world of significance; problem solving and problem posing; and knowledge as acquisition and knowledge as being. Through these topics we illustrate the distance of enactivism from constructivism and the various extensions of it. After having discussed each theme and the issues they raise, we will highlight our appreciation of learning, knowledge, teaching and curriculum, proposing conceptualizations that offer paths of understandings and research. Riassunto: L’articolo approfondisce tre temi: le interpretazioni e il mondo di significato, problem solving e problem posing, la conoscenza. Attraverso questi temi ci illustrano la frattura tra enattivismo e il costruttivismo e le varie estensioni di esso. Dopo aver discusso ciascun tema e le questioni che sollevano, metteremo in luce l’ apprezzamento per l’apprendimento, la conoscenza, l’insegnamento e il curriculum, portando a concettualizzazioni che offrono percorsi di comprensione e di ricerca. Keyworks: Enactivism, Mathematics Education, Learning, Knowledge.

Introduction – contextualizing the work Learning and knowledge, learners and knowing are the primary concern of educators. In mathematics education constructivism and constructivist research have had a privileged place in mathematics education to make sense of these phenomena for decades. Ever since Piaget used counting and sets to explore children’s cognitive development, Western views of mathematical knowing largely have been written from a constructivist. It is not surprising that we ourselves have been immersed in the constructivist paradigm from the beginning of our tertiary education, having been mentored by internationally renowned mathematics education researchers immersed

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in those discourses (Bednarz, Kieren) and have continued to be influenced by that discourse in our research programs (Bednarz, Proulx, 2011; Proulx, 2006; Simmt, 2006). At the same time, because of our ongoing efforts to understand learning and teaching, we have been intrigued with the body of work that is referred to as “enactivist” (Maturana, 1987, 1988a, 1988b; Maturana, Varela, 1992; Varela, 1996, 1999; Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 1991). It is our contention that this literature, albeit not completely separate from constructivism, offers significantly new and important ideas that have the potential to alter our views of learning, knowledge, and education (Proulx, 2008a, 2008b 2010; Proulx, Simmt, Towers, 2009). In this paper, we articulate and explore three generative themes that we have come to understand through the enactivist paradigm, and discuss what these mean for us as mathematics education researchers who study learning and knowledge, teaching and curriculum1. The three themes we address are: (1) interpretations and bringing forth a world of significance; (2) problem solving and problem posing; and (3) knowledge as acquisition and knowledge as being. Through these themes we illustrate the departure of enactivism from constructivism and the various extensions of it. We explore each of the three themes separately, in order to explore their meaning and ramifications. After having discussed each theme, we comment on how these themes, and the issues they raise, alter and transform our appreciation of learning, knowledge, teaching and curriculum, leading to conceptualizations that offer paths of understandings and avenues for research. Because this is our story with/in enactivism, we contextualize our views by discussing our entry into the enactivist literature and its ideas before we elaborate on each theme. We do this from our own positioning, that is, as mathematics education researchers. Contextualizing our entry into enactivism Discussing issues of enactivism and establishing distinctions between these and constructivist ones can be problematic, for a number of interconnected reasons. First, both theories or “world views” have similar origins in non-objectivist thinking and emerge from the writing of scholars who have collaborated together. It is difficult to assert which scholars are best identified as constructivists and which are best identified as enactivists. Humberto Maturana is a good example. Whereas we view him as a BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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foundational contributor to the enactivist world-view, many constructivists see Maturana as “one of them” (Constructivist Foundations, http://www. univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/index.html). Heinz von Foerster is another example, whereas his writings are viewed as part of the constructivist discourse, and he shares many ideas with Ernst von Glasersfeld, we see his work as significantly related to the enactivist literature. Similar things could be said of Francisco Varela, Gregory Bateson, and Maurice MerleauPonty. As educational researchers who have developed their work within enactivism, we too could be seen under that same lens as we have written and presented at different times under each world view. Thus, we acknowledge that enactivism is not mutually exclusive of constructivism per se. Rather we understand it to place different and more explicit emphases on various issues (three of those we explore in this article) and that different and differential emphases lead to different implications for educational issues. A related second difficulty is that neither theory is definitively defined. Through the years, many versions of constructivism have been posited (e.g. radical, social, pragmatic, psychological, pedagogical, etc.; Larochelle, Bednarz, Garrison, 1998; Noddings, 1990; Philipps, 2000; Steffe, Gale, 1995; Watzlawick, 1984). Some versions are very close to the original writings (of Piaget, e.g.) whereas others stray farther away as theorists address perceived deficiencies in previous elaborations of constructivism. Thus, when someone mentions constructivism, there is often a felt-need to qualify the version of it – “Are you talking about the “social” version of constructivism, its “radical” version?”. To settle this issue for ourselves, we explicitly address von Glasersfeld’s constructivism that was grounded in epistemological considerations drawn extensively from Piaget’s writings. We also favour this view, because radical constructivism has been widely referred to in mathematics education research (Glasersfeld, 1991). Enactivism, in contrast, has never really been established as a specific world view in the educational research and literature. Consider the two theorists who most influenced our view of enactivism, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Neither has used, to our knowledge, the expression “enactivism” or “enactivist”. Hence, it is not clear who coined the expression “enactivism,” although Varela sporadically used the expressions “enactive” and “enaction” a number of times (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 1991; Varela, 1996), before using it quite extensively in his Ethical Know-How (Varela, 1999). We also note that Maturana never used the expression; the categorization of his EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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work as “enactivist” could be disputed, and may be by Maturana himself. Discussing “the” enactivist world view can thus be problematic, since there are no original enactivist texts to which all researchers refer (Maturana, Varela’s Tree of knowledge, and Varela, Thomspon and Rosch’s, Embodied Mind may be the seminal texts for many, but not for all enactivist researchers). As for us, we trace our work in enactivism to the mathematics education research group working with Tom Kieren at the University of Alberta, Canada in the 1990s. In their work, they explicitly use the expressions “enactivism” and “enactivist” (Davis, 1995, 1996; Reid, 1996), and refer to similar authors as we do. Finally, a third difficulty emerges as one tries to identify which texts belong to the enactivism discourse, specifically as it is taken up in education. From one author to the next who claim to use enactivism, we see quite varied references to scholars, articles, books, chapters, etc., that must be, for any particular author, representative of the enactivist literature. Obviously there are intersection points among the texts and they overlap, but there are also important differences that lead authors to focus on very different aspects that they might claim to be central (or peripheral) to enactivism. Whereas in the constructivist literature discussions about concepts that make distinctions (e.g. viability, experience, truth) are readily available, the same cannot be said about enactivism. Although this poses a challenge when entering discussions with others who identify with enactivism, we believe this also opens up possibility, since there is an opportunity to push the collective thinking in the field, and avoid the reification of enactivism as one specifically bounded discourse (like what happened, e.g., with constructivism; Bednarz, Proulx, 2011). Enactivism offers, for us, a way of continuously developing a non-objectivist view of the world, and a view of knowledge issues that can be used productively in mathematics education in particular. The relationships and distinctions we trace in this article are not to be seen as the “things-inthemselves”, as the ding an sich, but as issues that the enactivist literature has occasioned for us. In that sense, and significantly, the elements and issues we outline and address here are not necessarily explicitly outlined in those works and texts we refer to. Rather, those texts made it possible, they made possible the distinctions we make and explore. These distinctions have led to the continuous evolution of our world view, as mathematics education researchers; a view of the world that we refer to as enactivist. We now explore each of the three themes as we nuance our conception of BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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enactivism. But, first, we offer the following vignette as a means of grounding our discussion. Vignette on mathematics knowing Imagine a mother and her 10 year old daughter working on a mathematics task together. They have been given a box of dominoes (2x1 tiles) and asked how many different arrangements exactly two units wide can be created from a specific number of dominoes. The facilitator demonstrated the task by illustrating that one tile could only be laid in one direction (vertically), two tiles could be laid in two ways (either standing vertically next to each other or laid horizontally) and be two units wide, and three tiles could be arranged in three different ways while still satisfying the constraints of being two units wide. The mother and her daughter drew possible tilings of four and five tiles respectively on a piece of paper, attending to the arrangements (see Figure 1). Across the table are a father and his daughter working in response to the same prompt, but keeping much different records. On their working paper is a table that lists the number of tiles used and the number of different arrangements made for the particular number of tiles (Figure 2). An observer of the parents and children might wonder about the mathematics these two pairs are doing and how it has come to be that the artefacts of their doing look so different (c.f. Simmt, 2000).

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Figure 1. Mother and daughter records of tilings

Figure 2. Father and daughter records of tilings

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Theme 1: Interpretation and bringing forth a world of significance Issues of “interpretation” of reality differ between enactivist and constructivist thinking. A main concept in constructivist thinking used to explain a person’s response to a trigger or prompt is that of viability. Constructivists substituted realists’ notions of truth and existence with that of viability, a concept closely aligned with the notion of “fit” which comes from Darwinian evolutionary theory. Constructivism goes back to Vico, who considered human knowledge a human construction that was to be evaluated according to its coherence and its fit with the world of human experience, and not as a representation of God’s world as it might be beyond the interface of human experience. Constructivism drops the requirement that knowledge be ‘true’ in the sense that it should match an objective reality (von Glasersfeld, 1992, 3).

This leads to the perspective that there exist a number of viable interpretations of the world, each knower developing one that fits within his or her functioning of the world. In constructivist thought, interpretations are not said to be made in an arbitrary fashion, but are made on the basis of invariants or constants one finds in the world and attempts to make sense of; invariants that are found, for example, through multiple experiences, repetition, patterning in that world, etc. In relation to those invariants and constants, one constructs one’s vision of the world, one’s reality. Hence, from a constructivist perspective of the actions of the parentchild pairs in the vignette, we understand the very distinct actions and outcomes of their thinking as different but viable interpretations of the micro-world that the tiles and the constraints of the prompt present. The invariants in the materials, the constraints, and the task (as posed) were taken up differently by each pair (and each individual in each pair). From the observer’s perspective there was not (in an objective way) a reality that consisted of the functional relationships in the father and daughter’s work or the geometry of the mother and daughter pair but both interpretations of the task were viable. In that way there is no objective reality accessible to the parent-child pairs; there is only their personal interpretation of the invariants in the micro-world afforded by the prompt and material. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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In the case of enactivism, coming to know (or knowing) in a situation is not so much about the invariants within the environment, but about the coordination of the knower and the environment. The focus on invariants and what the knower can construe from the environment sets the constructivist discourse apart from the enactivist perspective. In constructivist discourses “cognition is based on, and drawn out of experience in an environment, [hence] the interactional dynamics with the environment are only considered from the point of view of the individual” (Sumara, Davis, Kieren, 1996, 156). But from an enactivist perspective knower and known, both organism and environment, co-evolve in a constant process of becoming. In the case of the mathematics of the parent-child pairs in the vignette, they posed what was relevant in their domain and created what we observe as two very different mathematical worlds of significance. The mother and daughter brought forth a geometric space, one in which the physical arrangement of the tiles was significant. (Note the drawings represented not only the arrangement of the tiles but the their physical dimension as 2x1 tiles, as well). This is in contrast to the father-daughter pair who was very focused on counting how many arrangements there were for a given set of tiles and subsequently on the functional relationship between the number of tiles and the number of arrangements. (Note the highly schematicized drawings of the tiles). Both pairs were interested in determining if they had all of the tiles for a given set, but whereas the mother and daughter considered the reflections and rotations of the arrangements, the father and daughter reflected back to the numbers recorded in their table to see if they could predict if they had all of the arrangements. As these knowers brought forth their worlds of significance, the environment in which they were coupled was also transformed, albeit according to its own dynamics. For the father-daughter pair moving individual dominoes about on the table transformed to deliberate moves of single vertical tiles and pairs of horizontal tiles as the record of their actions grew and they modified their coding and means of communicating with each other. This transformation of the environment resulted in them working with objects that co-emerged with their own activity. The tiles gave way to the table of values as mathematically interesting to the pair. In contrast the mother-daughter pair could be observed as acting geometrically, as they sought out mirror images (reflections) and other transformations of the arrangements. The mathematical world they brought forth was of a differBIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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ent order, and about different mathematical concepts (geometry, mirroring, spatial representation versus quantitative, functional). Capra (1996) insists that Maturana and Varela offer a theory of co-evolution. There is thus no fixed state for the interpreter to interpret, no invariants or constants that are, since both interpreter and state are in flux, influencing each other in the ongoing process of living. In enactivism, knower and known co-emerge with and in the interaction. Hence environment is not static and therefore cannot be interpreted with its regularities. The environment is being defined while defining the knower in their interaction. The actions of an animal and the world in which it performs these actions are inseparably connected. [‌] What is perceived appears inseparably connected with the actions and the way of life of an organism: cognition is, as I would claim, the bringing forth of a world, it is embodied action (Varela, Poerksen, 2004, 87).

With enactivism the view of viability of interpretations gives way to the notion of the knower being brought forth as he or she brings forth a world. Moment by moment we bring forth our worlds of significance. As observers we note a coupled relationship between the person and the object (Maturana and Varela, 1992). The knower and the known co-dependently arise through mutual specification (Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 1991). Hence rather than learners interpreting the world in multiple ways, learners bring forth different and distinct worlds of significance with their knowing. Maturana explains this well in an interview with Simon (1985): Systems theory first enabled us to recognize that all the different views presented by the different members of a family has some validity, but systems theory implied that there were different views of the same system. What I am saying is different. I am not saying that the different descriptions that the members of a family make are different views of the same system. I am saying that there is no one way which the system is; that there is no absolute, objective family. I am saying that for each member there is a different family, and that each of these is absolutely valid (Maturana, in Simon, 1985, p. 36).

This is not an issue of interpreting “something� or of giving meaning to a situation: because the knower is coupled with/in this situation, where EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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both are co-defining one another in the relationship. The knower poses what is relevant in his or her domain and creates what an observer distinguishes as a response to the prompt. Knowers act in multi-verse, bringing forth worlds, rather than interpret the uni-verse in multiple ways. Hence, a distinction that we read from both Maturana and Varela is that these are not multiple interpretations of the problem but rather that learners bring forth different and distinct worlds of significance with their knowing. The issue we raise about bringing forth a world of significance offers a way of conceiving about the enmeshment of knower and known. This issue is not about interpreting a world, but about bringing it forth. With this distinction emerges an issue with how we have traditionally thought about cognitive acts as acts of problem solving. We now reflect on how to think about what constitutes a problem and the status of problems in a person’s world if that world comes into being, is brought forth, through the knower’s actions. Theme 2: Problem solving and problem posing For Varela (1996; Varela et al., 1991), problem solving would imply that problems are already in the world, lying “out there” waiting to be solved, independent of us as knowers. Varela explains that because of what we are biologically, historically, socially, culturally, etc., because we are coupled with the environment, and because we and our world co-dependently arise, we do not encounter problems to solve but specify the problems that we encounter through the meanings we make of the world in which we live. We confront the environment and deal with it in ways that we can. We do not choose or take problems as if they were lying around “out there” in the environment objective and independent of our actions: we bring them forth, we pose them. The most important ability of all living cognition is precisely, to a large extent, to pose the relevant questions that emerge at each moment of our life. They are not predefined but enacted, we bring them forth against a background, and the relevance criteria are oriented by our common sense, always in a contextualized fashion (Varela, 1996, 91, our translation).

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The problems that we encounter and the questions that we ask are thus as much a part of us as they are a part of our environment since they emerge from our interaction with it. We interpret events as issues to address: we see them as problems to solve. We are not acting on pre-existing situations: our co-determination and continual interaction with the environment creates, enables and specifies the possible situations for us to act upon. The problems that we solve are then relevant for us, because we allow these to be problems for us while the environment “triggers” them in us. Some “issues” of the environment that would “trigger” elements in some persons do not “trigger” the same elements in others. The effects of the environment are not in the environment: they are made possible by the organism in constant/continual interaction with/in its environment. Hence we claim that reactions to a prompt do not reside inside either the knower or the prompt: they emerge from the knower’s interaction with the prompt, through posing what is relevant in the moment. If one adheres to this perspective for (mathematics) teaching and learning, one cannot assume, as René de Cotret (1999) notes, that instructional properties are present in the (mathematics) prompts offered and that these properties will determine learners’ reactions. Strategies for solving problems emerge in the interaction of the knower and the problem, enacted in the interaction (Bautista, Roth, 2012; Maheux, Roth, 2011; Thom et al. 2009), influenced by the task but determined by the knower’s experiences in solving similar and different problems: in his/her solving habits for similar or different problems, in his/her successes in with specific approaches, in his/her understanding of the problems, etc. Or, as Davis (1995) explains, (mathematical) strategies for solving are inseparable from the knower and from the problem itself, emerging from both, being “new” to some extent, dependent on/ influenced by the problem and its context, but determined by the learner with regard to his/her experiences: one’s own complex histories and situations (Davis, Sumara, Kieren, 1996). Strategies are thus not predetermined, but continually generated for solving problems, emergent in the interaction with the problem when the solver engages and evolves with/in it. Threlfall (2002) explains that regarding solving mental mathematics problems: As a result of this interaction between noticing and knowledge each solution ‘method’ is in a sense unique to that case, and is invented in the context of the particular calculation – although clearly influenced by experience. It is not learned as a general approach and then applied

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to particular cases. The solution path taken may be interpreted later as being the result of a decision or choice, and be called a ‘strategy’, but the labels are misleading. The ‘strategy’ (in the holistic sense of the entire solution path) is not decided, it emerges (Ibidem, 42).

In sum, strategies for solving emerge in the interaction of knower and prompts, where the knower plays an important role as he or she poses the problems, and where the nature of the problem plays a role as well, with a strategy tailored to it. In that sense, to build on our previous work (Simmt, 2000), problems given are not problems but prompts for solvers to create problems with: prompts are offered, not problems. Problems become problems when knowers engage with them, when they pose them as problems to solve. Thus knowers transform the prompt into mathematical problems for themselves, making the problem their own, which is often different from the designer’s intentions (René de Cotret, 1999). By doing this, knowers enact their knowing by generating a strategy, one tailored to the problem (they) posed. In this sense, the posing is emergent as well as its solving. Acts of posing and solving are not predetermined but are generated in interaction with prompts, and influence one another as acts of posing influence the strategies enacted, which also modifies the problem being solved, and so forth. This has significant repercussions concerning education, which we address in the conclusion. Returning to the case of the parents and children working mathematically together, we note that the facilitator provided a prompt and some materials with which to work. But it was the learners that defined their task; the problems emerged moment by moment. For one pair this was a geometric task, for the other a function task. Although the mathematics in which they engaged differed between the pairs, both pairs were observed to be engaged in what we view as mathematical activity: observing, recording, symbolizing and reflecting on patterns generated through functional relationships; observing, recording and working geometrically; conjecturing; and reasoning inductively and deductively. This said, observing these knowers from an enactivist perspective, we find ourselves troubled by assumptions about these participants being said to acquire knowledge, where knowledge is seen as a thing to acquire, since all of our observations point to these learners who are not only doing mathematics but are being mathematical. We now turn to this issue in detail.

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Theme 3: Knowledge as acquisition and knowledge as being Several mathematics education scholars have drawn on enactivist ideas to rethink what it means to know mathematically and to reflect on mathematics knowledge. Focusing on emergence, adaptation and inseparability/ co-specification of knowers and their environment, mathematical cognition has been defined as a dynamic process that emerges in action and interaction with the environment (Pirie, Kieren, 1994) rather than being seen in terms of mental representations that individuals construct in their minds of external phenomena found in the environment. [Radical constructivism] starts from the assumption that knowledge, no matter how it be defined, is in the heads of persons, and that the thinking subject has no alternative but to construct what he or she knows on the basis of his or her own experience (Glasersfeld 1995, 1).

This constrast with the enactivist view where: [Cognition] is something that is normally seen to be done with others. In [the] classroom, children’s mathematics occurred along with that of their peers. […] An enactivist view suggests that cognising, thinking, or doing mathematics with others in some way is the norm. Of course, human beings think mathematics for themselves but this thinking is done, at least in anticipation of, communicating with others and acting in a community of others interested in mathematics (Kieren, 1995, 7).

From an enactivist perspective, knowledge is not a thing, but is the interaction with the environment that can be observed by another (which could be oneself ) as adequate action in a particular domain. As discussed in the previous section, such interaction brings forth the knower and the knower’s world of significance (Kieren, Simmt, 2009). This view comes from Maturana’s (1987) understanding of knowledge as adequate action, adequate conduct, in the context of its emergence. In other words, knowledge is an adequate response that fits in the context in which it emerges and fits with the “learner’s history of experiences in the domain”. Of particular significance to this view is that knowledge is enacted, with/in the meeting with the environment. Thus, for Maturana, knowledge is not something that one “possesses”: EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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I am saying, “Knowledge is never about something. Knowledge is being in some manner”. Yes, but I want you to listen to the conceptual shift involved in what I say. If I say I am a musician in the standard way, I mean that I know about music, that I can say things about such a thing that is there, independent of me, which is music, because I conceive knowledge as knowing about something. In our usual view of knowledge there must be a content to it, something that knowledge somehow embraces and reveals. What I am saying, however, is something completely different. I am saying that knowledge is never about something. I am saying that knowledge is adequate action in a domain of existence, that knowledge is a manner of being, that knowledge has no content because knowledge is being (Maturana, in Simon, 1985, 37).

(Mathematical) knowing in this perspective is inseparable from (mathematical) doing (Davis, 1996). “Knowledge is not in the book or in the library; Knowledge is not in our heads; knowledge is in the inter-action.” (Kieren, Calvert, Reid, Simmt, 1995), “found in the actions by which the organism coordinates with its surrounding conditions” (Maheux, Roth, 2011, 36). All doing is knowing, all knowing is doing, as Maturana and Varela (1992) would say. This view of knowledge-as-action (Bateson, 1972), as an emergent adapted response, alters how (mathematical) knowing is perceived, shifting in turn the focus of attention when studying students’ (mathematical) knowing. Said more strongly, (mathematical) strategies put forth by knowers to solve problems, their adapted responses, are not to be seen as illustrations of their knowing, but are their knowing: the process of knowing and its product are one and the same thing (Pirie, Kieren, 1994). The adaptation process required to engage in a problem is not a representation of one’s capacity for knowing, but is one’s knowing: adaptation and action are knowledge. In that same sense, knowers’ engagements in problems, as they pose them for solving them, is not an illustration of how they know, but is what they know, how they are, and who they are. So, what do people point to when they claim knowledge? Where is it? First, let us be reminded of Maturana’s maxim, that “Everything is said by an observer” (Maturana, 1987). It is the observer who recognizes, who reifies, what he or she sees as being knowledge. Thus, if I want to know if someone knows to play piano, I give him/her a piano and I observe. The same, as Maturana explains, for algebra: BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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Thus, if someone claims to know algebra – that is, to be an algebraist – we demand of him or her to perform in the domain of what we consider algebra to be, and if according to us she or he performs adequately in that domain, we accept the claim (Maturana, 1988b, 4-5).

This quote raises for us another important point, about the observer: “Knowledge is adequate action in a domain specified by a questioner” (Maturana, in Simon, 1985, 37, our emphasis). So, when working from an enactivist perspective, pointing to something as adequate is pointing to the action and interaction, and not to an objectively fixed referent. It is an act of observation that the observer, who judges, has made based on his or her own set of criteria. The action and interaction is not taken “as-is”, but as an act of distinction that determines that object of observation. This access to knowledge that enactivism suggests is particularly significant for us, researchers in mathematics education, as we attempt to appreciate the mathematical activity of students: activity which turns out to be observations, conceptualizations made by us, observers (Maheux, 2010) and that we assign to/impose on the observed. But, this change from knowledge as object, as possession is an important one for mathematics educators and educational researchers, and it poses significant challenges. This view is not new, however, as many theorists have attempted to think in different ways about knowledge for number of years. But this view needs to be explored further, especially under an enactivist lens. Under different theorizations, we have been and still are talking in terms of knowledge. One question we might ask, as we did in Maheux, Proulx (2012) is: “Could it be that we need to drop our usage of the word knowledge? And, if so, replace it by what?”. Exploring this avenue imposes new sets of ideas, new views, etc., which are still to be developed. In mathematics education, one possible way of exploring this conceptualization is through thinking in depth about the differences that Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler (2008, 23) establish between mathematics and mathematical. “Mathematics” is generally used to refer to a body of knowledge – that is, a widely accepted collection of concepts and procedures that have emerged through centuries of inquiry. […] it is a domain that continues to grow and evolve. “Mathematical”, in contrast, is more a reference to

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a mode of thinking. It involves a noticing of sameness and difference, of pattern and irregularity, of specifics and generalizations, of abstract principles and concrete objects. “Mathematical”, true to the meaning of its ancient Greek root manthanein, is about learning.

When we refer to a person’s mathematics we are making a claim about something that this person “has” whereas when we refer to a person as mathematical our claim is about their “being”. When observing learners engaged in mathematics and saying “the learner knows mathematics”, what the observer sees is the “mathematical”. In so far as mathematics knowledge has been conceptualized as a possession, a thing that one can have, then mathematics can be acquired, stored, accessed, and used. However, if one sees knowledge as something that ones does, that one enacts, then the learner is seen as one who mathematizes. However, if knowing mathematics is to be mathematical, then we as observers distinguish the knower as bringing forth a world of mathematical significance and the knower as a mathematical being. The following Table 1 offers a view of the distinctions that can be traced from mathematics as something to acquire, as something one does, to something one enacts.

Acquire acquisition metaphors

HAVE

Mathematics

Known

Act action metaphors

DO

Mathematize

Know

Identify identity metaphors

BE

Mathematical

Knower

Table 1. Distinctions among knowledge, knowing and knower

In our example with the mother and daughter we see them engage in actions we as observers distinguish as geometrical. Manipulating shapes through space, reflecting and transforming shapes, and making conjectures about placement and order all speak to this pair’s affinity for that particular kind of activity. It points to their being with shapes and numbers, arrangements and counts and it points to who they are. As observers of these two parent-child pairs we make distinctions between their actions, their ways of being with the prompt and materials. In so far as the mother and daughBIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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ter were geometrical in their actions, the father and daughter were much more functional (in the sense of a relationship between two variables). They “knew” through number patterns and relationships in the growth of how many arrangements. For them being mathematical was being relational. It makes little sense to speak of the geometry or the function that these parents and children acquired or used while doing the task without speaking about them. All of their actions suggest that the materials and the prompt triggered their identities as mathematics knowers leading them to mathematize the problems that emerged for them and leaving them not with some mathematics but with having experienced themselves as mathematical. Concluding remarks In short: the world is not something that is given to us but something we engage in by moving, touching, breathing, and eating. This is what I call cognition as enaction since enaction connotes this bringing forth by concrete handling (Varela, 1999, 8).

So what, then? We have offered, in this article, three themes from enactivism (there are others yet to be probed into) that we as mathematics educators and researchers see as significant to begin conceptualizing learning and knowledge differently. It is our contention that enactivism has enabled us as observers to think differently about mathematical understanding. By paying attention and recognizing the distinction between constructivism and enactivism, we have shifted from thinking about: a person’s interpretation of the world to their bringing forth a world of significance; to cognition as problem-solving to cognition as problem-posing; to knowledge as an acquisition, to knowing as action, to knowing as a way of being. These enactivist themes shape the theory from which we work. They frame our view of knowledge, learning and meaning making. Therefore, they have repercussions on and for our understanding of curriculum and pedagogy. In particular, we believe that a significant implication of this enactivist frame is that it compels us to educate differently and towards different ends. Like Davis et al. (2008), we “do not see education in linear-causal terms of achieving preset objectives or re-presentation of established truths, but as a participation in the ever-unfolding project of becoming capable of new, EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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perhaps as-yet unimaginable possibilities (Ibidem, 20-21). To educate students is not anymore to ensure they “have” mathematics, but it is that they “become mathematical. In that sense, the goal of education is less about acquiring things, and more about becoming some-thing. Whereas in a typical mathematics class, the temptation […] have been to focus on the final products of the students’ efforts – i.e. their symbolic representations and their logical arguments – in order to assess the appropriateness of their actions and to judge the worth of the activity Enactivism prompts us to attend as closely to the preceding actions – the unformulated exploration, the undirected movement, the unstructured interaction, wherein the body is wholly engaged in mathematical play – as to the formal mathematical ideas that might emerge from those actions (Davis, Sumara, Kieren, 1996, 156).

Towers, Martin and Heater (2012) infer, based on Maturana (Maturana, Poerksen, 2004), that what students learn when they interact with each other and a teacher in a mathematics classroom is primarily a way of living (with mathematics) and that it is only through such a process that specific knowledge is developed. In other words, specific mathematics knowledge (the very thing that most teachers are trying to teach) is a kind of byproduct of this other, more significant, process. This prompts us to aim at directing attention to the ways of being that are being fostered in classrooms (and not to monitoring the knowledge generated). The views we offer here, grounded in what we label as enactivist, are not to be seen as the thing-in-themselves, but mainly as matters of reflections, for thinking differently, for pushing the boundaries about what we understand about knowing. It is an intention to take the work that the constructivist discourse has established, and continue to push it further. Enactivism for us plays this role, offering possibilities for thinking differently, for apprehending known concepts and ideas under a new and revitalizing lens, for knowing more about knowing or, as von Foerster (2003) would have it, for understanding understanding. Author’s Presentation: Jérôme Proulx is Professor of “Mathematics Education” at University of Québec - Montréal (Canada). Elaine Simmt is Professor of “Mathematics Education & Director”, Master of Education in Educational Studies University of Alberta (Canada).

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Notes 1

Our entry into enactivism has been done as mathematics education researchers and thus our examples come from it. We see them, however, as pertinent for other areas of education.

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Interpreting enactivism for learning and teaching

ANDY BEGG

Abstract: Enactivism is a way of understanding how all organisms including human beings, organize themselves, and interact with their environments. This vision contrasts with traditional ideas of learning that are based on a separation of the learner and the world. From an enactivist perspective the teacher is a relevant aspect of the learners’ environment. This paper has two parts, it begins with some ideas about enactivism, then it shows a personal journey and some factors that made me reconsider how I see myself, how I learn, and how I see the learning/teaching relationship. Riassunto: L’Enattivismo è una via per capire come tutti gli organismi, compresi gli esseri umani, vivono, si organizzano e interagiscono con il loro ambiente. Questa visione contrasta con le idee tradizionali di apprendimento che si basano sulla separazione del discente e del mondo. Dal punto di vista dell’enattivismo un insegnante è un aspetto importante dell’interazione. Questo lavoro ha due parti, inizia con alcune idee su enattivismo, poi passa ad illustrare un percorso personale e alcuni fattori che mi hanno portato a riconsiderare come mi vedo, come conosco e come vedo la connessione apprendimento / insegnamento. Keyworks: Enactivism, Education, Learning, Teaching.

PART 1 Introduction Enactivism is largely based on ideas about self-producing (autopoietic) living systems from the biologists Maturana and Varela (Maturana, 1970; Maturana, Varela, 1980, 1987). It has been elaborated on by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch (1991) and summarized by Capra (1996). It draws upon and is linked to ideas from systems theory and complexity (von Bertalanffy, 1968), biology (Bateson, 1972), and phenomenology (MerleauPonty, 1962). The essence of enactivism is: learning is living, living is learning, and this is true for all living organisms.

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With enactivism we and the world are inseparable; we co-emerge – cognition (learning) cannot be separated from being (living). Knowledge is the domain of possibilities that emerges as we respond to and cause changes within our world. For me enactivism fits with numerous other ideas that interest me. These include Eastern and European psychology (Molino, 1998; Fromm, 1978, 1993), feminist thinking and emotion (Gilligan, 1982; Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, Tarule, 1986), caring thinking (Noddings, 1992), ecopsychology (Lovelock, 1979; Roszak, Gomes, Kanner, 1995; Sessions, 1995), Eastern ways of thinking and knowing (Gunaratana, 1991; Krishnamurti, 1954, 1955; Nhãt Hanh, 1975; Nisker, 1998), ideas about the learning and knowing of traditional indigenous people (Wolff, 2001), and the place of thinking in education. Enactivism has been interpreted for educators by numerous writers, and I have been influenced by Davis and his colleagues (Davis, 1996; Davis, Sumara, Luce-Kapler, 2000); but in my experience teachers often feel uncomfortable with enactivism because they simply want to know what they are expected to do. Santiago/enactivist theory Capra (1996) explains the interrelatedness within and between living systems and wrote In the emerging theory of living systems mind is not a thing, but a process. It is cognition, the process of knowing, and it is identified with the process of life itself. This is the essence of the Santiago theory of cognition, proposed by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (257).

This theory implies that our perceptions and experiences occur through and are mediated by our bodies and nervous systems; we cannot generate a description that is a pure description of reality, independent of ourselves. Our experiences reflect ourselves as observer; our knowledge does not exist except as we distinguish it. It is not just that we cannot access an existing reality, but rather, our realities are brought into existence through our activities as observers. From a biological point of view ‘learning’ merges with action as patterns of neuronal firings (or resonating neuronal assemblies) BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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that have evolved over time react in situations involving activity. The patterns of firings change as the individual has new experiences and as they come to see things differently. Capra (1996) suggests that this evolutionary change process is a mathematically ‘chaotic’ one involving dynamic systems. Complexity In terms of sense-based knowing/thinking, Varela, Thompson and Rosch (1991) wrote that, cognition depends on the kinds of awareness that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities. They see a living organism (person, animal, or plant) and their environment as needing to be considered together, that one can not separate knowing from doing and from the body, and that knowing is doing which in the end is inseparable from self-identity or being. They also elaborated on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and claim that the body needs to be understood as both physical/ biological, and at the same time, as experiential/phenomenological. From this perspective our mind (the non-physical faculty linking the body/nervous system/ brain and our consciousness of the world) also links us with others and both the biological and historical world. All these inter-relationships imply complexity. The complexity and interrelationships within Merleau Ponty’s phenomenology resonates with chaos and dynamic systems and with enactivist ways of knowing that involve ‘being-in-the-world’, ‘knowledge-in-action’, and awareness (or non-cognitive knowing). These ways of knowing can be interpreted in a number of ways from the analytic perspective of traditional psychology to one that pushes cultural boundaries and fits more with direct knowing of Eastern philosophy and traditional indigenous people. While phenomenologists seek descriptive rather than interpretive accounts, these descriptions are based on a ‘deep understanding’ which suggests more than traditional cognitive knowing.

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Enactivism within education These ideas have been interpreted within education by numerous people including Davis (1996) and his colleagues (Davis, Sumara, Kieren, 1996). For them, with enactivism, instead of seeing learning as “coming to know”, the learner and the learned, the knower and the known, the self and the other, are all co-evolving and co-implicated. The context is neither the setting for a learning activity, nor the place where the student is, but rather, the student is literally part of the context. With enactivism the complexity of learning is emphasised: learning should not be understood in terms of a sequence of actions, but in terms of an ongoing structural dance – a complex choreography – of events which, even in retrospect, cannot be fully disentangled and understood, let alone reproduced (Davis, Sumara, Kieren, 1996, 153).

Enactivism emphasizes knowing rather than knowledge. This contrasts with constructivism where knowledge is interpreted as a human construct and evaluated in terms of its fit with the knower’s experience. Even with radical constructivism (von Glasersfeld, 1995) the emphasis is on individual interpretation of and abstractions from experience, and these are acknowledged as being shaped by the learning context, by interaction with others, and by the social milieu. Davis (1996) sees both radical and social constructivism as being based on the modernist separation of self from other and from the world; and claims that both versions of constructivism have difficulties because they see knowledge as something, and want to assign it a location. Bateson (1972) provides an alternative to this need to locate knowledge, he says that there is no such thing as information, it is not knowledge-asobject but knowledge-as-action. This fits with the idea of Davis (1996), he wrote that in enactivism collective action is not for individual sensemaking but as a location for shared meanings and understanding because cognition is not in minds and brains but in the possibility for shared action. Knowledge is not apart from world but embedded in it in a series of increasingly complex systems (groups, schools, communities, cultures, humanity, biosphere), and embodied knowledge extends to these bodies that are larger than human. Varela (1992) reinforces this, he saw enactivism as providing an alternative to the constructivists’ notion of representation by BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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focussing on self-organizing systems. From this viewpoint he questioned the existence of a world independent of the knower and sees the knower, the knowing and the known as emerging together. Enactivism in the classroom Davis is concerned with practice in the classroom. An important implication for teaching that fits with enactivism is listening (Davis, 1996) – not at a shallow level but at a deep level. He discriminates between evaluative listening (the traditional evaluative role taken by teachers), interpretive listening (which cuts through the noise of ‘play’ and leads to more flexibility in the classroom), and hermeneutic listening (which involves more negotiation and co-implicated activity within the classroom). He sees listening as often situated in a ‘play’ situation; and as a situation where ‘subjectivity loses itself ’. Play is ‘not the opposite of seriousness’ but rather ‘seriousness in playing is necessary to make play wholly play’ (Gadamer, 1990). Davis’s (1996) notion of play recognizes that play only exists in the playing, it involves the use of ‘body time’ and requires totally involvement. He sees play as an essential human quality that is evident in all we do and as something that can be realized in stillness, and in solitude. Davis (1996) sees past learning theories as not explaining non-cognitive or unformulated learning because our concern is with formulated (or conscious) knowledge and because we see the cognising agent as being separate from the world. He discriminates between formulated and unformulated knowledge and says much of what we do is unformulated as we are not conscious of doing it, at he same time, formulated and unformulated knowledge are complementary and inseparable. He talks about what we think about and say (formulated) and what we do without conscious thought (unformulated), and suggests that through the play between these we find space for learning. Enactivism for Davis explains unformulated knowing because “every act is an act of cognition” and “we are not separate from but coupled to our situation/context”, or a Maturana and Varela (1987) have said, “to live is to know”. Davis therefore uses ‘cognition’ to include unformulated knowledge and assumes that action is equivalent to conscious knowing which is part of enactivism. Unformulated knowledge is important as learning involves EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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resolving tensions between tacit and explicit knowledge, between emotional and reasoned actions, and between intuitive and calculated responses (Davis, 1996). He speaks of understanding implying sympathy, and meaning implying intent; and of meaning having an affective dimension that is often ignored because of the Cartesian knowing/feeling split. Noddings (1992) concern with ‘caring’ is an examples of this affective aspect and is related to Heidegger’s idea (cited in Mingers, 1995) of ‘dasein’ that is characterized by a feeling of concern; and ‘solicitude’ that suggests a caring and a concern for others. In terms of curriculum Davis (1996) writes about curriculum anticipating. This means that the teacher works from good learning activities but must anticipate different ways that the lesson might move in response to the students’ interactions while still linking with the major ideas that underpin the particular curriculum. PART 2 My background ‘How do we learn?’ or ‘how do we come to know?’ These questions have interested me throughout my career in education. As a student in the 1960s at university and when I began teaching (as a teacher of mathematics) the dominant educational discourse was behaviourism which had superseded associationism and direct teaching for memory-based learning. I used this behavioural approach and often found myself teaching the subject rather than my students. Yet, when involved in non-academic activities, I focused on the students rather than on specific learning or behavioural objectives. In the 1980s and 1990s constructivist ideas gained favour and I was inclined toward the radical version of constructivism (von Glasersfeld, 1995). This led me to focus on helping students construct meanings that make sense to us all rather than mastering particular objectives – still me teaching. At the same time I noted that constructivist ideas had hardly influenced the way that curriculum documents and textbooks were written, how lessons were conducted, or how assessment was organized. My a, b, c, … (associationism, behaviourism, constructivism, …) stimulated an interest in theories and over the next twenty years I ‘collected’ learning theories. The result is a small (but open-ended) chart on my office BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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wall titled What is the X-factor? It is an alphabetic list of over a hundred theories related to learning and teaching. The only letter with no theories is X; hence the title of the chart. Under E there are twelve theories, one of which is enactivism. With this list of learning theories I saw a parallel with the mathematics. Each theory was depended on assumptions (axioms) that were taken as the starting point. I came to see axioms not as truths or self-evident facts, but as assumptions; and in the same way that different axioms lead to different mathematics, so different assumptions lead to different learning theories. With over a hundred theories I concluded that: • no theory represents ‘all’ the truth; and every theory contains ‘some’ truth as it would not become a theory without evidence to support it • the theories consider teaching, learning and knowing in different ways that reflect structural or procedural ways of teaching and of thinking about knowledge. While thinking about these theories and their underpinning assumptions I realized that in teaching I assumed many things that I was not aware of. This caused me to consciously go back to basics. As a teacher the epistemological question, ‘how do we know’, has always seemed important, but with I had begun to see it as inseparable from the ontological question concerning ‘the nature of being’. Non-human knowing/learning A breakthrough for me was to realize that humans are not special. As Maturana (1970) has written, Living systems are cognitive systems and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with and without a nervous systems. I remembered learning in science about simple life forms that ‘respond to stimuli’ but for me this was not quite enough, the responses made by all living things always seemed to be intelligent. Comparing non-human living things with humans – dinosaurs lived much longer; and most living things live without the clutter that we humans accumulate. I wondered about the young albatross, soon after it learns to fly it travels alone around the world and hardly touches land for three years, then returns to where it was born to mate, but how does it know what to do, and how does it know its way home? How does a penguin that EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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has been fishing know where its chick is in a penguin colony of thousands of birds? How has the crow (Marzluff, Angell, 2012) learnt to copy people in so many different ways? How does a bird know about the design and building of nests (Goodfellow, 2011)? How does the salmon that hatched in a river and swam to the sea know its way back to the same river to lay its eggs? Why do dogs hardly ever get lost? How do birds in flocks and fish in schools develop the ability to move together as though they were part of a single organism with a single mind? How do the bees in a hive or the ants in a nest all learn their specific roles and work together so cooperatively? How does a baby turtle know when it first hatches that it must go down the sand to the water? How does a plant know when to flower and how to react to its environment (Chamovitz, 2012)? I know that a plant has a chemical feedback system, but how does it learn, adapt, and co-emerge with its environment? Even bacteria and viruses seem to act intelligently. All living things behave rationally, they seem to know – and ‘coming to know’ is inseparable from being alive. Human knowing/learning Humans, like other organisms, learn and know many things; and most were not learnt in school; indeed, for hundreds of years most people did not go to schools. We learnt to breathe (though perhaps a pat on our back after birth helped the process), we heard music and enjoyed some forms more than others, we ate food and preferred some flavours over others, we heard or read many words and sometimes thought we knew what they meant without ever being told. Some of this learning was subtle and we may not have been aware of the influences, but some seemed innate. Similarly with schooling, much of our academic learning occurs outside class and takes time, for example As a school student I was interested in geometry and learnt Pythagoras’s theorem, its converse, and the related theorems and converses when the angle was not equal to, or greater than, or less than a right angle. A year later in trigonometry I learnt the cosine rule. However, it was not until I started teaching these topics some six or so years later that I came to see that the cosine rule was in fact a complete summary of the eight geometric results.

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Such learning was an emergent process, it partially occurred at a nonconscious level and it took a considerable time. Cultural differences Each of us has a world-view and language abilities, and while these were learnt partly at school they were also learnt informally as part of our enculturation; and these both influence our thinking. But different cultures have different influences on us. For example, in the west we think of ‘self ’ as a physical reality, but from a Buddhist perspective self is a mental representation or construct, not an entity (Engler, 1984). With thinking Kelman (1958) suggests that the West takes as objectifying attiotude while the East takes a subjectifying one; that Western cognition is interested in the objects of cognition, while Eastern cognition is interested in consciousness itself; and that Western languages are noun-oriented (making propositions about things) while Eastern languages are verb-oriented (making propositions about events). These differences tend to lead to dichotomies that may be problematic, these include the self/non-self or self/world splits, which lead to the subject/object, mind/ body, and knower/known dichotomies (Davis, 1996). Such dichotomies have been reinforced by various traditions of individualism in the West (including Aristotelian philosophy, Judaic and Christian religions, and Cartesian thinking). The body/spirit split has been reinforced by the notion of a soul distinct from the body that has connotations of intelligence not being connected with the material body. But even in the west we have resistamnce to these – Merleau-Ponty (1962) rejected this bipolar way of thinking and the rational and empirical ways of knowing, instead he claims that the body renders mind and world inseparable and the body is our means of belonging to our world. Another aspect of human learning that seems different for different cultures is the way that knowledge is handled, in the West we tend to compartmentalize it while in the East and within indigenous cultures it has traditionally been considered more holistically. Additionally, in the west we assume learning is the result of either being taught or being aware of through the senses, but in the chapter titled “Learning to be human again” Wolff (2001, 144-170) describes his experience of an alternative way of knowing. For me this ‘developing an openness for direct awareness’ seems similar to that of advanced practitioners of meditation from Eastern traditions and links with notions of intuition from Western philosophers. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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Who am I? Most of us have ideas about who we are, but are not aware of why we think whatever we think about ourselves. I am not referring here to our names or details of our families, but rather to more fundamental ontological question. Many of us from the west have an individualistic perspective, others are more family or community oriented, and a small number identify themselves as part of the environment. Such feelings about self are part of our world-views and are influenced by the dominant religious and philosophical influences in our societies and the language(s) we use. These world-views are part of what we know, and knowing for Fromm (1978) is of two forms – knowledge (possessing facts) and knowing (with insight as part of being). Later Fromm (1993) discriminated between ‘to be aware’, ‘to know’, and ‘to be conscious of ’, and said that while these are often thought of as synonymous, the root of ‘aware’ (the German gewahr) means ‘attention’ or ‘mindfulness’ which is different from ‘thinking about’. These ideas link with the Eastern influenced ideas of Krishnamurti (1954) who spoke of the need for awareness and self-knowledge which is not thinking and the need to know ourselves which means to know our relationship with the world. For me all these – awareness, mindfulness/meditation, insight, and intuition – are forms of coming to know that fit with enactivism, and I link them with contemplative thinking. Common educational assumptions To improve one’s practice as a teacher or as a learner one must question what one assumes about one’s practice. Some of the assumptions many of us make or have made as teachers or students include: ‘learning is the result of teaching’ ‘teaching is necessary for learning’ ‘immediately after learning a topic a student will understand it’ ‘certain topics must be learnt by all students’ ‘teachers and administrators know what students must learn’ ‘all topics can be broken into sub-topics that can be taught sequentially’

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‘a sequential subtopic must be mastered before moving to the next topic’ ‘assessment is useful, has a positive influence, and reinforces learning’ ‘that informal learning is of less value than school learning’. My reaction to all of these is that each, like learning theories, may contain some truth, but they are slogans – we need to think more deeply about the nature of knowledge and learning, and question their validity when considering education. Thinking within learning/knowing In the past education seems to have emphasized knowledge, knowing, and experience; but knowing and being able to recall to me seems not enough. To engage with what one knows involves thinking and this seems to me to be part of the learning process that is too often neglected. Davis suggested that listening was important, and I agree with him that it is a deeper listening than normal that is required. However, listening is only one of the sense-based ways of coming to know, and it seems equally important that whenever we use sense-based knowing we need to be working at the deeper or hermeneutic level rather than merely at an evaluative or an interpretive level. All such hermeneutic engagement requires forms of thinking that are often ignored. Thus, for me, enactivism is concerned about the living/learning process and this involves a multiplicity of forms of thinking. From my perspective thinking involves six main and related forms: critical, creative, meta-cognitive, sensory-based, caring, and contemplative thinking. While each of these can be subdivided further, a synthesis of them rather than an analysis is probably more fruitful because all six forms are inter-related. Critical, creative, and meta-cognitive thinking The first three forms of thinking have traditionally been given some (though often inadequate) attention in education. Critical thinking including reasoning and logic and depends on assumptions that one either makes consciously or takes for granted, but too often the assumptions are EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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not made explicit. Creative thinking is an imaginative and open form of thinking that involves considering alternative perspectives and possibly imagining different assumptions, but often this is not considered relevant to subjects such as mathematics and science where it is in fact particularly relevant. Meta-cognitive thinking is the monitoring of ones thinking and while this occurs it is uncommon to see teachers consciously using strategies to encourage and develop metacognitive thinking strategies. Sensory-based, caring and contemplative thinking The other three forms of thinking seem to me to need even more attention. Sensory-based thinking involves making sense of information received through our senses but making sense requires alternatives to be considered and in many instances for sense made to be seen as tentative. For example, most children think the sky is blue, but what about at night, and what about from outer space – is the sky blue, or does it just seem to be blue on a fine day? Caring thinking links with emotions (unformulated knowledge, personal constructions, and actions, that are part of our knowing/being), and with our concern for self, for other people and life-forms, and for the world. With the increasing emphasis on the eco-system caring is being stressed more, but often in an unbalanced way so that we care for the things we like and ignore the many other things that are essential for our existence. And finally, contemplative thinking is the term I use for intuition, direct insight, awareness, and meditation. Contemplative thinking has always been to the fore in the East, but is too often not given adequate consideration in the west. Personally I think it is of extreme importance because it is largely though contemplation and direct insight that we come to see the connectivity of self and others and the world and then begin to see knowing and being as the same. For me contemplative thinking links not only with unformulated knowledge and the intuition of some western philosophers, but also with the ‘mindfulness meditation’ of Buddhism and western mindfulness (Langer, 1989, 1997). I think of such contemplative thinking as ‘thought without thinking’. Such awareness or attunement to being alive was discussed by Varela, Thompson and Rosch (1991) in their bringing together of cognitive science and the Buddhist traditions. Nisker (1998) described it as a non-interfering, nonreactive awareness and said it was pure knowing without BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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the additional projections of ego or personality. He referred to being mindful as being like shifting out of gear into neutral; disengaging the drive shaft of your personality, putting your survival brain or reactive self in idle. Thus mindfulness complements cognitive knowing on which western education has concentrated. Nhãt Hanh (1975) went further and wrote of five categories of mind (which are in themselves the mind), these are bodily and physical forms, feelings, perceptions, mental functionings, and consciousness; and he sees mindfulness as involving an integration of these aspects of mind. Conclusion Enactivism has pushed me to question the balance between academic knowing and knowing through developing an awareness of self (through forms of contemplative thinking). This awareness may be at numerous ‘levels of consciousness’ that are not normally associated with schooling; they are represented by eastern ‘mindfulness’ (Nhãt Hanh, 1975) that was discussed by Varela, Thompson and Rosch (1991) and others. Historically awareness might be traced to the phrase ‘know thyself ’ from the Greek temple in Delphi which links with traditional eastern ideasand with those from recent writers such as Krishnamurti (1954, 1955). In the western world mindfulness has links with Gestalt awareness (Perls, Hefferline, Goodman, 1951) and with pre-cognitive awareness from phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, 1962). In the last twenty years the concept resonates with reflection (Schön, 1983), mindfulness (Langer, 1989, 1997), disciplined noticing (Mason, 1993), and the participatory consciousness (in research) of Heshusius (1994). These ideas cover a range of ways of knowing from non-cognitive to cognitive, and the emphasis varies from experiential to academic. I see enactivism as not creating dichotomies between non-cognitive and cognitive or between experiential and academic, but as ensuring that complementary ways of knowing are all given attention and credit. Our challenge as educators is to explore these other ways of knowing and learning. The ideas within enactivism link with ideas that have been explored in the past but need further exploration. For me these ideas imply a shift from teaching to learning that also involves ensuring that schools interpret such shifts in cross-cultural ways that involves notions from east and west. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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Just as I started with some of the criticisms of constructivism, so enactivism will no doubt be critiqued. This paper is my interpretation of the theory and and acknowledging that my interpretation may be inadequate, I hope that readers will suspend their judgement of enactivism until they have delved deeper into the literature and considered the theory for themselves. Enactivism presents a challenge to teachers as their question, how should I teach? remains partially unanswered. Enactivism made me rethink my teaching. I no longer focus on teaching or providing information, but rather on learning. I try to provide a climate for enquiry, for sharing, and for thinking. My focus is on offering possibilities for students to be aware of their thoughts, and to ensure that my ideas do not dominate. My work has shifted from telling to questioning. Author’s Presentation: Andy Begg is Associate Professor at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.

References Bateson, G. (1972), Steps to an ecology of mind, New York, NY, Ballentine Books. Belenky, M., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., Tarule J. (1986), Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice and Mind, New York, NY, Basic Books. Capra, F. (1996), The Web of Life: a new synthesis of mind and matter, London, England, Harper Collins. Chamovitz, D. (2012), What a plant knows: a field guide to the senses, New York, NY, Scientific America/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Davis, B. (1996), Teaching Mathematics: Towards a Sound Alternative, New York, NY, Garland Publishing. Davis, B., Sumara, D., Kieren, T. (1996), “Cognition, co-emergence, curriculum”, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 28(2), pp. 151–169. Davis, B., Sumara, D., Luce-Kapler, R. (2000), Engaging minds: learning and teaching in a complex world, New Jersey, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Engler, J. (1984), “Buddhist psychology: contributions to Western psychological theory”, in A. Molino (Ed.) (1998), The couch and the tree: dialogues in psychoanalysis and Buddhism, New York, NY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Fromm, E. (1978), To have or to be?, London, England, Jonathan Cape. — (1993), The Art of Being, London, England, Constable. Gadamer, H.G. (1990), Truth and method, New York, NY, Continuum (cited in Davis, 1996).

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Gilligan, C. (1982), In a different voice: psychological theory and women’s development, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. Goodfellow, P. (2011), Avian architecture: how birds design, engineer and build, New Jersey, NJ, Princeton University Press. Gunaratana, H. (1991), Mindfulness in Plain English, Boston, MA, Wisdom Publications. Heshusius, L. (1994),“Freeing Ourselves from Objectivity: Managing Subjectivity or Turning Toward a Participatory Mode of Consciousness”, Educational Researcher 23(3),15–22. Kelman, H. (1958), “Psychoanalytic thought and Eastern wisdom”, in A. Molino (Ed.) (1998), The couch and the tree: dialogues in psychoanalysis and Buddhism, New York, NY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Krishnamurti, J. (1954), The First and Last Freedom, London, England, Victor Gollancz. — (1955), Education and the Significance of Life, London, England, Victor Gollancz. Langer, E. (1989), Mindfulness, Reading, MA, Addison Wesley. — (1997), The Power of Mindful Learning, Reading, MA, Addison Wesley. Lovelock, J. (1979), Gaia: a new look at life on earth, Oxford, England, Oxford University Press. Marzluff, J., Angell, T. (2012), Gifts of the crow: how perception, emotion, and thought allow smart birds to behave like humans, New York, NY: Free Press. Mason, J. (1993), “Learning from experience in mathematics”, in D. Boud, R. Cohen, D. Walker (Eds.), Using Experience for Learning, Buckingham, England, Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press,113–126. Maturana, H. (1970), Biology of Cognition, Biol. Computer Lab. Research Report, 9.0, Urbana, IL, University of Illinois. (Reprinted in Maturana and Varela, 1980). Maturana, H., Varela, F. (Eds.) (1980), Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living. Dordrecht, Germany, Reidel. — (1987), The Tree of Knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding, Boston, MA, Shambala Press. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962), Phenomenology of Perception, London, England, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Mingers, J. (1995), Self-Producing Systems: Implications and Applications of Autopoiesis, New York, NY, Plenum Press. Molino, A. (Ed.) (1998), The couch and the tree: dialogues in psychoanalysis and Buddhism, New York, NY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Nhãt Hanh, Thích (1975), The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation (Revised Edition), Boston, Beacon Press (Phép la cua su tinh thuc, translated by Mobi Ho). Nisker, W. (1998), Buddha’s Nature: who we really are and why this matters, London, England, Rider/Random House.

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Noddings, N. (1992), The Challenge to Care in Schools, New York, NY, Teachers College Press. Perls, F., Hefferline, R., Goodman, P. (1951), Gestalt therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality, Harmondsworth, England, Pelican Books. Roszak, T., Gomes, M., Kanner, A. (Eds.) (1995), Ecopsychology: Restoring the earth, healing the mind, San Francisco, CA, Sierra Club Books. Schön, D. (1983), The Reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action, New York, NY, Basic Books. Sessions, G. (Ed.) (1995), Deep ecology for the 21st century, Boston, MA, Shambhala Publications. Varela, F. (1992), “Whence Perceptual Meaning? A Cartography of Current Ideas”, in F. Varela, J.-P. Dupuy (Eds.), Understanding Origins: Contemporary Views on the Origin of life, Mind and Society, Dordrecht, Germany, Kluwer. Varela, F., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (1991), The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. von Bertalanffy, L. (1968), General System Theory, New York, NY, Braziller. von Glasersfeld, E. (1995), Radical constructivism: a way of knowing and learning, London, England, Falmer Press. Wolff, R. (2001), Original wisdom: stories of an ancient way of knowing, Rochester, VT, Inner Traditions.

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Approche énactive de l’activité humaine, simplexité et conception de formations professionnelles

GERMAIN POIZAT, DELI SALINI, MARC DURAND

Abstract: This article presents a research program in education, which is developed within an enactive perspective and focuses on human activity. More specifically, activity is conceptualized as dynamic, meaningful for the actor, giving rise to experience and autonomous. The analysis of actual activity in working and training situations highlights phenomena of simplexity, which are summarized in three points: transparency and appropriation, mimesis, and typicalisation. As a conclusion, the article points out some avenues taking seriously these phenomena of simplexity for designing professional learning environments. Riassunto: L’articolo presenta un programma di ricerca in educazione, fondato sull’analisi dell’attività umana secondo una prospettiva enattiva, dunque tenendo conto dei suoi aspetti di totalità dinamica, autonoma e significante, e della dimensione esperienziale che sempre l’accompagna. A partire dall’analisi dell’attività reale in situazioni di lavoro o di formazione, si evidenziando dei fenomeni di semplessità, di cui presentiamo tre aspetti principali: trasparenza e appropriazione, mimetismo, tipicalizzazione. A conclusione dell’articolo indichiamo alcune piste di lavoro a proposito dell’elaborazione di ambienti di formazione, che tengano effettivamente conto dei fenomeni di semplessità. Keywords: Activity, Training, Typicalisation, Mimesis, Transparency.

Introduction L’activité d’un individu se transforme à tout instant, en rapport avec a) les pratiques et les environnements dans lesquels il est engagé et que, par ses actes mêmes, il contribue à définir, b) sa propre histoire, et donc de ses transformations passées. Mais cette activité est aussi faite de redondances, de ressemblances ou de similitudes. Identifié et posé par Héraclite, ce paradoxe de la permanence et du changement qui a reçu avec Deleuze (1969)

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une mise en perspective d’envergure, est central pour les spécialistes de la formation. L’hypothèse de dispositions sous-jacentes aux actes hic et nunc est souvent avancée pour rendre compte de leur généralisation par-delà le caractère singulier et éphémère de l’activité. Elle ne peut cependant être retenue que si elle permet de surmonter, au plan conceptuel, la coexistence de changement et de permanence dans le flux de l’activité, et si elle préserve à l’activité in situ son caractère non mécanique d’actualisation indéterminée de possibles. La disposition signifie alors une possibilité et une propension à agir d’une certaine façon, tout en manifestant de la créativité et de l’inventivité dans des situations nouvelles, et des ruptures de routines dans les situations quotidiennes. Ceci implique d’aborder l’activité humaine comme procédant d’une dynamique d’ouverture pas à pas de possibles, conférant une indétermination essentielle à ses actualisations situées. Cette ouverture n’est ni infinie ni indéfinie (elle est spécifiée par la culture, l’histoire de l’activité passée, la situation actuelle), de sorte qu’à chaque instant, seul un faisceau fluctuant et limité de possibles est potentiellement actualisable. C’est sur fond de ce questionnement que nous décrivons notre programme scientifique en formation des adultes, qui prend et spécifie l’activité humaine comme objet d’étude et de conception. Cette approche s’inscrit dans le cadre du programme de recherche empirique et technologique Cours d’action (Theureau, 2004, 2006) qui, selon une perspective enactive, met au centre l’idée que la cognition se manifeste comme propriété émergeante d’un couplage acteur-environnement et de son histoire (Maturana, Varela, 1987). Ce programme vise l’étude scientifique de l’activité humaine dans des pratiques professionnelles variées, et la conception de situations (de travail, de formation) qui prennent en considération ses caractéristiques. Se fondant sur le postulat d’enaction, ce programme souligne la dimension cognitive, autonome, incarnée et située de l’activité, tout en développant d’autres hypothèses à la fois interdépendantes et spécifiques. Après avoir justifié notre choix de l’activité comme objet d’étude et de conception, nous détaillons les principales hypothèses selon lesquelles est abordée la question de ses transformations et permanences. Ensuite, nous traitons de phénomènes rencontrés au cours de nos recherches, que nous interprétons comme des manifestations de simplexité. Et enfin, nous présentons des principes de conception des environnements éducatifs, émanant de nos recherches à visée technologique, qui prennent en compte la double hypothèse de l’enaction et de la simplexité. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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L’analyse de l’activité selon une hypothèse enactive Nos recherches prennent l’activité comme point de vue, comme visée de formation, comme objet d’analyse, et comme objet d’intervention. Tout en abordant cette activité selon des présupposés enactifs, elles trouvent leur origine dans la distinction tâche/activité qui a contribué à structurer le courant de l’ergonomie de langue française. De la formation au travail à l’analyse de l’activité Le courant de l’ergonomie francophone (Daniellou, 2005; Ombredane, Faverge, 1955) a montré que le travail ne se réduit pas à un ensemble de prescriptions (portant sur l’objectif ou les objectifs à atteindre, les conditions d’atteinte et les procédures) car, quelle que soit la pratique professionnelle, il existe un écart entre le travail prescrit et l’activité réelle des opérateurs. Même dans les tâches les plus élémentaires, les opérateurs ne font pas exactement ce qui est prescrit, précisément pour faire ce qui leur est demandé. Ainsi, le travail peut être considéré comme une sorte d’objet biface, synthétisant deux univers: l’un polarisé par le type de management, l’organisation et la division du travail, la conception des tâches à accomplir, les procédures plus ou moins standardisées et qui définit, impose, norme ce qu’il y a à faire; l’autre consistant en un accomplissement situé, une réalisation concrète d’actes qui implique un engagement des hommes et des collectifs, et une source d’expérience qui suppose une dynamique d’investissement de soi (e.g., Schwartz, 1988). Connaître le travail, c’est connaître l’articulation subtile et dynamique de ces deux dimensions, et l’analyse des prescriptions doit être complétée par l’identification de ce que font effectivement les acteurs pour y répondre, c’est à dire par l’analyse de leur activité. Des échanges et collaborations ont vu le jour entre les sciences du travail et de l’éducation, installant et structurant l’analyse de l’activité comme une approche heuristique et productive dans tout domaine des sciences de la formation (Barbier, Durand, 2003, 2006). Dans cette perspective, notre programme de recherche porte sur les rapports entre travail et formation, envisagés par une centration sur l’activité humaine. Sa pertinence est référée à une connaissance scientifique des situations de travail et de formation, et de leurs relations. Ce qui implique des analyses de l’activité lors de EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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ces pratiques sociales et la conception d’environnement espérés formateurs eux-mêmes basés sur des connaissances de l’activité des acteurs (Durand, 2008). Une conception de l’activité selon des présupposés enactifs Comme souligné plus haut, nous abordons l’activité humaine et la conception de dispositif de formation selon une perspective enactive. Le paradigme de l’enaction est relayé dans le domaine de l’éducation (Davis, Sumara, 1997; Li, Clark, Winchester, 2000; Holton, 2010; Zorn, 2011), et nous en reprenons ici les concepts centraux: l’autonomie, le caractère incarné, incorporé et situé de la cognition, la création de signification et la prise en compte de l’expérience pour la connaissance de la cognition. – L’activité est considérée comme une totalité autonome consistant en un couplage structurel entre un acteur et son environnement; ces deux éléments sont donc conçus comme non préexistants à la relation qui les lie (Maturana, Varela, 1987). Notamment, le couplage structurel fait émerger en permanence un pôle acteur et un pôle environnement selon un principe de clôture opérationnelle, qui fait que les organismes vivants définissent et entretiennent leur organisation dans leurs interactions avec leur environnement, sans se perdre dans celles-ci. Ces interactions sont récurrentes et récursives, de sorte qu’à chaque instant, l’organisation de l’acteur est modifiée par le flux incessant de son couplage; organisation dont, dans le même temps, ce couplage dépend (Maturana, Varela, 1987). – L’activité humaine est une totalité incarnée et incorporée. Elle est un flux dynamique, où la cognition est conceptualisée comme l’activité concrète de tout l’organisme, dont les aspects sensoriels, moteurs et cognitifs forment un ensemble indissociable (Chemero, 2009), et dépend d’expérience qui sont fonction des capacités sensori-motrices du corps (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 1993). De sorte que l’activité, prise comme une totalité, ne peut être analysée par une décomposition en processus isolés et séparés (prise de décision, résolution de problèmes, coordinations sensori-motrices, perception, contrôle émotionnel, régulation de la motivation…). – L’activité est radicalement et dynamiquement située dans un environnement spatial, temporel, matériel, culturel et social (Hutchins, 2008; Lave, 1988; Norman, 1993). Elle est indissociable de l’environnement dans lequel BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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elle prend forme, et à la construction duquel l’acteur participe. Le couplage structurel entre l’acteur et l’environnement se transforme en permanence au cours de l’activité, qui émerge d’un effort d’adaptation à un contexte dont les éléments significatifs pour l’acteur constituent des ressources qu’il utilise pour agir. – L’activité est un processus permanent de création et d’attribution de significations: agir c’est construire des significations dans un contexte culturel et en relation avec d’autres (Varela et al., 1993). Le couplage entre l’acteur et l’environnement est asymétrique dans la mesure que c’est l’acteur qui définit ce qui, dans son environnement, est significatif/pertinent pour lui, compte tenu de son état physiologique, de sa personnalité, de sa compétence, de son histoire, et de ses interactions passées et présentes avec cet environnement. – L’activité humaine va de pair avec une modalité de conscience particulière, consubstantielle au flux de l’activité et à l’origine d’un point de vue en première personne: une présence à soi ou expérience de soi-même en train d’agir. Nous définissons, cette modalité consciente particulière de vécu comme conscience pré-réflexive; cette familiarité de l’acteur à son activité est susceptible d’être exprimée par lui par la mise en place de conditions spécifiques (Theureau, 2006). L’activité comme semiosis La notion d’activité-signe, développée dans le cadre du programme de recherche Cours d’action, résulte du rapprochement théorique entre la conception du lien indissociable entre activité et cognition inspiré de Maturana et Varela (1987), et celle de pensée-signe de Peirce (1931-1958): toute activité est cognitive, et toute cognition est inscrite dans une semiosis, de sorte que la dynamique d’activité est caractérisée par une dynamique de signification. La conception triadique du signe de Peirce, ainsi que les notions de semiosis et de phanéroscopie (le nom que Peirce donne à sa phénoménologie) soulignent, comme dans la perspective de l’enaction, la dimension dynamique et non causaliste de l’activité cognitive, et la non séparation entre la signification et l’ensemble de l’expérience humaine. En accord avec une conception de la cognition comme propriété émergeante de l’activité de chaque individu, la sémiotique peircienne conceptualise la cognition comme EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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un mouvement interprétatif émergeant des relations entre les trois composantes du signe, et non comme la résultante de relations dyadiques entre la pensée et les faits (Peirce, 1931-1958, 1.420). Cette sémiotique peircienne est convoquée pour une description symbolique acceptable (selon les termes de Varela) de l’activité humaine et de la conscience pré-réflexive, par une réélaboration de certains de ses éléments, afin de passer d’une dimension spéculative à une dimension opérationnelle de cette sémiotique. Cela débouche sur la constitution d’un cadre d’analyse sémiologique de l’activité humaine, qui permet de rendre compte des dynamiques de transformation de celle-ci (Theureau, 2006). L’apprentissage/développement comme aspect indissociable de l’activité humaine L’activité présente à l’observateur deux dimensions indissociables. L’une peut être qualifiée de productive ou fonctionnelle: le travail; l’autre de constructive ou méta- fonctionnelle: l’apprentissage/développement (Falzon, 1994; Samurçay, Rabardel, 2004). Les pratiques sociales privilégient l’une ou l’autre dans le travail ou dans la formation, mais ces deux dimensions sont toujours co-présentes. La dimension constructive de l’activité est liée à des accomplissements situés comme dans le travail, et ne se produit pas à côté ou en plus de l’activité productive: elle lui est inhérente et l’apprentissage se constitue toujours dans un accomplissement. Symétriquement, il y a toujours une dimension productive dans l’activité même dans les situations dévolues à la formation. De sorte que l’apprentissage est toujours une dimension de l’activité globale totale, et non un processus séparé et isolable. Il qualifie donc les conséquences de l’inscription temporelle de l’activité et de sa récursivité, et non des processus psychologiques séparés de l’action. La transformation permanente de l’activité dans le temps est une propriété essentielle de l’activité humaine, qui fait de l’individu un être toujours inachevé et en devenir. Ces transformations continues résultent des interactions incessantes entre appropriation d’objets (concrets ou abstraits) distingués dans leur environnement par les acteurs, et individuation ou transformation des acteurs en tant qu’êtres s’individuant (Simondon, 1989). L’individu est une phase de l’être, c’est-à-dire un état d’un système sur sa trajectoire de transformation, qui recèle des potentialités de transformation. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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L’individuation implique donc l’intériorisation de ce qui vient de l’extérieur, mais aussi le fait que: a) l’individu ne soit pas réductible à un être, puisqu’il est inachevé et relatif, et b) il ne contienne pas tout l’être: le devenir n’est pas une altération d’un être achevé, mais le mode même de l’être. De la simplexité dans les pratiques professionnelles et en formation Nos recherches ont notamment mis en évidence un nœud constitué par les propriétés simultanées de complexité et simplicité du travail et de son acquisition qui peuvent être traduits dans les termes suivants: a) toute activité laborieuse, même apparemment élémentaire et simple, présente des traits de complexité; b) cette complexité passe généralement inaperçue si l’observateur n’adopte pas des méthodes et une attitude la faisant sortir de sa clandestinité et lui permettant d’y accéder; c) les couplages individuenvironnement dans les situations de travail et de formation apparaissent comme des façons d’appréhender et de manager cette dialectique complexité-simplicité selon un mode que l’on peut qualifier de simplexe. Activité humaine et simplexité Le concept de simplexité proposé par Berthoz (2009) en neurosciences et en sciences de la cognition, nous semble heuristique dans le domaine du travail et de la formation. La définition qui suit, constitue une base pour cela: “Ce mot résume […] une nécessité biologique apparue au cours de l’évolution pour permettre la survie des animaux et de l’homme sur notre planéte: malgré la complexité des processus naturels, le cerveau doit trouver des solutions, et ces solutions relèvent de principes simplificateurs. Elles permettent de traiter très rapidement, avec élégance et efficacité, des situations complexes, en tenant compte de l’expérience passée et en anticipant l’avenir. Elles facilitent, dans l’intersubjectivité, la compréhension des intentions d’autrui. Elles maintiennent ou privilégient le «sens». De telles solutions ne dénaturent pas la complexité du réel. Elles ne sont ni des caricatures, ni des raccourcis, ni des résumés. Elles peuvent impliquer des détours, une apparente complexité, mais en posant les problèmes de façon originale” (Berthoz, 2009, 16).

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La simplexité n’est pas la simplification d’une tâche, d’un problème ou d’une situation, mais une prise en charge de sa complexité selon des modalités rusées et élégantes, voire esthétiques. Cette hypothèse nous paraît aussi rendre compte des inventions techniques et culturelles, différentes de celles relevant des sciences de la nature. Nous conceptualisons la simplexité comme caractérisant le couplage d’un être vivant s’individuant dans ses échanges avec son environnement, sous l’hypothèse que ce couplage: a) est une totalité émergente; b) donne lieu à une expérience signifiante, dont le sens est véhiculé par des signes et dont l’inscription corporelle est fondamentale; c) est constructif et émulateur de mondes propres et de corps propres en permanente transformation et reconstruction. Nous présentons trois composantes phénoménales de ces manifestations de simplexité dans une perspective éducative: la transparence, le mimétisme et la typicalisation. Transparence, appropriation et simplexité Dans une perspective enactive, la cognition se manifeste comme la propriété d’un organisme de « faire émerger » ou « enacter » un corps propre et un monde propre (Varela et al., 1991), que Berthoz (2009) considère comme une manifestation emblématique d’un fonctionnement global simplexe. Les êtres vivants spécifient leurs corps et monde propres face à un environnement complexe, dont ils ne prélèvent ou ne font émerger que ce qui fait signe pour eux, en fonction de leur état au temps t. Des objets de l’environnement deviennent ainsi des constituants de leur monde propre, puis de leur corps propre, par appropriation. Ce-faisant les objets deviennent transparents, ce qui est une manifestation simplexe. Ainsi le malvoyant qui utilise une canne blanche pour identifier son environnement proche, s’y déplacer et agir ne peut le faire que si sa canne est devenue transparente pour lui. Tant qu’il n’a pas constitué cet objet comme partie de son corps propre, ses tâtonnements lui servent à identifier ses caractéristiques: sa longueur, sa rigidité, son poids, son centre de gravité, etc… Et il faut que la canne soit devenue transparente pour que les tâtonnements constituent l’environnement exploré et non la canne elle-même. En d’autres termes, un instrument (pour l’action ou pour la pensée) ne peut remplir sa fonction constituante du monde propre de l’acteur, que s’il BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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a lui-même été préalablement constitué c’est-à-dire intégré au monde et au corps propres de l’acteur. L’appropriation a une portée très générale. Le clavier de l’ordinateur, la raquette de tennis ou les savoirs abstraits doivent d’abord être appropriés pour être utilisés: si le clavier n’est pas approprié l’acteur ne fait pas l’expérience d’écrire un texte avec son ordinateur, mais celle de presser des touches disposées selon un arrangement spatial difficile à identifier. Il en va de même pour la raquette et les savoirs. Cette disparition des objets du champ de la conscience n’est pas définitive puisqu’il suffit d’un effort de l’acteur, d’un dysfonctionnement ou d’un changement de tâche (nettoyer le clavier avec un chiffon) pour que les objets appropriés retrouvent une objectivité. Ces objets appropriés sont donc à disposition de l’acteur, selon une modalité économique, souple, réversible et élégante. Sans appropriation des objets, des règles d’action et de vie en société, de savoirs… les actions humaines seraient laborieuses, coûteuses à accomplir, et les pratiques individuelles ou collectives en seraient fortement enclavées, ralenties et rendues stériles, comme lorsqu’on arrive dans un pays inconnu. L’éducation dont une des visées est de favoriser les apprentissages, a donc un rôle à jouer dans cette perspective de simplexité par appropriation. Le paradoxe est que pour rendre compte de la simplexité qui traverse le quotidien, et pour favoriser son émergence il faut en sortir, c’est-à-dire faire un effort et recourir à des méthodes anti-simplexes. De sorte que l’éducation est, vis à vis de la simplexité, dans un rapport destructif / contributif. Mimétisme et simplexité Nos recherches ont aussi mis en évidence des rapports fréquents entre des expériences mimétiques et l’apprentissage (Durand, sous presse; Durand et al., sous presse), ces expériences s’inscrivant dans une modalité iconique de signification (Peirce, 1931-1958). Cela alimente notre hypothèse que l’offre de modalités iconiques de signification peut faciliter l’émergence d’expériences mimétiques par rapport à certains objets d’apprentissage, ainsi que l’accès à des éléments nouveaux ou inattendus. Parmi ces offres, les métaphores sont des manifestations importantes de simplexité dans différentes pratiques sociales, au sein desquelles sont requis: a) l’établissement de significations nouvelles à partir d’anciennes, b) la préfiguration de l’avenir, etc) l’invention ou la création. Notre conception EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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de la métaphore articule la perspective peircienne des signes iconiques et la théorie de la métaphore conceptuelle (Lakoff, Johnson, 1980). Peirce distingue trois catégories de signes: les indices, les icônes et les symboles qui font respectivement référence à des registres d’expérience particuliers: le premier est de l’ordre du possible, c’est-à-dire des significations qui pourraient s’actualiser ou pas dans une situation donnée; le deuxième, de l’actuel, c’est-à-dire de ce qui est perçu comme significatif dans une situation spécifique; le troisième, du virtuel et de la généralisation, et se constitue comme médiation émergeante de l’interaction entre les deux catégories précédentes (Peirce, 1931-1958; Theureau, 2006). Au sein des icônes, Peirce (1931-1958, 2.277) identifie notamment les métaphores, qui établissent un parallélisme, une similitude et des interactions nouvelles entre deux signes, par une mise en relation préalablement absente. Cette nouvelle signification, lorsqu’elle est créée, est irréductible à celle des éléments mis en relation (Peirce, 1931-1958). Ainsi, les métaphores se constituent comme une nouvelle modalité de signification relevant du registre du virtuel et de la généralisation (ce qui permet de préfigurer l’avenir) tout en gardant les caractéristiques du registre du possible, qui correspond aux icônes. Dans la perspective de Lakoff et Johnson (1980), les métaphores sont aussi conçues comme exprimant une rationalité imaginatrice, qui fait que nous comprenons et structurons une expérience dans les termes d’une autre, cette dernière étant fondée sur les dimensions perceptives, spatiales, affectives et socioculturelles de notre être-au-monde. Quand il faut rendre accessibles des objets de connaissance nouveaux, voire inattendus, les métaphores sont des offres de signification permettant la compréhension de ce qui est perçu comme vague et imprévisible, par un repli sur l’essentiel et un rapport métaphorique avec du déjà connu. C’est par cet ancrage expérientiel, qu’il est possible d’anticiper l’avenir et de préfigurer les actions à effectuer (Salini, Durand, 2012). Le mode de signification de type métaphorique relève de la simplexité par trois aspects: a) il fait l’économie d’une symbolisation conventionnelle et formelle, et demeure donc très proche de l’expérience vécue, correspondant ainsi à une économie sémiotique ou cognitive; b) il permet l’identification de régularités et de familiarités (moins que rationnelles ou logiques) dans le flux permanent des événements et des actions, basée sur des ressemblances, réduisant ainsi la diversité du monde phénoménal par des pontages binaires de signification iconique; c) il préfigure le futur par son assimilation au passé. Ce mimétisme montre aussi ses limites au sens où BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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il est conservateur, simplificateur et réducteur; et comme unique mode de signification il serait sans doute sclérosant. C’est pourquoi les éducateurs devraient simultanément s’employer à en exploiter la portée généralisatrice, facilitatrice et productrice, tout en maintenant une exigence de rationalité et pertinence pragmatique. Typicalisation et simplexité sémiotique Une autre phénomène simplexe alimente la dialectique permanence / transformation de l’activité: la typicalisation (Rosch, 1978, 1999; Theureau, 2004, 2006). L’émergence de types, qui relève de la recherche de ressemblance, est une solution efficace et élégante permettant une généralisation sur et à partir de l’expérience à l’instant t, et une exploitation des expériences préalables. L’homme construit sa connaissance des objets en repérant des similitudes dans le monde en les regroupant selon leur ressemblance sur la base d’un gradient de typicalité, c’est-à-dire de leur distance plus ou moins grande par rapport à des exemplaires prototypiques. En Europe, un individu observe fréquemment des moineaux, plus rarement des colibris ou des autruches, et le moineau devient pour lui un type, c’est-à-dire le meilleur représentant de la famille des oiseaux. Les autres animaux sont alors évalués en termes de distance au type: une mésange en est moins distante qu’une autruche, un colibri ou une chauve-souris. Les types servent d’ancrage dans l’appréhension des événements et des actions pour des jugements de proximité / distance au type, c’est-à-dire un air de famille entre éléments plus ou moins ressemblants. La typicalisation s’élargit à des phénomènes plus larges que la catégorisation d’objets du monde naturel, notamment des savoirs, des interprétations, des émotions, des actions et des évènements s’y déroulant (Theureau, 2004, 2006). Les acteurs isolent dans le continuum de leur activité certaines occurrences auxquelles ils attribuent une signification, qui peuvent faire l’objet de généralisation par transformation en types, c’est-à-dire en exemples exemplaires. La construction de connaissances pour/dans l’action ne relève pas de l’abstraction de propriétés logiques, mais de la constitution de types qui s’opère en relation avec l’efficacité des actions: renforcement ou affaiblissement de types précédemment créés, construction par érection d’un cas en type, abduction, induction, déduction systématique (Séve, Leblanc, 2003). EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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La typicalisation permet une économie cognitive comparativement à la symbolisation. Dans le flux du couplage activité-situation les jugements de typicalité sont cruciaux: l’acteur juge si son expérience présente un air de famille avec une expérience antérieure typicalisée (c’est-à-dire constituant sa culture propre mobilisable à l’instant t). Ce type a alors une propension à s’actualiser si le sentiment de familiarité est suffisant. Le type sert aussi d’ancrage pour l’activité future: associé à un vécu d’efficacité et de sérénité, il remplit une fonction d’attracteur et concentre l’activité future, renforçant la probabilité de reproduction et de redondance de l’action. Lorsqu’il est associé à un sentiment d’inefficacité et à des émotions négatives, il remplit une fonction de repellant dans la dynamique de l’activité: il repousse l’action en cours qui va tendre à s’en écarter. Pour une conception d’environnements de formation enactifs et simplexes La notion de simplexité nous semble présente chez divers designers qui, sans y faire explicitement référence, en adoptent la philosophie. On en trouve des illustrations chez Norman (2010) pour qui «the complexity is a fact of the world, whereas simplicity is in mind» (53). Cet auteur montre ainsi que des objets complexes ne sont pas forcément compliqués, et inversement que des objets simples (en apparence) peuvent être déroutants et compliqués. Ce sont les phénomènes expérientiels accompagnés, supportés, ou encouragés qui doivent être simples, que l’environnement soit complexe ou non. D’après nous, la conception d’environnements de formation peut aussi bénéficier à divers titres d’un recours systématique et réfléchi à la notion de simplexité. Les concepteurs d’environnements de formation ont également à inventer des façons d’agir ou des artefacts simplexes, sans se perdre dans la complexité, mais sans non plus l’éviter. Que pourrait être une formation professionnelle conçue sous le double postulat de l’enaction et de la simplexité? Premièrement, la formation doit viser à favoriser les appropriations en général, par des offres de nouveaux objets déposés dans l’environnement des individus en formation dans la perspective d’un enrichissement de leurs possibles. Elle doit simultanément inscrire ces appropriations dans le temps par une mise en série systématique d’appropriations successives telles qu’une première appropriation devient l’instrument de l’appropriation d’un BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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autre objet, qui devient l’instrument d’une troisième appropriation, etc… Pour caricaturale que soit cette présentation linéaire, elle pointe l’importance de favoriser en formation d’une part les constructions de transparences qui sont synonymes d’économie, c’est-à-dire une dynamique complexe au service d’une simplification des pratiques, et un vaste mouvement de constitution par apprentissage d’une culture à disposition pour des nouveaux apprentissages. Deuxièmement, une formation enactive et simplexe est une formation organisée selon le monde typique des professionnels en formation. L’enjeu est de structurer les contenus de formation à partir des expériences typiques des professionnels et de synchroniser ces contenus avec la trajectoire professionnels des formés (Leblanc, Ria, Dieumegard, Serres, Durand, 2008). Ceci permet de s’assurer que la formation corresponde aux préoccupations récurrentes des professionnels, mais également de favoriser l’activité de typification. Troisièmement, une formation enactive et simplexe devrait favoriser les expériences mimétiques. Deux dimensions sont à encourager: l’immersion mimétique dans l’environnement proposé par le formateur, et la modélisation métaphorique de l’expérience. L’immersion mimétique permet de rendre possible les liens entre activité cible et formation. La métaphorisation désigne les processus par lesquels les expériences liées à l’immersion mimétique peuvent être typicalisées et prendre la valeur de types ou prototypes qui permettent des extensions de la signification de ces expériences. L’extension s’opère sur la base d’engagements métaphoriques où un couplage vaut pour un autre couplage. Et les environnements de formation doivent favoriser ces « résonances internes » en autorisant et encourageant la création de réseaux de relation entre des expériences personnelles et des expériences relatives aux autres dans les différentes situations de formation et de pratiques professionnelles traversées. Cette métaphorisation permet de rendre probable le pontage entre l’activité de formation et l’activité cible. Enfin, il ne peut s’agir que d’une formation proscriptive et non pas prescriptive. En effet, sous l’hypothèse d’enaction, il n’est pas possible de prescrire des comportements professionnels favorisant le développement d’expériences qui seraient pré-ordonnées par l’apprentissage antérieur de savoirs et de règles prédéterminées. L’impact formatif est lié à la conception d’espaces d’actions encouragées (Durand, 2008) c’est à dire d’environnements prometteurs d’actions et d’expériences, supposés induire des apprentissages EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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et développements. Ces espaces d’actions encouragées concrétisent l’intention de perturber le couplage structurel des formés par un agencement de leur environnement afin de déclencher des transformations, et sélectionner celles évaluées comme désirables, tout en prenant en compte l’autonomie de l’activité humaine. Présentation de Auteurs: Germain Poizat est Maître d’Enseignement et de Recherche à la Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l’Éducation à l’Université de Genéve. Deli Salini est Maître d’enseignement et chercheuse à l’«Istituto universitario federale per la formazione professionale», Lugano. Marc Durand est Professeur Ordinaire à la Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l’Éducation à l’Université de Genéve.

Bibliographie Barbier, J.M., Durand, M. (2003), “L’activité, un objet intégrateur pour les sciences sociales?”, Recherche et Formation, 42, 99-117. — (2006) (Eds.), “Sujets, activités, environnements. Approches transverses”, Paris, PUF. Berthoz, A. (2009), La simplexité, Paris, Odile Jacob. Chemero, A. (2009), Radical embodied cognitive science, Cambridge - MA, MIT Press. Daniellou, F. (2005), “The French-speaking ergonomists’ approach to work activity: Cross- influences of field intervention and conceptual models”, Theoretical Issues, in Ergonomics Science, 6, 409-427. Davis, B., Sumara, D. (1997), “Cognition, complexity, and teacher education”, Harvard Educational Review, 67, 1,105–125. Deleuze, G. (1969), Différence et répétition, Paris, PUF. Durand (sous presse), “Quelques avancées pratiques et conceptuelles liées à la conception et l’usage de la plateforme Néopass@ction en formation des enseignants”, Recherche & Formation. — (2008), “Un programme de recherche technologique en formation des adultes”, in Éducation & Didactique, 2, 97-121. Durand, M., Salini, D. (2011), “Incorporation, parcimonie et élégance de l’expérience au travail, vers des formations professionnelles centrées sur le concept de simplexité”, Travail et Apprentissage, 7, 81-89. Durand, M., Goudeaux, A., Horcik, Z., Salini, D., Danielian, J., Frobert, L. (sous presse), “Expérience, mimèsis et apprentissage”, in L. Albarello, J-M., Barbier, E. Bourgeois, M. Durand (Eds.) (sous presse), Expérience, activité, apprentissage, Paris, PUF.

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Falzon, P. (1994), “Les activités méta-fonctionnelles et leur assistance”, Le Travail Humain, 57, 1-23. Holton, D.L. (2010),“ Constructivism + Embodied cognition = Enactivism:Theoretical and practical implications for conceptual change”, 2010 AERA Conference. Hutchins, E. (2008), “The role of cultural practices, in the emergence of modern human intelligence”, Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society B, 363, 20112019. Lakoff, G., Johnson, M. (1980), “Metaphors we live by”, Chicago, Chicago University Press. Lave, J. (1988), “Cognition, in practice”, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Leblanc, S., Ria, L., Dieumegard, G., Serres, G., Durand, M. (2008), “Concevoir des dispositifs de formation professionnelle des enseignants à partir de l’analyse de l’activité au travail et en formation”, Activités, 5, 58-78. Li, Q., Clark, B., Winchester, I. (2009), “Instructional Design and Technology Grounded. Enactivism: A Paradigm Shift?”, British Journal of Educational Technology. Maturana, H.R., Varela, F.J. (1987), “The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human under standing”, Boston, Shambhala Publications. Norman, D.A. (1993), Things that make us smart: Defending human attributes, in the age of the machine, New York, Addison-Wesley. — (2010), Living with Complexity, Cambridge, MIT Press. Ombredane, A., Faverge, J.M. (1955), L’analyse du travail, Paris, PUF. Peirce, C. S. (1931-1958), Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, 1–6, 1931– 1935, in C. Hartshorne, P. Weiss, (Eds.), 7-8, 1958, A. W. Burks, (Ed.) Cambridge, Harvard University Press. Ria, L. (2012), “Collaboration entre praticiens et chercheurs sur la plateforme Néopass@ction, l’activité débutante comme objet d’étude et de transformation”, Travail et Apprentissages, 9, 106-119. Rosch, E. (1978), “Principles of categorization”, in E. Rosch, B.B. Lloyd (Eds.), Cognition and categorization, Hillsdale, Erlbaum, 27-48. — (1999), “Reclaiming concept “, in The Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, 11-12, 61-77. Salini, D., Durand, M. (2012), “L’activité des conseillers dans des situations d’information-conseil initial pour la VAE”, Carriérologie, 12/3, 367-384. Samurcay, R., Rabardel, P. (2004), “Modèles pour l’analyse de l’activité et des compétences, propositions”, in R. Samurçay, P. Pastré (Eds.), Recherches en didactique professionnelle, Toulouse, Octarès, 163-180. Schwartz, Y. (1988), Expérience et connaissance du travail, Paris, Éditions Sociales. Séve, C., Leblanc, S. (2003), “Exploration et exécution en situation: singularité des actions, construction de types et apprentissage dans deux contextes différents”, Recherche et Formation, 42, 63-74. Simondon, G. (1989), L’individuation psychique et collective, Paris, Aubier.

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Theureau, J. (2004), Le cours d’action, méthode élémentaire, Toulouse, Octarès. — (2006), Le cours d’action, méthode développée, Toulouse, Octarès. Varela, F.J. (1989), Autonomie et connaissance, Essai sur le vivant, Paris, Éditions du Seuil. Varela, F.J., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (1993), L’inscription corporelle de l’esprit, Sciences cognitives et expérience humaine, Paris, Éditions du Seuil. Zorn, D.M. (2011), Enactive education: Dynamic co-emergence, complexity, experience, and the embodied mind, Ph.D. Philosophy of Education, Ontario Institute.

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The Enactive Mind An Epistemological Framework for Radically Embodied Didactics

GIANLUCA BOCCHI, LUISA DAMIANO

Abstract: The main aim of this article is to promote, at an epistemological level, the development of radically embodied didactics, that is, didactics which conceives the agents involved in the learning process – scholars and students in primis – as radically interdependent brain-body-environment(s) units involved in a constructive and creative cognitive process. This article proposes the radically embodied view of the mind introduced by Evan Thompson and Francisco Varela to the theoretical debate in didactics. Through the reconstruction of the basic structure of this theory, and its contextualization within the radically constructivist epistemology, this article brings attention to some of the most specific and interesting aspects of this theory: (a) the overcoming of merely anatomical conceptions of embodiment, as well as merely spatial operations of cognitive extension; (b) the convergences with the insights produced by neurophysiological research on mirroring mechanisms; (c) the proposal of a “legitimate questions maieutic practice”, grounded in the radically constructivist thesis according to which cognition is a participative process of construction of a shared world. Riassunto: L’articolo intende promuovere, a livello epistemologico, lo sviluppo di una didattica radicalmente incorporata, ovvero di una didattica che concepisce gli agenti coinvolti nei processi di apprendimento – insegnati e studenti in primis – come unità cervello-corpoambiente radicalmente interdipendenti e coinvolte in processi cognitivi intrinsecamente costruttivi e creativi. A questo scopo l’articolo propone al dibattito teorico della didattica la teoria radicalmente incorporata della mente introdotta da Evan Thompson e Francisco Varela. Attraverso la ricostruzione della struttura teorica di base di questa teoria e la sua contestualizzaizone nell’ambito del costruttivismo radicale, l’articolo mette in evidenza tre degli aspetti più specifici e interessanti dei questa prospettiva teorica: (a) il superamento di concezioni meramente anatomiche dell’embodiment, nonché di operazioni meramente spaziali di cognitive extension; (b) le convergenze con gli esiti della ricerca neurofisiologica inerente ai meccanismi di mirroring; (c) la proposta di una “pratica maieutica delle domande legittime”, basata sulla tesi radicalmente costruttivista secondo cui la cognizione è un processo partecipativo di costruzione di un mondo condiviso. Keywords: Radical Constructivism, Radical Embodiment, Legitimate vs. Illegitimate questions, (inter-individual) Mind, Mirroring Mechanisms.

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I. The idea of a legitimate questions maieutic practice is one of Heinz von Foerster’s more interesting inventions. This pioneer of the epistemological radical constructivism1 had been very critical towards common stances in pedagogical and didactical issues. His critic focuses in particular on the teaching practice in which the teacher asks her students illegitimate questions, instead of exchanging with them legitimate questions (von Foerster, 1987A). According to von Foerster, illegitimate questions already have a predetermined answer in the “teacher’s head”, or in some easily accessible paper or electronic record. Instead for legitimate questions nobody in the classroom, and maybe even outside the classroom, has an answer. Moreover, for some of these questions there will never be, and even cannot be, a definite and univocal answer. The specific characteristic of the search for legitimate questions is that it does not aim at generating states of static agreement. It is directed to produce evolving states of dialogue, involving both agreement and conflict. It provides teacher and students with the necessary conditions for the production of knowledge, in such a way that, in every step of their dialogues, they create knowledge, instead of trying to examine, from an external and detached point of view, the way in which knowledge is produced (von Foerster, 1987A). Von Foerster asks to reflect about situations challenging the teacher’s belief that her authority is grounded in her knowledge of the answers to (illegitimate) questions. Let’s consider one of his examples. A teacher asks her students for Napoleon’s date of birth, and receives an unexpected reply. Instead of “1769”, a student answers: “Seven years before the United States’ Declaration of Independence”. If this answer is considered as a “alternative” answer, the educational process does not progress very much: it remains statically linked to the original illegitimate question. The outcome is significantly different if we use this nascent dialogue as an access to legitimate questions. One of these questions could investigate the nature of history. As we are used to the interplay of omissions and inclusions which characterizes old and modern chronicles, we easily see that writing natural or human history is always a selective operation, and that the positivistic ideal of representing facts as they are is radically implausible. A second legitimate question can lead us to reflect about the nature of historical time. It can be observed that the linear chronology universally adopted by our scholastic historical narratives is shaped by the concept of absolute time proposed by the Newtonian BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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physics tradition, while other narrative chronologies exist. For example, there are relational narrative chronologies, which probably are more attuned to the artistic and scientific trends of the 20th and 21st centuries. A third question could investigate the nature of knowledge. In fact, the dialogue sketched above introduces the distinction between two conceptions of knowledge. The first is a view of knowledge as neutrally objective and externally imposed. The second is a view of knowledge as intrinsically intersubjective, that it, co-built through a dynamics of co-evolution involving different interlocutors. This second view introduces the idea that knowledge emerges from an intersubjective dialogue characterized by convergences and misunderstandings, and unstable balances between open and closed attitudes among the dialoging actors. While the first view – an objectivist epistemology – grounds the game of illegitimate questions, the second – a radically constructivist epistemology – proposes the game of legitimate questions, and promotes the development of a radically constructivist teaching practice. To implement this practice, the teacher has to propose her students legitimate questions, and positively utilizes the cognitive breakdowns arising from the novelty and unpredictability of some of her students’ perspectives. She needs to involve them and participate with them in the process of generating new intersubjective knowledge, that is, a transitory and local (class-related) knowledge expressed by new relationships between contents, ideas and perspectives that the teacher-students community creates through dialogue. Stephen J. Gould, another protagonist of the contemporary radically constructivist philosophy and science, helps us to develop this radically constructivist idea of the teacher’s role. Let us consider Gould’s stance with regard to traditional conceptual issues in the fields of evolutionism and geology and, more specifically, his answer to the classical question concerning the discontinuous or continuous nature of change in natural history. Gould replies that it is impossible to give an answer located in a point on the one-dimensional line implicitly supposed by this question. The answer can’t be located in one of the two extreme points on the line, since this would mean that change is only continuous or only discontinuous. Nor can the answer be located in an intermediate point, since this would mean that change is an invariant combination of continuous and discontinuous aspects. What Gould proposes is to go “off the line”: transforming the one-dimensional line implicitly postulated by the question into a bi-dimensional surface, or even (in principle) into a n-dimensional space. The idea is that the question has not and cannot have a univocal answer: there are many answers (and many possible combinations EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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of answers), depending on the periods, the kind of system, and the specific changes we intend to consider. Thus Gould proposes a concrete strategy of transforming the usual search for illegitimate questions in a fruitful search for legitimate questions. The teacher has to use precisely this sort of strategy. She has to consider that her students may not perceive their educational pathways as necessarily situated “on the line”. When a question presupposes a static and unique answer in a shallow mode, but receives a reply in a “off the line” mode or, as we can call it, a relational mode, the teacher-students community is re-located in a multi-dimensional space of legitimate questions. Within this space the primary task of the teacher is that of exploring, and helping her students to define a thick and tangled set of creative trajectories, in which each trajectory opens the possibility of producing new relational knowledge. There are many spaces that a relational answer of a student can open to a teacher and to a teacher-students community. The example proposed by von Foerster opens the space of global history: a first globalization was already under way during Napoleon’s time, when the world was shrinking more and more, and the history of the United States was developing a strong coupling with the history of France. Within the new space of global history defined by the student, the teacher is invited to remind and to link various disconnected elements of her cognitive and professional background, and to weave them together through the dialogue with the students, making the students aware of the emerging new relationships: for instance, the idea that the French Revolution was significantly influenced, in its origins and developments, by the exemplum of the American Revolution; the idea that Napoleon was significantly attuned with the possibilities opened in and by the age of revolution, without which he probably could not have risen so remarkably quickly; the idea that this age of revolutions began to develop into a global process, which had very relevant consequences not only in Europe, but also in Latin America (Simon Bolivar as Napoleon’s disciple) and in the Caribbean (Haiti); the idea that Napoleon’s history and the history of the United States are connected in many ways, and that, if Napoleon would have not sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States, they would have never become what they are now; the idea that the most careful observer and prognosticator of the new role of the United States within the world was French -Alexis de Tocqueville; and so on. Of course, not all the elements needed by the teacher to open a new space of search are easily attainable. The teacher has always to “learn how to learn” BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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to enter and embed herself and her community in a new space. Besides reconsidering old contents and creating or learning new contents, the teacher has also to understand that her professional role – both symmetrical and asymmetrical with regard to the students – requires her to undergo a permanent learning process in the deepest and strongest sense. The teacher has to follow the path of life-long learning based on her daily maieutic dialogue with her students (and other interlocutors), her proactivity and her psycho-physical availability (openness) to novelties. It is impossible to trigger epistemological revolutions involving didactics without activating epistemological revolutions at the level of the individual subjects involved in didactics – teachers in primis – and their conditions of learning. The following pages aim at stimulating teachers and professionals of didactics to embrace and (cre-)actively develop this idea of a radically constructivist teaching practice by introducing one of the most advanced epistemological frameworks which currently support it. We refer to the enactive theory of cognition developed by Francisco Varela and Evan Thompson within the context of the paradigmatic shift towards embodiment that, since the 1990s, is affecting the cognitive sciences and philosophy of mind. The next part of our contribution focuses on the radically embodied theory of the mind that Thompson and Varela proposed in Radical embodiment (2001), an article that they published ten years after the book The Embodied Mind (1991) written with Eleanor Rosch. As the title indicates, their article emphasizes the distance between “simple embodiment” and “radical embodiment” (Clark, 1999), that is, between the mainstream operations of embodiment of the mind, still shaped by the computationalist paradigm, and the emerging forms of embodiment which, following the epistemological lines defined by the pioneers of radical constructivism, depart from computationalism and propose genuinely new concepts of the cognitive mind. A notion of the mind expressing a radical form of embodiment is what Thompson and Varela introduce in Radical embodiment. In this text recent insights from neuroscience, interpreted through Varela’s theory of autonomous systems2, ground the concept of knowledge at the basis of von Foerster’s proposal for didactics. Knowing is not representing a predefined external reality, nor projecting an arbitrary reality, but co-constructing a world – participating with our interlocutors and our environment(s) in the process of construction of a shared world of experience.

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II. In Radical Embodiment Thompson and Varela (2001) propose a “neurodynamic” solution to the issue of the embodiment of the mind. Their hypothesis is that the location of the mind is not in the brain, but in the processes which define the “participation” of the nervous system network to human cognitive activity. They characterize these processes as the cyclic dynamics through which the nervous system interconnects and regulates the different organizational levels of the body, and couples the cognizer – the self – with her environment(s) and other cognizers – other selves. This approach to the embodiment of the mind is significantly different from the mainstream embodiment approaches proposed within the fields of cognitive sciences and philosophy of mind – approaches which can be defined as “neuro-anatomic”. Thompson and Varela refuse to situate the mind statically in the cerebral matter platform. They discard the traditional thesis according to which the central nervous system is the “central unit” in which the essential part of the cognitive process take place. Their neuro-dynamic solution characterizes the nervous system network as the material support of complex dynamics of co-evolution which involves body, environment and other cognizers as irreducible and radically interdependent agents (polarities) of the cognitive processes. Grounded in this view of the nervous system, the radically embodied mind breaks free from the dominant theoretical topology which determines the possible locations of the mind in reference to the boundaries given by “skull and skin” (Clark, Chalmers, 1998). Furthermore, it breaks free from the traditional divisions through which the cognitive sciences define the objects of research that are pertinent for the exploration of human environmental and intersubjective cognition – “brain, body, environment”, “self and other”. Thompson and Varela’s enactive mind occupies the spaces where the coevolutions of these objects take place. It has to be conceived as a structure of coupling – a relational structure – which recomposes the classical divisions proposed by the cognitive sciences. It re-organizes – interconnects – the classical objects of research of these sciences, following not the spatial logic of “internal” and “external”, but the emergentist logic of “mutual embedment” – “enmeshment” through co-determination3. The relationship between neural dynamics and conscious situated agents can be described in terms of the participation of neural processes in the

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‘cycles of operation’ that constitute the agent’s life. Three kinds of cycles need to be distinguished for higher primates: (1) cycles of organismic regulation of the entire body; (2) cycles of sensorimotor coupling between organism and environment; (3) cycles of intersubjective interaction, involving the recognition of the intentional meaning of actions and linguistic communication (in humans) (Thompson e Varela, 2001, 424).

The first of these three cyclic processes – the first connection between the mind and the activity of the nervous system that Thompson and Varela make – defines the general lines of the enactive approach to the embodiment of the mind. Through this cyclical dynamics, the radically embodied mind is connected to the processes through which the nervous system regulates the complex dynamics of the human organism, and thus is distributed throughout the human body. The mind is not in the head (Varela, 1999, 74).

The enactive description of the human organism proposed in Radical Embodiment is prototypical for Varela. It presents the body as a set of interconnected closed networks densely connected among each other and with the nervous system network4. The idea is that of interdependent and mutually embedded autonomous systems: “emergent selves” manifesting themselves in each of the different networks that can be identified within the body. The pioneers of radical constructivism – Paul Weiss (1971) and Gregory Bateson (1972) in particular – defined this set of networks as an “ecology of mind”. Varela advances the idea of a complex of “local cognitive identities” in co-evolution. They are “cells, tissues, organs, apparatus…”, but also “biomechanic networks, bio-chemical networks, physiological networks […]”: A Meshwork of Selfless Selves (Varela, 1991) which are coupled with the nervous system, and dynamically participate in defining the cognitive identity of the conscious agent during her co-evolutive interactions with her environment(s) and other agents. Through this first theoretical step Thompson and Varela locate the enactive mind in the deepest layers of the human corporeality. They locate it among the rhythms and regimes of the basic dynamics of the body: its activity of EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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self-production, realized through the co-evolution which couples the neural network with the somatic networks. This radical view of the embodiment of the mind is significantly enriched by Thompson and Varela’s analysis of the second kind of cycles of operation mentioned above – an analysis which defines the gnoseological model that they choose to support enaction. The two researchers characterize the dynamics through which the nervous system network interconnects the human organism and the environment as “sensorimotor coupling”. This way they link enaction to the theoretical framework of radical constructivism, which describes the nervous system as a closed network of neurons interconnecting sensorium and motorium (sensory and motor surfaces), and maintaining their coordination during the interactive dynamics with the environment which continuously destabilize the internal self-productive dynamics of the body5. The specificity of this constructivist view of the nervous system is that it discards the classical computationalist hypothesis of a representational phase mediating between perception and action conceived – first perception, second representation, and third action. The identification of the nervous system with the sensorimotor closure of the human organism substitutes the computationalist representations with neuronal schemes of regulation. They are conceived as patterns of activity of the central nervous systems which do not code internally the external reality to allow the computational planning of effective actions, but associate sensorial perturbations to conservative actions – actions able to warrant the organism’s re-equilibration through interactions with the environment. This theoretical shift leads to the typical radically constructivist view of human cognition, according to which the supposed external objects with which we deal cognitively are not externally predefined entities that we can internally represent, but “symbols of stable self-behavior” (von Foerster, 1987b). They are expressions of the self-regulative capabilities of the sensorimotor closure: possibilities of adaptive actions that the nervous systems projects on the dimensions of the environment which are sensorially perceived. This is the thesis that Varela condenses in the idea of enaction as “embodied action” which “bring forward a world”: the nervous system network reacts to exogenous perturbative events through patterns of self-regulation which project on the environment objects expressing our contextual possibilities of action – our “readiness-to-action”6. The innovative enactive contribution to the classical radical constructivism view of human cognition consists in Varela’s description of these dynamics of BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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regulation. He characterizes the transitory neuronal schemes supporting the sensorimotor coupling with the environment as products of a spontaneous activity of self-organization taking place within the network of the nervous system: collective behaviors which emerge in the neural network when it experiences perturbations. In other words, Varela understands the functional coordination of distant areas of the brain as a phenomenon of large scale “neuronal integration” mediated by processes of “synchronization”: “resonances” among the oscillations of the neurons. The image is that of a quick and flexible dynamic coordination among neurons – the adoption of the same phase of oscillation by neurons that can be very far from each other – which connects them in temporary and coherent functional units. Varela has been working on this hypothesis since the late 1970’s, with an original approach. He does not emphasize the ideas of neuronal “resonant groups” or “ensembles”, but rather that of neuronal “assembles”, which “interpret” the organism’s multiple activities of coupling and orient their future developments7. As previously suggested (Damiano, 2009), this theoretical view can be seen as another implication of Varela’s general theory of autonomous systems (Varela, 1979). Using this theory to read the neuronal dynamics, Varela identifies the processes of neuronal integration as dynamics generating transitory cognitive identities: cognitive subjects creating their own worlds of experience. Varela thinks them as “micro-identities”: fragile, contingent, temporary cognitive units. He describes them as “emergent selves” which express contextual possibilities of action on the environment – readiness-foraction. Their self-distinction within the neuronal dynamics corresponds to a specific way in which the agent cognitively copes with the environment. When one of them arises – through exogenous or endogenous perturbations – a related “micro-world” arises at the level of the subjective experience, and the cognizer experiences a new situational context, coupled to the readinessfor-action that her current cognitive micro-identity supports. You put your hand in your pocket […]. Breakdown: you stop, your mind setting is unclear, your emotional tonality shifts. Before you know it a new world emerges: you see clearly that you left your wallet in the store where you just bought cigarettes. Your mood shifts now to one of concern for losing documents and money, your readiness-to-action is now to quickly go back to the store […] all attention is directed to avoiding further delays. This is the essence of our life (Varela, 1992, p. 11).

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Varela’s description of the dynamics generating the cognitive microidentities of our conscious experience uses notions and theories developed by the early research on self-organization8. The basic idea is that every transitory cognitive identity realized by a neuronal assembly is generated by a destabilization– a “breakdown” – affecting the nervous system. This “fluctuation” leads to a situation of instability: a dynamic singularity in which the neural network can accede to different dynamic solutions. These are different patterns of activity in front of which the system briefly “hesitates” before it chooses one of them. Its “choice” is determined by a wide variety of factors. One of the most important is the history of the system: its past co-evolution with the organism and the environment9. This is an innovative interpretation of the dynamics of the brain, able to propose a new way of grounding conscious experience in neuronal activity. It offers an alternative to the computationalist notion of the conscious agent, which, as Hofstadter and Dennett critically emphasize (1981, 13), is grounded in “non-conscious bits of organic machinery, as utterly lacking in a point of view or inner life as a kidney or kneecap”10. Varela’s theoretical description of neuro-dynamics introduces a conscious agent which is not only intrinsically situated, but is also able to experience the permanent attentional variations and context redefinitions which are typical of our subjective experience. According to Varela’s view, the dynamics of generation and succession of this agent’s (micro-) identities cannot be dissociated from a dynamics of definition and variation of contextual points of view on the environment – (micro-) worlds11. Adopting this approach means to impose a specific condition to the scientific comprehension of the self. It means to require cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind to renounce to the traditional view which identifies the self as the stable – “coherent and permanent” – center of the subjective experience12. When we ground the individual identity in neuronal patterns of activity which are structured and de-structured in the dimension of micro-temporality, we have to conceive this identity as permanently changing and essentially discontinuous – a flux of micro-identities punctuated by micro-sequences of breakdowns. The idea is that of an individual identity undergoing a process of intense redefinition, constantly re-triggered by the perturbative interaction between the connectivity of the nervous system and its double ecology – organism and environment. In this perspective the conscious agent’s identity appears as an intrinsically transitory and contingent result of a highly distributed event – a brain-body-environment event. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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The mind is […in…] the non-place of the co-determination of inner/ outer […] (Varela, 1999, 74).

According to this view, the identity of the self changes not only in reaction to the continuous transformations of the cognitive identities of the body – the “selfless selves” emerging from the somatic networks. Its identity changes also with the permanent transformations of the environment, in a radically interdependent way13. Thompson and Varela’s radically embodied mind cannot be located in the intra-individual space. It arises in the dynamics of co-specification involving the somatic networks, the neural network and the environment. It occupies the relationship of dense coupling which interconnects not only brain and body, but also organism and environment. It involves brain, body and environment in a process of permanent and interdependent constitution which they cannot control. The agent of their co-transformation is their relationship itself – that is, the unit which is dynamically formed by them, and which permanently transforms them through their co-determination. The thesis that Varela grounds on empirical basis and expresses through the language of self-organization is the intuition of the pioneers of radical constructivism: the effective evolutionary unit is the “flexible organism-environment unit” (Bateson, 1972) – more specifically: the brain-body-environment unit14. Together with these pioneers, Varela thinks it as the effective cognitive unit – the mind. Neural, somatic and environmental elements […] interact to produce (via emergence as upward causation) global organism–environment processes, which in turn affect (via downward causation) their constituent elements. Although speculative, these points gain plausibility from considering the dimensions of embodiment […] (Thompson e Varela, 2001, 424).

The three primary objects of the cognitive sciences are redefined as inseparable. They cannot be conceived as entities which are constituted before structuring relationships between each other. They produce each other, and thus are linked by a radical form of co-dependance. Their location is their interdependence, co-emergence, co-evolution within the unit defined by their permanent co-determination. Their connection is a mutual embedment: a form of dynamic co-specification which exceeds the descriptive power of EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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conceptual dualities such as “inside/outside” and “internal/external”, and, to be conceptualized, demands us to re-think these classical dichotomies as complementarities15. This is not a merely speculative stance against the classical “naked mind” theorized by classical gnoseology and computationalism – the notion of a set of cognitive resources essentially independent from the cognizer’s body and environmental context. The idea that brain, body and environment are essential and irreducible dimensions of the mind intends not only to revoke all theoretical plausibility to the Cartesian naked mind, but also to express a concrete methodological indication. When we exclude body and environment from the inquiry about cognition, we obscure a fundamental part of the cognitive processes, that is, a part without which all cognitive processes inevitably collapse – even those cognitive processes involving the so-called “representation hungry problems”, which have to be treated “off-line” (Clark, 1997). Within contemporary research in cognitive sciences, the thesis of the crucial role of body and environment in all forms of cognition is increasingly accepted, especially in emerging applicative research domains such as cognitive, developmental and situated robotics. These avant-gard domains strongly support the enactive notion of the inseparability of brain, body and environment at a methodological, theoretical and operational level. The synthetic models of cognition that these domains propose emphasize the idea that these three classical objects of cognitive sciences can offer a good scientific accesses to the phenomenon of cognition only if they are considered as complementary. That is, only if they are conceived and built – both theoretically and artificially – as “enmeshed” – “mutually embedded” – systems16. Despite the philosophical fiction of a ‘brain-in-a-vat’, it is doubtful (even as a thought experiment) that one can ‘peel away’ the body and the environment as ‘external’ to the brain processes crucial for consciousness. The nervous system, the body and the environment are highly structured dynamical systems, coupled to each other on multiple levels. Because they are so thoroughly enmeshed – biologically, ecologically and socially – a better conception of brain, body and environment would be as mutually embedded systems rather than as internally and externally located with respect to one another (Thompson, Varela, 2001, 422-424).

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Thompson and Varela indicate how to extend this view to the field of intersubjective cognition. In Radical Embodiment they briefly consider the third kind of cyclic dynamics of the nervous system, and define it as a process constituted by “cycles of intersubjective interactions” consisting in specific forms of sensorimotor coupling. It is a very short, but dense indication, which expresses an implicit reference to the self-organizational and autopoietic characterization of the intelligibility of the other. It refers to the autopoietic notion of “behavioral coupling”: a form of intelligibility which connects the cognizers by coordinating their sensorimotor closures, and thus links them into inter-individual cognitive units (Maturana, Varela, 1973, 1984, 1988) of which they are then sub-units. This mind is that mind (Varela, 1999, 81).

Some decades ago this thesis might have been discarded as a merely speculative hypothesis. Today it appears significantly pertinent for the interpretation of the emerging neuro-scientific insights about intersubjectivity. Intersubjectivity involves distinct forms of sensorimotor coupling, as seen in the so-called ‘mirror neurons’ discovered in area F5 of the premotor cortex in monkeys (Thompson, Varela, 2001, 424).

We refer to recent neurophysiological research on mirroring mechanisms, neuronal structures which are recognized to support inter-subjective cognition through neuronal co-activation17. Scientific evidence indicates that they might constitute the neurophysiological mechanisms of a kind of intersubjectivity whose characteristics are different from those that are classically ascribed to inter-subjective knowledge. The “mirror intersubjectivity” does not rely on logical or linguistic abilities; it is not based on observation or on analogy with self-knowledge; it does not take place in the intra-individual space. The specificity of this form of inter-subjective knowledge is that, through the neuronal co-activation, it “harmonizes” intentions, sensations and emotions of different individuals, and leads them to inter-individually share intentional states and affective experiences. Vittorio Gallese emphasizes that, since it supports mutual intelligibility through neuronal co-activation, it violates the limit between self and other, and generates a convergence between the inter-individual and the intra-individual space18.

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[…] Much of what we attribute to the capability of formulating theories on the other’s mind […] is the result of the capability of creating a shared «us-centered» space. The creation of this space is the result of an activity of «embodied simulation» (embodied simulation), defined in subpersonal terms by the activity of mirror neurons, which allow to map on the same nervous substrate actions which are performed and actions which are observed, as well as sensations and emotions which are personally experienced and observed in others (Gallese, 2003B)19.

There is a significant match with the theory of the enactive or radically embodied mind. When we extend the latter in the domain of intersubjective cognition, we can reach the following theoretical view. Intersubjective encounters, as they imply intersubjective sensorial interactions, link the agents’ individual sensorimotor closures into a dynamics of co-evolution. The agents’ nervous system networks develop resonances which generate dynamical coherences and symmetries between the intra-individual processes of regulation. The agents’ neural networks deal with their double ecologies of organism and environment in a coupled way. They project operational meanings on the environment together, and coordinately express their readiness-to-action. They couple the agents’ cognitive identities in a process of interdependent constitution which, by generating symmetries among their micro-identities, supports the agents’ mutual intelligibility and their shared intelligibility of the environment. This is a process that the individual agents cannot univocally control. The action distributing the micro-identities and generating the related microworlds belongs to the relationship in which the agents are involved: the unit which is formed by the agents, and that transform them into self-other events – that is, coupled brain-body-environment events. The radically embodied mind is grounded in the body, but exceeds the boundaries of the individual organism. It is a structure of coupling which interconnects somatic networks, nervous system and environment, but not only. During intersubjective encounters, it coordinates the individual organisms’ networks in a coherent dynamic complex, linking self and other into a unit: a transitory inter-individual dynamic unit which, while it defines itself, defines its world of experience – a world shared by its sub-units. It is one of the most avant-garde views of the mind among those produced by the embodied cognitive science, able to overcome not only merely anatomical conceptions of the embodiment of the mind, but also merely spatial BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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operations of cognitive extension. Through these characteristics it offers a significant support to von Foerster’s message for didactics, emphasizing that, in intersubjective contexts, the cognitive process is inevitably the process of becoming part of a creative inter-individual unit: a community which incessantly redefines our cognitive identities and our worlds of experience by making them radically interdependent on those of our interlocutors. This view of intersubjective cognition is the epistemological space that radical constructivism and radical embodiment offer to didactics: a space in which teaching practices directed to enhance the creativity of radically embodied communities can be developed20. A field in which today the development of this kind of teaching practices is increasingly urgent is that of didactics of languages. III. All social and cultural artifacts find their origins in a “collective” or interindividual mind in continuous co-construction with its individual minds. This strong relationship between inter-individual and individual minds suggests a less territorial view of our ideas, and helps us to avoid endless discussions about the progeny of ideas. Looking at historical developments supports what the constructivist epistemology proposes: new ideas don’t have an absolute origin, nor are simply in the spirit of the time. They are drifting in an unaccomplished circle of reinterpretations and reattribution of meaning through which they can interact in the most various ways. Of course for a scientific theory or a literary work we can point to a specific person (the “author”) who has contributed more intensely to a collective production. But for other cultural artifacts, like a language, we cannot point to anybody. A language is prima facie a collective creation, even if in the particular history of a language there may individual relevant contributions. John McWhorter, a linguist interested in linguistic change, describes how the spontaneous modalities of transformation of oral natural languages are basically of two kinds. Most of the world languages can be defined esoteric, in the precise etymologic sense: they are languages with a narrow territorial base, and thus they belong to a small group of people who share a relatively homogeneous culture (as is still the situation in many areas of Africa, Indonesia, the Pacific Ocean, New Guinea, Caucasus, and even in the remaining indigenous people of Australia and the Americas). The tranEDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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sformation of these languages can be understood as a natural drift, in the context of which phonetic, morphological, and syntactical aspects keep the same level of complexity. However, the situation is totally different when we deal with languages spoken in wide territories by many people. At a certain stage of their respective evolution, these languages have to undergo a significant simplification, due to the fact that many people with different linguisitic backgrounds learned these languages originally as a second language, and adapted them to their communicative needs. Usually during their interaction some traits of the second language – the traits that were too idiosyncratic to be shared by everyone – have to be eliminated in order to make the communication easier. This has been the situation for English, which, at a certain phase of its development was also spoken by Celtics and Scandinavians. A similar type of linguistic development can also be found also in: Mandarin (i.e., the dialect originally spoken in Beijing, which is at the basis of the language now spoken in all the PRC); the modern Arabian “dialects” (modern in comparison with the classic Arabian); the modern Persian; Malaysian-Indonesian; many European languages, such as the modern Neo-Latin and the old Germanic ones. Currently the process of globalization is intensifying this kind of linguistic change, as many European languages are used for intersubjective communication between strangers with different native languages. The diffusion of written languages introduced a significantly novel situation in language change. The written languages are now more or less governed by highly invariant grammatical codes and thus their transformation is by far slower and more strictly channeled. The new global situation exposes them to various and heterogeneous change trends, due to their adoption by a huge number of new speakers stemming from very different linguistic backgrounds: the results of interactions between old, very static codes and grammars and new multifarious contexts and pragmatic situations are quite original, and promises to have totally unpredictable consequences on further evolution of these languages. Up to now the educational system was in general not aware of the relevance and the subtleties of the processes of linguistic change. On the opposite, when it had the goal of building a very homogeneous (in principle) national language to make the reciprocal communications of millions of people as easy as possible – in a sense a noble goal – it often acted against the variety and diversity of local codes – dialects, regional and minority languages – which were the habitual oral form of communication of the most of the students. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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Interestingly enough, this repressive politics of the educational system in this respect had been shared by totalitarian and democratic countries (e.g., Italy during the decades of fascism, and France during most of its development). In the current age of globalization, the educational system seems still to be inclined on behaving in the same way. As in the case of history, mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is time for the school to shift from illegitimate to legitimate questions also in linguistic issues. In other words: a mono-linguist attitude cannot anymore be a monolithic attractor in which the school has to converge the plurality of the linguistic experiences of the different individuals. In this respect, the most urgent goal of teachers has become the facilitation of the linguistic code-switchings of the individuals, making the plurality of their codes and modes of expression stronger, and emphasizing the crucial relationship between contexts and forms of communication. (It should be added that this is the only way to enhance the value and preserve the cultural languages of Europe: they must be conceived as resources able to fertilize many other linguistic modalities, and not as an imposition to achieve homogenization). However, the issue at stake goes even deeper than the linguistic education in the age of globalization. The challenging issue is enhancing the value of the people in the collective construction of social objects. What happens in the classroom is not and cannot be a mere replication of processes already realized by literary, academic, political or multimedia authorities. The learning process happening in the classroom has to be understood as a process of permanent innovation, which has the same value as the ones realized by these authorities. Both at the level of the construction of a shared history and at the level of the construction of a shared language, we can never exclude that some innovative process happening in the classroom might have a butterfly effect, with relevant macroscopic implications. In any case, what happens in a classroom is always part of the collective construction of our social tools and artifacts. In the construction of our collective world, everybody should be responsibly involved. One of the teacher’s tasks is to point out and to support this responsible involvement. This could be considered a first goal of the nascent dialogue between a radically embodied epistemology and the educational perspectives: to give to people and groups of people a stronger empowerment to build a world which, as Heinz von Foerster used to say, is able to maximize our possibilities – the possibilities for us and for the others. As reality resists to us, we can resist to reality: if we do not like it, there is always a way for a collective action EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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directed to make our world a better world for our development as essentially multiple and interconnected brain-body-enviroment-others units. Author’s presentation: Gianluca Bocchi is Full Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Bergamo, where he also teaches Global History and Epistemology of Human Sciences. Luisa Damiano (Ph.D.) is a Research Fellow in Philosophy of Science at the University of Bergamo (Italy).

Notes 1 With the expression “radical constructivism” we refer to the line of research in epistemology founded by Jean Piaget, and developed by epistemologists and scientists such as Heinz von Foerster, Gregory Bateson, Ernst von Glaserfeld, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela himself, Paul Weiss – here “the pioneers of radical constructivism”. Cfr. Bocchi, Ceruti, 1981; Ceruti, 1989, Glasersfeld 1995, Damiano L., 2009, 2012. 2 We refer to a general theory of autonomous systems introduced by Varela in Principles of Biological Autonomy (1979), which proposes the “conversational unit” model of cognitive system, that in Varela (1995) he re-dined as “emergent self ” (Damiano, 2009). 3 Varela (1979, chapter 10) proposes a “framework of complementarities” which formalizes the logic of mutual embedment. 4 Cfr. for example Varela (1991, 1992, 1995B). 5 The idea of “sensorimotor unit” was developed by Maturana and Varela (1984, 1988) to describe a system which interacts with the environment through “perception-action cycles”. The basic functioning of this kind of system is described by them in these terms: an exogenous pressure triggers a compensative reaction in the nervous system network; the latter develops an endogenous pattern of activity which produces a series of related modifications in the somatic dynamics, and generates a motor action which implies a change in the contact between the sensorial surfaces and environment, and thus activate a new cycle perception-action. At the level of the human being the relationship between perception and and action is more complex, as the activation of a neuronal pattern does not imply immediately the execution of the action. It implies what Varela calls “readiness-to-action”. As showed e.g. by the neuro-scientific research on canonical neurons (Gallese, 2000, 2001), the perception activates a motor pattern apt to act on the perceived dimension of reality, as if the system was acting. 6 Varela et al., 1991. On Varela’s acknowledgement of the debts of enaction with regard to Piagetian radical constructivism cfr. for example Varela 1992: «Piaget introduced the idea that cognition […]. is grounded on the concrete activity of the whole organism, that is, on sensorimotor coupling. […]. This is what I call enaction […]» (Varela, 1992, p. 11).

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7

Cfr. Varela et al., 2001; Rudrauf et al., 2003. Cfr. Capra, 1982, Freeman, 1995, 2000, Dumouchel, Dupuy, 1983. 9 Varela’s description of the dynamics generation g the micro-identities, introduced here in a simplified version, is directed to show the aspects of this process which are analogous to less complex phenomena of self-organization, such as those related to Prigoginian dissipative structures. Cfr. per es. Capra, 1982, Prigogine and Stengers BBBB. 10 Hofstadter, Dennett (1981) do not support the enactive perspective, but converge with Varela in the criticisms of the traditional scientific notions of the conscious agent (cfr. Varela, 1991, 1992, cap. 2). 11 This view re-proposes the autopoietic thesis according to which the (biological) dynamics of self-production in interaction with the environment cannot be separeted by the process of creation of a world of experience (Maturana, Varela, 1984, 1988). According to the Varelian general theory of autonomous systems, a cognitive agent is a entity which, while defining itself, selectively perceives external events and generate for them operational meanings, building a meaningful scenario for its interactions with an environment which, in itself, is perceived only in terms of perturabtions. 12 Cfr. Varela, 1991, 1992. 13 Varela describes the dynamics generating the micro-identities as a dynamic of “competition” among different possible micro-identities. The idea is that every breakdown opens a fan of different possible cognitive micro-identities, and that the emergence of one of them is grounded not in a process of adaptive optimization, but in a process of solution of a dynamics bifurcation whose outcomes results from the complex interplay of a wide variety of endogenous and exogenous factors. Cfr. Varela, 1991, 1992. Cfr. Varela, 1991, 1992. 14 Cfr. Varela, 1991, 1992. 15 Cfr Ceruti, 1986. 16 Cfr. Chiel, Beers, 1997; Froese, Ziemke, 2009; Metta et al., 2012. 17 Very schematically: mirroring mechanisms’ functionality implies that, when an individual is observing another individual executing an action or expressing an emotion, in the observing individual fire the same neurons which fire in the active subject of the action or the emotion – that is, the individual observed. This neuronal co-activation is supposed to support the observer’s intelligibility of the observed’s behavior. Cfr. for example Gallese, 2005. 18 During the co-activation phase the nervous system can not determine if it is “actor” or “observer” in order to find out it has to wait for sensory feedback [12, 19, 21].This convergence can help to explain many aspects of our everyday experience of the other, such as its immediateness – its “unmediatedness” – and the feeling of identity that comes with the recognition of the other people’s affective state. 19 On Gallese’s concept of “embodied simulation” cfr. for example Gallese, 2000, 2001, 2005a, Damiano, 2009. 20 This epistemological space hosts innovative research programs such as the Enactive Didactics program proposed in Rossi (2011), despite the fact that often 8

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these programs do not acknowledge the close connection among enaction and radical constructivism – a connection explicitly admitted by Varela himself (cfr. Footnote n. 6).

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Telfener, U., Casadio, L.(2003), (Eds.), Sistemica, Torino, Boringhieri. Thompson, E. (Eds.) (2001), Between Ourselves, Thorverton, Imprint Academic. — (2007), Mind in Life, Cambridge, Belknap Harvard University Press. Thompson, E., Varela, F. (2001), “Radical embodiment”, Trends in Cognitive Science, 5, 10, 418-425. Thompson, W. I. (Ed.) (1988), Ecologia e autonomia, Milano, Feltrinelli, Milano. Varela, F. (1979), Principles of Biological Autonomy, New York, North-Holland. — (1986), “Experimental epistemology: background and future”, Cahiers du CREA, 9. — (1991), “Organism: A Meshwork of Selfless Selves”, in Tauber (Ed.), Organism and the Origin of Self,Dordrecht Kluwer, 79-107. — (1992), Un Know-how per l’etica, Bari, Laterza. — (1995A), “Resonant cell assemblies: a new approach to cognitive functions and neuronal synchrony”, Biol. Research, 28, 81-95. — (1995B), “The Emergent Self ”, in J. Brockman (Ed.), The third culture: Beyond the scientific revolution, Simon & Schuster (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/ varela/varela_index.html). — (1999), “Steps to a science of Interbeing: unfolding the Dharma implicit in modern cognitive science”, in S. Bachelor, G. Claxton, G. Watson (Eds.), The Psychology of Awakening, New York, Rider/Random House, 71-89. Varela, F., Lachaux, J.-P., Rodriguez, E., Martinerie, J. (2001), “The brainweb: phase synchronization and large-scale integration”, Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 2(4), 229-239. Varela, F., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (1991), The embodied mind, Boston, MIT. von Foerster, H. (1960), “On Self-Organizing Systems and Their Environments”, Yovits, Cameron (1960), 31-50. — (1985), “Cibernetica ed epistemologia: storia e prospettive”, G.L. Bocchi, M. Ceruti (1985), 112-140. — (1987A), Sistemi che osservano, Roma, Astrolabio. — (1987B),“Gli oggetti: simboli di (auto-)comportamenti”, Foerster (1987A),179190. von Glasersfeld, E.(1995), Radical constructivism, London, The Falmer Press. von Neumann, J. (1958), The computer and the brain, New Haven, Yale University Press. Wiener, N. (1948), Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and in the Machine, Cambridge MA, MIT. Yovits, M.C., Cameron S. (1960), (Eds.), Self-organizing systems, London, Pergamom. Zeleny, M. (Ed.) (1981), Autopoiesis. A Theory of Living Organisation, New York, North Holland.

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Body and Didactics. Possible directions of international research

CATIA GIACONI, MARIA BEATRIZ RODRIGUES, PIER GIUSEPPE ROSSI, SIMONE APARACIDA CAPELLINI, RODOLFO VASTOLA*

Abstract: The paper investigates the role of the body in didactics. It looks up for points of contact between the functional sceneries of the classroom and some recent approaches, such like simplexity, neurosciences and enactivism. The two experiments presented they aim to demonstrate the importance of body awareness to improve the didactic quality. The first experience used a SenseWear Armband that provided data about the energetic expenditure of a teacher during different activities in a lesson. The second experiment relied on a neurofeedback device integrated to a sensor, it detected body temperature with the aim of understanding the role of the body in the process of self-regulation-learning and management of attention and arousal. Riassunto: L’articolo analizza il ruolo del corpo nelle azioni didattiche alla luce di alcuni approcci recenti, come l’enattivismo e le neuroscienze. Due esperimenti sono presentati a scopo di dimostrare l’importanza del ruolo del corpo nella metrica didattica. La prima esperienza descrive l’esperimento con SenseWear Armband che fornisce varie informazioni sul dispendio energetico di un insegnante durante le diverse attività della lezione. Il secondo esperimento utilizza il neurofeedback integrato ad un sensore di rilevamento della temperatura del corpo al fine di capirne il ruolo del corpo nel processo di auto-regolazione e di gestione della attenzione. Key words: Body, Didactics, Simplexity, Enactivism, Neurofeedback, Self-regulationlearning.

Introduction The contribution enquires from an educational standpoint the role of the body in didactic actions, aiming at interaction between the viewpoint of didactics and some recent approaches such like simplexity, neurosciences and enactivism. * Even

if the work is an all authors’ collaboration, the pages 135-144 are made by Pier Giuseppe Rossi; pp. 144-150 are made by Catia Giaconi.

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Until a recent past, the body was put in a bipolar relation that saw it contrast with the mind. In Western thinking, it is possible to track noteworthy contributions on the same themes. From Plato onward (Galimberti, 1999), the body was given the role either of a passive canal of inputs coming from the world to the brain, or of mechanical executor of brain elaboration and decisions. Descartes picked up and supported this setting, widening the gap between mind and body. In the last decades, there is a growing awareness in cognitive science of the need to consider the embeddedness of the brain in the body and in the world to understand aspects of cognition (Chiel, Beer, 1997). In the pedagogical field the theme followed a different path. Perhaps, it was caused by the centrality of the educational relationship where two subjects, students and teacher are “soaked”, physically and cognitively, with their whole person. One of the most significant positions is seen in Dewey and in activist pedagogy that gives to the body a central role in the educational process (Rossi, 2011, 78). The American theorist criticises operative modalities, where even when used manual activities for problem solving, senses are considered as a sort of mysterious duct through which information is led from the outside world to the mind (Dewey, 1925, 190). In Democracy and education, Dewey underlines how the mind-body separation has a double harmful effect. Based on this assumption, on one side, physical activity appears like an intruder, and because of this the body becomes a source of distractions, useless processes and harmful to contain. The student “carries” his body to school as a dead weight, it takes space and resources away from the “important” activities (Dewey, 1916, 187). On the other hand, “mind’s” separation from dealing directly with things, stresses the things in detriment of relations or connections. It is more than usual to split perceptions and also ideas from judgments, sustains Dewey, since understanding a concept is like gathering the connections of its parts and not just examining each part singularly (Ibidem, 192). From the second half of the last century several philosophical approaches questioned the Fossato Galileiano1 and, in particular, the research of Merleau Ponty (1945) praised the active role of the body in perception and, by consequence, in knowledge. In the past, the separation and distance of the observer from the world vouchsafed the validity of knowledge. Today, it is the proximity between observer and observed and the recurrence between action and knowledge to guarantee its possibility. Results BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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of recent research converge on action, rescuing Aristotle’s intuitions, while diverging on some points. Among them is in fact the new attention paid to the body. According to Joas, the attention to the role of the body in knowledge originates from the need of listening, sensitivity and receptivity ( Joas, 2001, 35), functions guaranteed by an active body. Various different approaches highlight the body’s role in interactive processes between systems. Enactivism (Varela et al., 1991), stresses the continuity and recurrence of brain-body-artifact-world as central elements of his reflection. Varela’s work, starting from cellular studies, showed how the structural autonomy of living systems could cohabit with the dialogue among the same actors and see in structural matching the means of the interaction. Likewise, the Empathy theory by Berthoz (2004) shows how communication goes through processes in which a subject goes beyond his perspective to get near someone else’s. Gallese (2003) sustains that the same neural circuits involved in action control and in personal experience of emotions and sensations are also active when witnessing the same actions, emotions and sensations of others, respectively. This process is the basis of attunement between different subjects. Other studies, such as the ones of Marcus (2004), stress that more or less complicated forms of imitation, learning, gestural and even verbal communication find a precise validation activating specific mirror circuits (Ibidem, 32). Along this direction, research made mostly after 2000 are significative, sometimes it investigates the connection between autistic disorders and dysfunction of the mirror neurons system (Williams et al., 2001, Théoret et al., 2005, Villalobos et al., 2005, Dapretto et al., 2006). These research explain the difficulty of autistic subjects in imitating, both at motor and linguistic level, in the interpretation of the reason of the actions perceived (seen or heard), as well as in communication and social interplay. The body in didactics In the 1970’s and 1980’s a significant contribution on body’s role in didactics was supplied by research on psychomotor education. In particular the work of Vayer, Lapierre and Aucuturier in the eighties. Resuming Lapierre and Aucuturier, psychomotor education moved toward the emergence of EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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the symbolic experience “that has its roots in the unconscious” to attain “to the deepest layers of the personality and reach to this psycho-affective nucleus that determines the whole growth of the being” (9). Beforehand, these is a perspective that wholly modifies the problematic of education. “It is the disposition of the existence that will allow the liberation of the desire and the acquisition of real knowledge. […] climbing further is getting engaged with the drives, primitive desires and unconsciousness, to find the body, movement, in their affective meaning, the «erogenous body» that all education strives to ignore” (Aucuturier, Lapierre, 1975). Re-thinking the role of the body today bides a revision of previous positions and understands its active role in the knowledge and administration of actions and communication. The body does not say only what we do not want to say and what we cannot say, but, also, intervenes in our understanding of the world and, on the other, it takes part in the narration of our doing. Therefore, affective and cognitive are tuned together because the body supports action tightly bound with language (Le Boulch, 2000). In the scientific literature regarding special pedagogy, authors like Caldin (2011) highlight the role of the body in didactics doing and in inclusion processes. They become fulfilled also through the body’s mediation, where, “hands, harms, body, voice” are “basic facilitators of the relation itself ” (Ibidem, 35). The body and the quality of gestural and motor mediation become the indicators of quality in an educational system that shapes itself as inclusive. Rhythms in didactic doing New perspectives are opened by reflecting on corporeality. In the educator’s work, position, posture, body movement and especially, hands gestures, tone, intensity leaning of the voice all play a role. In the same way, the students’ activity reifies through their bodies. The position, the viewing and posture of the students are the indicators of the student’s state, their participation to the lesson and let the educator understand the level of attention, or, on the contrary, their loss of interest. The educator’s corporeality belongs fully to the complex system of mediators or “middle processes” (Damiano, in Giaconi 2008, 21) and with it the teacher operates the regulatory activity (Cerri, 2007; Rossi, 2011) that re-organises, according to the situation, the planned path and finds a balBIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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ance between logics and tensions. This contribution aim to find and test probable indicators, which will enable the rating of participation of the body in the process of didactic mediation, because beyond the interest in corporeality, there is a lack of experimental research that allow us to compare bodily and metabolic data with activities and behaviors related to learning processes. In the field of sport and motion analysis, tools, that provide data related to caloric and energetic expenditure of subjects, are developed. We propose to test their use within a non-specialist school setting. This contribution proposes, however, a specific hypothesis: is it possible to analyse teaching and didactics actions through physical variables and metabolic rhythms? The concepts of structural coupling, empathy and attunement have been introduced before to describe the ways in which two subjects “tune up”. Is it possible to apply these concepts to the educator-student relation and underline how the tuning facilitates learning? Considering again Berthoz empathy concept, according to it: it is possible to keep simultaneously the subject viewpoint (self centered) end the change of viewpoint that puts the subject in someone else’s place. I define this operation as simultaneous multiperspective (Berthoz, 2011). In the didactic action there are two parallel processes that reify: on one side the educator adopts the student viewpoint and listens to him to understand the obstacles that he finds and the simple conceptualisations; on the other, the student gets into the epistemological perspective of the discipline, especially the language and the viewpoint to watch the world. The analysis on empathy here focuses on the rhythms in the lesson. The educator communication modes, effort and intensity used to run the activities have a wave-like movement, as shown in the following experiences. Likewise, the doing of the student has a swinging rhythm, the effort, interest and attention. Phases with a higher emotive-cognitive tension alternate with lesser intensity moments and the phases’ succession designs a swing marked by certain regularity. Clearly, there are many different rhythms in didactic action, one for each actor and their coherence, if existing, shows fine tuning in the group. Also, It must be stressed that a rhythm exists in any case and that it is not possible to expect continuous tension and attention. Like a conductor, the educator regulates the rhythms with which the lesson unfolds. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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To regulate, the educator works on the rhythms which evolve with the lesson, where various actors play, working on three main variables: (1) frequency/oscillation periods, (2) intensity and (3) educator’s synchrony with the students. In the view of making the rhythms coherent and functional for learning, the educator can choose strategies, didactic mediators and his own communication modes. Furthermore, rhythms should be adequate to the theme discussed, to the presumable difficulty of it and, finally, to the knowledge both of the rhythms of students attention, and the managing of the attention. How to define the three variables and how to operate with them? The length of a swing in attention is the period that lets the teacher realise the duration of his own and the students’ physical and mental engagement. The height of the swing is the intensity and it allows the underlining the points of main interest in the discipline or to rescue students’ attention in particular moments. As synchrony is understood that in the classroom the waves of doing in relation to some subjects are in tune, that is that teacher and students rhythms have similar periods and their peaks contemporary; a tuned running of the different waves grants the tuning among students and teacher and favours learning. The techniques of catch and trigger (Proulx), often used by educators, are functional to synchronise the rhythms in the classroom. Davis, Sumara, Luca-Kapler (2000) highlight that “since learning is a constant enactment of embodied sensitivities, rather than a string of fully aware choices […] Strategies such like recurrence, right time questioning, underlining, practise, discussion and re-symbolisation, may help to draw the attention of students. Elaborate explanations, long instructions and out of context formulations should not be emphasised”. Some potential avenues for investigation will be shown below, right now, they are in the center of theoretical reflections and of experimental paths of research groups in Italian and International Universities. Experiment 1. SenseWear Armband and didactic action The first study is related to the recently started research by the research group of Professor Rossi on issues of enactivism, and developed in collaboration with the research group of Professor Sibilio, University of Salerno. The tool used in the experiment is a SenseWear Armband (SWA). It is a metabolic multi-sensor band that is worn on the triceps of the right arm BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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for a continuous period of time. It provides information about the tested subject and finds application in many medical activities. The SWA is constituted by a set of tools: accelerometer, thermometer, galvanometer and calorimeter. Based on the results of the various instruments provides the summary measure of METs (Metabolic Equivalents of Task). The teacher wore the SWA continuously for a week, both during lectures hours and in the remaining hours of the day. During some lectures to two students also wore a SWA. In addition, the lectures were video-recorded so as to superimpose the data from the SWA with the video track. The Armband detects the energetic expenditure of a teacher during different moments and activities of the lecture. Videos are useful for having an idea of what the teacher actually does during the lesson (reading, sitting down, standing up and walking, explaining, simply chatting, explaining or discussing‌) and knowing the related energetic expenditure. Early results By observation the data for the entire week, or considering both teaching activities, as well as those of everyday life, we see that the value of METs of the teacher during the frontal lecture, especially at times when standing in front of the class, is similar to, or slightly lower than the average value found in the same subject during a walk at a normal pace. The interesting aspect is that in both cases the accelerometer detects data very differently, namely the movement of the teacher during the lesson has a value much lower than indicated during the walk, while the value of METs is similar. This indicates that the teacher during the lecture has a high energy consumption, even if the shift is minimal. In other words, the activity of the teacher is physical and cognitive at the same time. Furthermore, the physical intensity, i.e. the energy consumption measured by the SWA, is greater in two special cases: when we get to the topical moments of the content and, in such cases, the teacher emphasizes with his whole person the importance of the addressed node; with the tone and intensity of the voice, with the movement of the body and arms, in particular, almost to direct and in the phases in which the teacher perceives a lowering of the students’ attention.

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Figure 1. Presents the graphic of a lesson on 04/12/2012.

As the graphic shows, didactic mediation develops as an alternance between dynamic and static moments, with different levels of energetic expenditure; this is obvious as during the lesson the teacher does different activities and actions. Remarkably, also in static moments, despite of the absence/reduction of ample movements, there can be revealed little changes in the energetic expenditure. During the break that goes from minute 03.15 to 21.20 (Figure 2) the teacher sits down and views the lesson of another educator. This explains the low level of METs. Yet, it is possible to see small changes in energetic consumption in specific points. Through the video, we noticed that those peaks correspond to moments in which the teacher is busy in activities like turning the pages of the book to find specific ones, intervening to clarify and explain some concepts, recalling some information in the context, describing a situation, recalling elements from the past. Overall, the differences are small and the experimental conclusions must be supported with more evidence.

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Figure 2

Even more significative data derived from the comparison between the tracks of the educator and the two students during the dialogued lesson of December, 5, 2012. The graphic (Figure 3) shows three tracks: the uninterrupted track is the educator’s METs, while the dotted and hyphened tracks relate to the METs of two students. From minute 17.50 to 18.10 there is group work. The teacher speaks to single groups, the rhythmic period lasts approximately 3 minutes, the wave is constant in its length. Furthermore, there is not coherence between the educator’s lines and those of the students. The students unfold their activities and it is not just in they are not in tune with the teacher’s graphic, also among the students graphics there is no tuning. The situation is different from minute 18.10 to 18.45. During this period, the teacher performs a frontal lesson and recovers the key concepts of the lesson. Analysing the track a rhythmic doing appears, the wave more closely related to the teacher lasts 5.2 minutes. It must be stressed the presence of a main wave reaching a peak in points 2, 4, 6, 8 and a secondary wave with lower intensity in points 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. The video examination shows an increasing intensity in tune with the METs data. It is worthwhile here, to stress synchrony in the curve of the educator and the students. The peaks of the teacher correspond, most of the times, to the ones of the tracks of the students. At minute 18:23 student 1 wave, always seated, shows a peak due to an intense noting down. On the other hand, student 2, tracked by hyphens, has a lower grade of energetic conEDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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sumption comparted to student 1. His peaks correspond the teacher’s although they reach maximum peaks slightly before, as if the activity focused on anticipation followed by synthesis.

Figure 3. Uninterrupted line: educator; hyphened track: student one; dotted line: student two.

Experiment 2 - Neurofeedback and self-regulation-learning Background The following research experience belongs to a wide project that involves researchers from the University of Macerata, Department of Psychology at IBGEN (Brazilian Institute of Management) and Department of Phonoaudiology at UNESP (University of the State of SĂŁo Paulo, Brazil), turned to investigate different procedures of analysis, planning and fulfillment of inclusive didactics in classrooms that include children or teenagers with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Starting from recent acquisitions in the neuroscience field, procedures based on the video analysis were integrated with other ones based on neurofeedback, to understand indicators related to didactic metrics. We refer to an experimental path that relied on the neurofeedback tool integrated to a sensor of detection of body temperature with the aim to understand the role of the body in the process of self-regulation and management of the attention and arousal. Neurofeedback is a non-invasive tool, it allows self-regulation and activities through a specific training and thanks to the growing awareness on converted physiological information translated, through special devices, in the form of audio or video. The goal of neurofeedback in fact is to BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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strengthen awareness and understanding how the activity of thought influence physiology and how, on the contrary, physiology influences thoughts. This device belongs to the wide spectrum of biofeedback techniques, they are based on retroaction of different physiological signs, such as muscular or skin electrical activity and body temperature. In this direction, scientific literature show diverse biofeedback modalities: muscle, temperature, heart rate, respiration, skin conductance, brainwave (neurofeedback). They are based on softwares and hardwares to observe some indicators or physiological parameters such as frequency, amplitude, coherence and location system. The aim is to train to regulate actively personal arousal (activation level) and balance out these parameters. This procedure is used in the clinical field, at international level, to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (Thompson, Thompson 1998) and Autism ( Jarusiewicz, 2002). It is used also at professional level to improve self-control and self-regulation, to exploit potentiality in sports, in the academical/working fields, and also to reduce stress and Burnout Syndrome. During the neurofeedback training some electrodes are put on the head, to monitor brain activity; in a biofeedback session, body detectors – pulse, muscles, and others – are used, they send a signal straight to the computer through special devices. According to the feedback, on the screen are displayed, with a few milliseconds delay, the brain waves or the other body indicators, in the shape of coloured bars or videogame or cartoon. In a training the goal is to increase attention and reduce the tendency to distraction. By consequence, when concentration levels decrease (at school or at work) the display changes (colours and shapes) on the screen, in a way that the person realises the drop in attention and self-regulates his behaviour accordingly. The Neurofeedback procedure has been integrated, in experimentation, with a sensor to monitor peripheral body temperature (fingers, hands). Researches highlight that the data of the temperature is significant in the activation of the nervous system of the organism and for emotional stress conditions. This happens where a peripheral cutaneous vasoconstriction is recorded, with a consequent drop in temperature. After specific calibration of the device by specialised personnel, the trainer put on the educator’s heads the band with the electrodes and a thermocutaneos sensor. The teachers were asked to solve two similar problems in a foreign language: in the first one, did not have any suggestion on EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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how to procede; in the second activity possible solutions were given at the beginning of the session. Some early results follow below and refer exclusively to the relation between body, management of the attention and personal level of arousal and attention, in the resolution of both problems. Partial results The experimental procedure results were analysed in reference to a comparison between the attention in the performance in the problematic and the thermocutaneous detection measured by the specialised sensor. During the performance were observed the following indicators: • Frequency of attention rhythm; • Intensity of attention peacks; • Coherence between attention and temperature curves. Concerning the first training, frequent drops in attention were recorded after the first ten minutes of activity, the moment that corresponded to the implementation of the solution plan to the problematic in foreign language. The swings between attention and relaxation are states of irregular frequencies. The coherence between attention rhythm and the adoption of applicable solution strategies results near absent. In periods of drops of activity and of low activation it is monitored a peripheral cutaneous vasoconstriction and a lower temperature, these explain the general cognitive-emotive stress. After the first session, the training has been repeated after analysing the parts of the assignment where were recorded drops in attention and low activation. The specialised trainer brought in some strategies to solve those parts of the assignment where drops in attention and activation were recorded. The same indicators were considered, the results showed some frequency in the regular wave and a higher intensity in peaks of attention in comparison to the first training. The peaks correspond to the adoption of the strategies used and to a peripheral cutaneous vasodilatation, this explains the general condition of lower cognitive-emotive stress. This first experimental attempt shed light on the importance of the role of the body and the relation of body indicators in the self-regulated process of attention and in the personal level of activation. BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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In future perspective, the two research units aim to develop these early partial results to correspond to the complex dynamics of managing a classroom and in the rhythms of didactic actions (role of the students and teachers bodies), in the reciprocal processes of self-regulation of the metrics of didactics. Conclusions What are professionals involved in didactics looking for when with different non-invasive instruments monitor emotions, electro dermal activity, biofeedback, galvanic skin response, heath flux among other variables, during a lecture? One main assumption behind these instruments is that skin conductance, electro dermal activity (EDA), reveals by increasing its value emotional states such as anxiety, attention, excitement, and when low relaxation and calm. These machines show some human physiological functions and the method to work with them is a constructive use of data to obtain awareness of learning, or metacognition. Silent or usual signs or styles can be revealed analysing the information provided by the instruments. All learning processes involve changes of behavior, attitude, feelings, and so on. Different technologies can help these changes by serving as mirror of strong and weak points to be worked out. Not in an absolute way, but as a secondary mean to reach results, involving the essential teaching expertise. The challenge of the two experiments contained in this article is to improve the awareness of learning, among teachers and students. For doing so, they are employing instruments like Sense wear Armband, HEG, among others. Other instruments can be used to improve didactics. An interesting monitoring instrument is the Q Sensor (Affectiva). This is a wireless and wearable biosensor that measures emotional arousal through skin conductance. The modulation of electro dermal activity, high or low, shows changes in the person’s states of mind. The Q Sensor promises effective use in various fields, such as education in general and learning disorders, clinical research, market research, nonverbal communication, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), depression, among many others. These instruments usually used in the field of sports, only to a less extent they are used to learning and cognitive processes were applied to studies on didactics. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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The considerations made earlier in the article point out that bodily activity and participation, through rhythms, movements expressions and general gesturing of teachers and students, relate to mediating didactics and learning processes. Active participation based on bodily complexity, through the path brain-body-artifact-world, lies in the line of authors previously referred, such as Varela, Berthoz, Gallese, NoĂŤ, authors in the psychomotricity tradition, and so on. The border between senses and physical data becomes thinner. The same is valid for the dichotomy senses and mind. The body is not longer a weight to carry into the classroom, together with the senses it makes a whole with the mind. The mind is not an organ; learning is not just a physical process in our body. The mind is present all around our bodies, resulting in our actions, thoughts and feelings. Although, these products of the mind are important elements, alone they do not allow us to decipher the information about the functioning of our minds. Future use of such experiments can be organised, sistematised, compared, quantified, to fill the requirements of science. Saying so we reach the aim of this article, to examine perspectives for future international cooperation in this field, while maintaining its character of a work in progress. Next steps The analysis described above has certainly an indicative value and paves the way for new research. The path must be extended working both on the same subject and context in a steadier way, and on other subjects and contexts too. The hypotheses that needs to be validated are the follows: 1. Is there a rhythm typical of any teacher or does the rhythm depends, not only on the teacher, but also on the context and the characteristics of the teaching? Is there a link between rhythm and habitus of the teacher? 2. In a longitudinal analysis with the same class from the beginning to the end of a year of studies is there a progressive greater harmony between the lines of the teacher and the students? In what cases? 3. In a longitudinal analysis of a lesson in what activities is there a better match between the rhythms of the teacher and the students? 4. How the analysis of the traces can support the adjustment of the didactics actions carried out by the teacher? BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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5. How the analysis of the traces can support the teacher in the educational choices of didactc mediation? Author’s Presentation: Catia Giaconi is Assistant Professor of “Didactics and Special Pedagogy” at University of Macerata, Italy. Maria Beatriz Rodrigues is Assistant Professor of Psychology and MBA at IBGEN (Brazilian Institute of Management - Porto Alegre, Brazil). Pier Giuseppe Rossi is Full Professor of “Didactics and Technology of Education” at University of Macerata. Simone Aparecida Capellini is Full Professor at the University Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho - FFC / UNESP (São Paulo, Brazil). Rodolfo Vastola is Ph.D. at University of Salerno.

Notes 1

The gap between the phenomenal qualities of experience and the measured quantities of physics, for example, the pleasant sensation of speed in a race and the measures of distance and speed themselves. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) believed that life was made by these two not reducible domains.

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Chiel, H.J., Beer, R. (1997), “The brain has a body: adaptative behavior emerges from interactions of nervous system, body and environment”, Trends in Neuroscience, 20, 553-557 Coben, R., Pudolsky, I. (2007), “Assessment-guided neurofeedback for autistic spectrum disorder”, Journal of Neurotherapy, 11(1), 5-23. Damiano, E. (2008), “Costruzionismo”, in Giaconi C. (2008), Le vie del costruttivismo, Roma, Armando, 7-26. Dapretto et al. (2006), “Understanding Emotions in Others: Mirror Neuron Dysfunction in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”, Nature Neuroscience, 9, 1, 28-30. Davis, B., Sumara D.J., Luce-Kapler R., (2000), Engaging minds: Learning and teaching in a complex world, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Dewey, J. (1914), Democracy and Education, Macmillan Company. — (1925), Experience and Nature, Chicago, Open Court. Gallese, V. (2003) “La molteplice natura delle relazioni interpersonali: la ricerca di un comune meccanismo neurofisiologico”, Networks, 1, 24-47. — (2005), “Embodied simulation: from neurons to phenomenal experience”, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4, 23-48. Galimberti, U. (1999), Psiche e techne. L’uomo nell’età della tecnica, Milano, Feltrinelli. Jarusiewicz, G. (2007), “Use of neurofeedback with autistic spectrum disorders”, in J.R. Evans (Ed.), Handbook of Neurofeedback, Binghampton, Haworth Medical Press, 321-339. Le Boulch, J. (2000), Lo sviluppo psicomotorio dalla nascita a sei anni. Conseguenze educative della psicocinetica nell’età scolare, Roma, Armando Editore. Merlau Ponty, M. (1945), Phénoménologie de la perception, Paris, Gallimard. Marcus, G. F. (2004), The Birth of The Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought, New York, Basic Books. Noë, Alva (2009), Out of our heads. Why you are not yours Brain, and other lessons from the Biology of Consciouness, New York, Hill & Wang. Rodrigues, M.B. (2005), “Quais são as nossas diferenças? Reflexões sobre a convivência com o diverso em escolas italianas”, Psicologia e Sociedade, set/dez, 17, 3,57-61. Rossi, P. G. (2011), Didattica enattiva, Franco Angeli, Milano. Thompson, L.,Thompson, M. (1998), “Neurofeedback combined with training in metacognitive strategies: Effectiveness in students with ADD”, Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, 23, 4, 243-263. Williams, H.G. et al. (2001), “Imitation, Mirror Neurons and Autism”, Neuroscience and Biobehavioural, 25, 287-295.

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Didactic “Harmonies” in a Bioeducational Perspective NADIA CARLOMAGNO, ALESSSANDRO CIASULLO, CARLO OREFICE, ELIANA FRAUENFELDER

Abstract: While singling out the dialogue between biology and culture as a privileged site where musical language can be read as “complex phenomenon”, this essay moves from a bioeducational perspective in order to analyze learning as a fundamentally adaptive process i.e. the result of a synergic pathway, permeated by inter-active dynamics that involve subjects in their inseparableness of mind, body and organism. The relationship body, sounds and action promotes original didactic musicalities, which, hinging on a bioeducational perspective of the teaching-learning process, represent a simplexity, as an accessible variation of the didactic action. Riassunto: Individuando nel dialogo tra biologia e cultura un orizzonte entro il quale è possibile leggere il linguaggio musicale come “fenomeno complesso”, il presente saggio parte da una prospettiva bioeducativa per analizzare l’apprendimento come processo sostanzialmente adattivo, ovvero come il risultato di un percorso sinergico, permeato da dinamiche inter-attive che coinvolgono i soggetti nella loro inscindibilità di mente, corpo e organismo. La relazione corpo suono ed azione favorisce originali musicalità didattiche che, ancorandosi ad una prospettiva bioeducativa del processo apprendimento-insegnamento, rappresenta una declinazione semplessa dell’azione didattica. Keywords: Music, Didactic, Simplexity, Bioeducational perspective.

Introduction If understood as a symbolic language, music translates a system of codified symbols into what presents itself to our auditory perception as a non-codified union of sounds, which seem structured and fluid in their succession, even if they do not show any link with the visual formalization of the score. This symbolic-perceptive language stands out as the prerequisite of a significant representation that is perceived independently from the knowEDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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ledge of the system it represents, from its regularities and its regulatory and adaptive constraints. “The development of symbolic language, a unique event in the biosphere, opened up the road to another evolution that led to the reign of culture, of ideas, of knowledge… Rudimentary symbolic communication would later encourage the development of the linguistic performance itself and then of the perfomance of the brain, which according to Monod, depends on it.” (Frauenfelder, 1983) The research project This research project positions itself in this perspective: it aims at delineating, in the light of a bioeducational vision (Frauenfelder, 1983), a pedagogical reading of the musical phenomenon by singling out, in the dialogue between biology and culture, a privileged site where musical language can be included among the complex symbolic-emotional communicative tools with educational and formative potential. This research project also entails the hypothesis of reflecting on the development of verbal language by trying to retrieve possible co-acting elements on the birth and evolution of the musical discourse, starting from the organized vibration of a physical datum named sound. In the perspective of bioeducational sciences, learning is configured as a fundamentally adaptive process, that results from a synergic pathway, permeated by inter-active dynamics that involve subjects in their inseparableness of mind, body and organism. In this vision, learning, in its most disparate forms, can be seen as the result of a cum-plexus pathway, rich with potentially multiperceptive experiences, that co-act through different communicative forms and utilize different languages. The relationship between word, music, images, gestures, writing and learning processes is linked then to a multiplicity of variables, dependent on biological constraints, on epigenesis, on neuronal modifications and subsequently strategies and tools, available to humans for their interaction with the environment through adaptive processes. In this light, a bioeducational vision of music necessarily recalls Maturana and Varela’s studies (1992) that promote a theory of human knowledge in a biological and evolutionary perspective through the concept of “natural drift”, derived from Darwinian theory. This concept hinges BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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on the assumptions of structural coupling – i.e. co-adaptation and compatibility of organism and environment in their sharing of transformations and changes – and structural determinism, which explains the interaction, the co-evolution of the organism with the environment through adaptation processes perceived as “cognition acts” necessary to this process (Maturana and Varela, 1992). According to this perspective, knowledge is the result of a form of adaptation that can be determined by the inter-action of the organism with the environment in the process of co-evolution. “The concept of adaptation tends nowadays to involve more and more significantly both terms of the adaptive relationship, individual and environment – likewise it inseparably links the terms nature and culture – through systemic, multifactorial and integrative positions of the process of development of knowledge” (Santoianni, 2012). Music necessarily requests a form of structural coupling that is the prerequisite of listening and consists in the subjective recognition of the musical meaning of sounds. Identifying the musical sequence that subtends melody is then a process of co-adaptation and sharing of the symbolic structure that subtends the musical score and configures itself as the result of a human auditory signification process. In this sense, the structural determinism required by music belongs to the learning process that follows the listening and sharing of the meaning of the melody. One recognizes a melody by interpreting subjectively the meanings it assumes for the subject, who thanks to it evolves emotionally and cognitively vis-à-vis the environment and the musical language. “On the one hand, the environment as information producer, but on the other hand, the potential human skills and genetic features are the elements that synthetically constitute human knowledge processes that enable the human control of the environment” (Frauenfelder, 1983). The scientific debate on this research field enjoys great resonance in trans-disciplinary areas through contributions such as M. Alinei’s and J.P. Changeaux’s that come from different perspectives. Some suggestions emerge from R. Wallashek’s (Primitive Music, 1893) and K. Bücher’s studies (Labor and Rhythm, 1896) that refer to the rhythm of walking or of reproducing the heartbeat in its regularity and that highlight prenatal and functional forms in the relationship between rhythm, adaptation and cognition. Ethnomusicological studies, while trying to retrieve in primitive civiEDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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lizations the possible origins of the sistematization and formalization of musical language, have often drawn attention to the difficulties of a chronological reconstruction of musical communication in a structured and codified form. Sound and music, and their historical evolution, can be reconstructed in an easier way starting from vocal forms, as many researches in this field underline: “the oldest musical pieces are exclusively vocal and consequently are pure melodies” (C. Sachs, 1962). In this sense, C. Sachs in The Well-springs of Music, starting from M. Schneider’s reflections, proposes the concept of tonic language to fix a first point of explicitation of the original relationship between verbal and auditory systems. According to this theory, a tonic language can manifest in two different modalities: 9 in the first one, there is a tendency to give peculiar resonance to the spoken work without changing its meaning (we will call this case inflexions within the same language family) 9 in the second one, e.g. languages such as Chinese or Thai, there is a need for an auditory mutation, a different intonation, a modification of the vocal emission within the same word, which determines the substantial modification of the meaning of that word. This would confirm a hypothesis according to which the prerequisites of linguistic competencies can be equated to those of metalinguistic competencies and both of them can be the result and the foundation of adaptations that rely upon the plasticity of the nervous system, “which can be evidently increased in both spontaneous and induced situations.” (Frauenfelder, 1983). Music would then be a complementary development, different from and parallel to language and in this sense the process of perfecting the vocal tone would have generally advantageous features, so that a more comprehensive organization, structuring and variegation of the metalinguistic structure would ensue (Stumpf, 1911). In actual fact, if on the one hand we know that the formalized use of the linguistic act in different societies has given life to different languages, on the other hand, also the elaboration and the selection of auditory models and modules has generated, in different cultures, multiple musical systems. “The ‘anthopological revolution’ that has characterised the past century and that has enabled different cultures to reveal themselves to others reciprocally, has also helped us understand that even the smallest and most isolated societies have some form of musical expression” (Giannattasio, 1998). BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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On a didactic level, the sound is a specific potential value for teaching, it can be destructured to renovate itself, become autonomous and then become subject and object in the learning process. In didactics, the relationship between music and learning is a potential value of the action, it expresses subconscious, but effective cognition, it accomplishes a simplification of the complex system of relationships between sound, representation and meaning. In actual fact, the expert o non-expert listening of a melody puts in action the human features of giving meanings and recognizing and mirroring oneself in the implicit characteristics of the musical piece, extremely complex and at the same time immediately understandable, independently from the articulated structure that subtends artistic masterpieces, such as Beethoven’s Ninth or the imaginative and inconsistent genesis – if compared to the compositional canons of its time – of one of Gesualdo’s madrigals. Teaching can be then potentially contaminated by music in virtue of the complexity of the teaching-learning process, by using simple basic unities such as sounds in order to simplify the learning processes in the construction of meanings with formative values. “The personal vision of reality and of the meanings we give to it, even if subjectively understood, can be shared through communicative interactions that involve every form of language, be it verbal or not” (Sibilio, 2011). In other respects, musical composition can be a specific synthetic act of physics (sounds) and culture (styles, forms, musical languages) that translates itself in an apparently merely performative dimension. According to this perspective, every performance or concert, in its most elaborated forms, is linked potentially to the union of multiple factors: loyalty to an original text/score, the use of instruments or artefacts, the combination of sounds, the relationship of the performers. Furthermore, sound and teaching through music respond to the need of recognizing the complexity of the teaching-learning system and its systemic structure, in biological but also, as we mentioned above, historicalsocial contexts and that can be analyzed “thanks to the interaction of different actors, none of which on its own determines the evolution of the system” (Rossi, 2011). In this perspective, the multitude of communicative phenomena available in teaching help us reclaim a potential explication in the double textual and musical dimension (La Face Bianconi, 2012), without neglecting the link between the cultural dimension and the biological order of individuals. EDUCATION SCIENCES & SOCIETY


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The real challenge here is integrating between biological elements, such as the cognitive roots and the educational potential of the bodily-kinesthetic dimension (Sibilio, 2002), and culture (Frauenfelder, 1983; Santoianni, 2012), both intended as elements of evolutionary adaptation vis-à-vis the environment. The bodily-kinesthetic dimension “opens the way for the ‘swift recapitulation of rational processes’ (Ginzburg, 1979) that is rooted in the senses, the ability to go in an instant by known to the unknown, based on clues, returning to the brain processes the proactive dimension (Berthoz, 2012) sacrificed on the symbolic level” (Di Tore, Aiello, Di Tore, Sibilio, 2012). Music, in this didactic and bioeducational perspective, can be redetermined in the awareness of the presence of biological and historical-social constraints. It is worth remembering here that the discovery of the neurological bases of our emotions (Rivoltella, 2012) is pivotal in learning processes. Also Nussbaum (Nussbaum, 2009) references this, while retrieving at the same time its great complexity and inevitable contradictions. In this research field, teaching cannot be – and is not considered – a neutral zone with no emotional components. Rivoltella is right in claiming that “abstraction and generalization can profitably engender learning only if they have been constructed starting from the bodily experience of the world.” Music, then, being a source of emotional potential, would fit in as a possible way to involve people in their totality. Furthermore, bioeducational research always fosters the comprehension of subjects in their entirety and peculiarity: this is a perspective that requires the construction of hypotheses of global education, within which a special attention to musically-evoked emotionality does connect pedagogical care with the role of musical communication. These perspectives are particularly significant in the learning-teaching setting, because they represent incisive conditions in the growing-up and changing experience and help us construct hypotheses of global education that are respectful of singularities and intersubjectivities. In light of these reflections, the significance of the environment as a foundational element stands out in research project hypotheses. The learning environment, understood as a synthesis of nature and culture, determines the substance, the personal plot, what Bräm calls the ‘grit’, through pathways that involve senses, emotions, knowledge (Bräm, 2012), by reconstructing some matrixes of a sensory operational take which underpins pedagogy itself (Baldacci, 2007). BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


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In conclusion, music, didactics and educability, according to a bioeducational perspective, recall forms of recognizable and available complexities in the learning processes, which depend on human biological evolution, itself the result of an extraordinary process of “cross catalysis with cultural performance” (Eccles, 1972; Frauenfelder, 1983), which is able to interpret and comprehend cognitive processes and the formative potential of music in teaching. References Alinei, M. (1996), Origini delle lingue d’Europa, vol. I, Bologna, il Mulino. Baldacci, M. (2007), La pedagogia come attività razionale, Roma, Editori Riuniti University Press. Berthoz, A. (2012), Simplexity: Simplifying Principles for a Complex World (G. Weiss, Trans.), Yale University Press. Bräm, T. (2012), «Music Pedagogy in the 21st Century» Musica Docta [Online], I, 2, pp. 1-8. Web. http://musicadocta.unibo.it/article/view/3226, 24 Nov. 2012. Bücher, K. (1909), Arbeit und Rhythmus, Leipzig und Berlin, B.G. Teubner. Carpitella, D. (1992), Conversazioni sulla musica, Firenze, Ponte alle Grazie. Changeux, J.P. (2007), Geni e cultura. Rivestimento genetico e variabilità culturale, tr. di Gabriella D’agostino, Matteo Meschiari, Cinzia Cellura, Palermo, Sellerio. Darwin, C. (1871), The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, London, J. Murray. Di Tore, S., Aiello, P., Di Tore, P.A., Sibilio, M. (2012). “Can I Consider the Pong Racket as a Part of My Body?: Toward a Digital Body Literacy”, International Journal of Digital Literacy and Digital Competence (IJDLDC), 3(2), 58-63. Eccles, J. (1972), The understanding of the brain, New York, M.C. Graw-Hill. Frauenfelder, E. (1983), La prospettiva educativa tra biologia e cultura, Napoli, Liguori Editore. Frauenfelder, E. (2001), Pedagogia e Biologia. Una possibile alleanza, Napoli, Liguori Editore. Giannattasio, F. (1998), Il concetto di musica, contributi e prospettive della ricerca etnomusicologica, Roma, Bulzoni Editore. Ginzburg, C. (1979), “Spie. Radici di un paradigma indiziario”, in A. Gargani (Ed.), Crisi della ragione (pp. 57-106), Einaudi, Torino. Goleman, D. (1999), Intelligenza emotiva, Milano, BUR. La Face, G. (2012), “Testo e musica: leggere, ascoltare, guardare”, Musica Docta [Online], I, 2, pp. 31-54. Web. in http://musicadocta.unibo.it/article/ view/3239. Leroi-Gourhan, A. (1977), Il gesto e la parola, Torino, Einaudi. Maturana, H.R., Varela, F.J. (1992), The tree of knowledge. The biological roots of understanding, Boston, Shambhala.

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Mauss, M. (1965), Le tecniche del corpo, in Teoria generale della magia e altri saggi, Torino, Einaudi. Morin, E. (1993), Introduzione al pensiero complesso, Milano, Sperling & Kupfer. Nussbaum, M.C., (2009), L’intelligenza delle emozioni, Bologna, Il Mulino. Rivoltella, P.C. (2012), Neurodidattica, Milano, Raffaello Cortina Editore. Rossi, P.G. (2011), Didattica enattiva. Complessità, teorie dell’azione, professionalità docente, Milano, FrancoAngeli. Sachs, C. (1979), Le sorgenti della musica, tr. di Marina Astrologo, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri. Santoianni F. (2012), «Evoluzione culturale e sviluppo ontogenetico nella formazione situata», in G. Cacciatore, G. D’Anna, R. Diana, F. Santoianni (Eds.), Per una relazionalità interculturale. Prospettive interdisciplinari, Milano, Mimesis, pp. 25-37. Sibilio M. (2002), Il corpo intelligente, Napoli, Ellissi Editore. Sibilio M. (2011), “Corporeità didattiche”: i significati del corpo e del movimento nella ricerca didattica, in Sibilio (Ed.), Il corpo e il movimento nella ricerca didattica, Napoli, Liguori Editore. Spencer, H. (1857), “The Origin and Function of Music”, Fraser’s Magazine, XXVII, 56, 396-408. Stumpf, C. (2012), The Origins of music, Oxford, Oxford University press. Wallaschek, R. (1893), Primitive music: an inquiry into the origin and development of music, songs, instruments, dances, and pantomimes of savage races, London, Longmans Green and Co.

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Bioeducational Sciences

ELIANA FRAUENFELDER

Bioeducational Sciences are legitimated within pedagogical discourse through one of its most significant fields of interest: learning, which is interpreted as a process involving the subject in his/her interactive and synergistic globality of mind, body, and organism; it reflects individual characteristics and continuous entering into relationships with others in a fluctuating process that opens the subject to intersubjectivity. It follows that, in the Bioeducational perspective, training and education are the result of a complex process involving a plurality of elements and an even greater plurality of interactive dynamics. In this path, the role of biological constraints in epigenesis, the development of the neural basis of learning, adaptive strategies, the role of the environment and its designing in knowledge processes, are of particular importance. Therefore, research is structured and built referring to developmental processes, the role of learning in these processes, the nature of individual differences, the adaptive function of learning potential, and the meaning that all these factors assume in relation to educational planning. In this interpretative framework, the learning process is fundamentally configured as an adaptive process, a process in which several experiences are organized and they produce large openings to changes, but also resistance and shadows in the educational space. The power to follow this process in its multiple facets is typical of pedagogical discourse, as it monitors individual paths in their development by sustaining and enhancing, but at the same time it respects closures, uncertainties, and moments of stasis. As a matter of fact, the learning process is not a heuristic path that produces a continuous and constant improvement. Therefore, it should not be assessed for its immediate products but rather for its dynamics and its procedures and particularly in the awareness of the times and methods of synaptic connectivity. Thus, willingness to learn, which is an expression of brain plasticity, takes place in a structural and functional way throughout the course of ontogenetic development in an itinerary that is not an ascending, sequential, or a linear process, but rather a complex, variable, and often discontinuous process; it continues during individual life through a succession of experiences and it is not limited to a child’s first years of life, even though a lot of learning potential occurs during that period. If it is true that the processes of synaptic connectivity vary during the first years of life in relation to the critical periods

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of brain development, during which the body exhibits a specific opening to the environment and a particular sensitivity to environmental stimulations, it is also true that these moments of opening and closing characterise the later life of a child and they often manifest themselves in different ways. These are not always easily recognizable by trainers, which makes it difficult to follow the learning process through its many transformations. This makes it difficult to dynamically adapt trainers’ planning to individual learning rhythms and to integrate diversity in collective processes without undermining distinction. Therefore, the success of a training program may lie in the ability of connecting the individual and relational dimensions. In this dialogue, the trainer’s role in the “learning situation” is essential because it evolves with it and it redesigns itself continuously. As a matter of fact, guiding a learning environment means to consider individual peculiarities, but at the same time to stimulate the others in a continuous process of guided discovery. The trainer has to be always prepared to handle unforeseen dynamics; in fact, the teaching and learning relationship is not disadvantaged, but favoured by the non-predictability of knowledge processes. Knowledge processes are substantiated by several factors (individual contributions, adaptive dynamics, and integrated networks of relationships); this multiplicity of elements should find a deliberate guidance in the trainer. This guide becomes an architect of the environments that are a vital part of educational planning and that must be absolutely appropriate for the actions of directional and continuous stimulations of the subject in development but, more importantly, they have to match those highly specialized structures that individuals organize and constantly transform in environmental interaction. As a matter of fact, these structures produce defined knowledge networks (but still, however, susceptible to modifications) that affect readiness to learn, hence the wide modifiability of synaptic connections in relation to the environment and, consequently, the close correlation between the biologically specific neural connection structure and the educational and training dimension. It is in the awareness of what can be done in the educational process and for the educational process that the Bioeducational approach becomes rightfully pedagogical and it manifests itself for what we would like it to be: essential knowledge for the construction of practical educational paths, extremely respectful of differences and also guarantor of common goals for the sustainable development of individuals and communities. More significant prospects are currently opening: the world of explicit knowledge, styles, strategies, and intelligences is being fathomed; but also meta-reflective and meta-cognitive reflection is being studied. Therefore, also the incidence of the Bioeducational Approach in the study of the mind breaks the spell of an entirely rational vision based on the Cartesian tradition, and, more generally, typical of Western thought; it achieves the justification and highlighting of explicit and implicit learning;

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but furthermore, it also allows to manage concretely shared and located learning that is expressed in specific spatial and temporal situations and that is rooted in cultural processes and dynamic and changeable social realities. As a matter of fact, it is clear that in the course of time, through the interaction between the phylogenetic development of the species and the cultural evolutionary development of the human system, new models of interpretation of reality have emerged. These are closely linked with the concepts of space and time as instrumental to orientation in the society to which one belongs and constantly connected to adaptive choices. A dizzying experience, Cerruti says, which uses cognitive structures centred on precise though limited spatial and temporal scales. A dizzying experience, in which, nevertheless, there are some reassuring certainties: the problem is connected to the anthropocentric origin of knowledge, and thus, the problem is the problem of humanity with its history, its conscience, and cognitive potential. Therefore, once again, the bet on the success of education -a hard bet as La Porta said during the Seventies- is even more difficult, I think I can say. However, nowadays, it is acquiring new spaces for renewed hope in education.

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Action and Practice

STEFANO CASULLI

Working on an analytic redefinition of Action and Practice conceals several dangers: 1) the fact that you consider two terms instead of one represents itself a significant obstacle; 2) moreover, you have to differentiate the semantic level of two notions which are inseparably connected, often in an asimmetrical manner (as we will see later in the article); 3) in addition, in the history of thought none of these two terms has received a definitive univocal definition: on the contrary, both go transversely through central topoi of philosophy (we can think for example to crux Theory/Practice or Power/Act). As a consequence, the change in the meaning, produced by the Time, has influenced and modified the entire semanic area of Action/Inaction, Practical/Theoretical. To unravel/dissolve these crux we’re going to produce an acheological study about the two terms which will regain the central passages of the chronological development to understand sedimentations and remainders; the first “philological” phase of the study is going to recover the two concepts in their relationship in order to distinct them; then the clarification of the meaning is going to highlight some crucial elaborations appeared in the last decades. Since the definition of Action and Practice we perceive inadequacy and approximation in their uses. Practice is defined like “activity oriented to the concrete realisation of something” or like “constant execution of an activity which permits to acquire experience and represents the completion of theoretical knowing”: therefore, concrete activity and oriented to a goal often characterized by a constant execution which produces an experiencial knowing that completes theoretical one [knowing]. About Action we read that it is “the fact to act, to work” or also “each single man act, especially as such morally estimated”: so it seems to indicate a more generic something, the fact to act, which is liable to moral judgement. Aristotle was the first to give to Action a specifically human acceptation. He kept out to this notion the needed operations. They can’t be different from what they are, so they’re studied from mathematical sciences and first philosophy [Aristotle, 2001, II]. They’re sciences which can study causes since they cannot change. The sphere of possible (what can be in a way or another) belongs to Action, and it can be divided in two parts: the poiesis (creation, productive setting) and the praxis (practice, the acting as a goal itself ). “Every action and rational choice is thought to aim at some good; […] but it is clear that there is some difference between ends: some end are

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activities, while others are products which are additional to the activities […]” [Aristoteles, 2000, I, 1094a]. So Praxis indicates the sphere of practical acting as something that can be morally judged [Aristoteles, 2000, VI]. In the aristolian analyse we find some preeminent elements: • Action represent the natural feature [tratto naturale] of Human Being. Free Man distinguishes himself from the slave for his capability to act, living so his own freedom; he relates to the world, in the world, without being dipendent by it, producing a voluntary and selfcognizant transformation. • For this reason, moral action (praxis) represents the maximal expression of freedom: as an end to itself, it determines a change in social and political sphere (so it influences other human beings). Praxis opposes itself to the poiesis, the creating act which has the production of a external and separated object as its end. • Virtuous practice belongs to a polis well-administrated by free, able and honest citizens (arete): this is the reason why happyness and well-being (eudaimonia) can exist only with an integral education to freedom [Aristotle, 2011, VIII]. Due to the incisiveness of these notions for centuries Action and Practice were used a lot and with different connotations: Thomist philosophy, as well as its materialistical reaction, has tried to enrich this thematic; but it’s often fallen in an intellettualistic tendency about free action [Thomas Aquinas, 1953, X, 1]. Subterraneanly, especially with the growth of vernacular languages, a meaning skid of the terms Practice and Action occurred: while the second one attaches itself to the moral behavioural product from a choice, the first one extends itself until including the entire sphere of human acting. Therefore, there is an inversive mouvement: the area of Practice extends itself to all the field of not immutable, while for Action we start to interpret the specific moral practice which is the result of an aware choice of a subject. Not casually, nowadays we translate the aristotelian Praxis with Action, and not with Practice. In the hegelian tradition we can find the maximal expression of this capsizing. Hegel places in the center of his philosophical system the dialectique, a form of thinking that is capable to understand the reality in the oppositions which constitue it: Subject/Object, Real/Rational, Form/Content. Hegel opposes this knowledge mouvement to the aristotelical abstract comprehension of the world. In Hegel the Action is situated inside the rapport between Subject and Object (= the world as such other than me); a rapport which becomes mobile, not crystallized and that shapes a double track. Negatively, now philosophical action is able to understand and include all, until becoming totalitarian; on the other hand, the rapport between Subject and Object, where the Action is situated, becomes fluid, dialectic. The Subject isn’t free in abstract, but it lives of a subjectivity which is always modifiable; a subjectivity which has its own freedom inside the contest of experience [Hegel, 1977].

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Furthermore, knowledge becomes the fondamental crux: knowing is an action, it produces a change in the subject as well as in the object. Symmetrically, we can say that each relation (person-person, person-thing) produces an embodied and experienced knowledge. In the hegelian rut, Marx appoints total centrality to the category of Praxis in the historical materialism: “The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice […]” [Marx, 1845, II]. Praxis acquires in the philosophe Treviri’s tought a double meaning: 1) it reveals all the relations of production and of work which constitues the social structure; 2) it represents the transformer act which can be exercised on these relations. Praxis is exalted as the focal center of the rapport between subject and object: if “All social life is essentially practical” [Marx, 1845, VIII], it means that subjects (both individually and social class) have to be understood within the social sphere of objective rapports; so, thay can be reflectively legitimated or modified inside the social practice of life. We can say that it comes back to the aristotelian elaboration, but in an overturned and no-stiff form that in this way is able to catch the intentionnality of the subject in its incorporating in the Object. Now, Practice indicates all the field included in the rapport subject-object, while the Action individues the free reflexive and conscious act of a human being situated in a social context by extension. Action concerns the choice, the practical field with mouvements, events and also actions combinations which determine forms of the reality and subjectivity in their complexity. Practice concernes al the mental, bodily, individual and collective experiences which constitue the persone in its social dimension, where the Action includes a reflexive and “autopoietical” element (because it’s creation of an act which is part of itself ). It’s not a coincidence that Arendt, in his beautiful Human Condition, puts in the center of her analysis the thematic of Action like the highest form of human-being realization [Arendt, 1958]. Arendt divides the vita activa in 3 different activities: 1) labour; 2) work (like the production of artifices); 3) action. She recognizes that “The objectivity of the world and human condition supplement each other” and however carry out an action, act, “means to take an initiative, to begin […], to set something into motion”. The Action can be defined in opposition to other two types of activities: it isn’t work, because it neither find the goal in the artifice of an object, nor in the isolation that the production implies; it isn’t labour, activity made beacause of the necessity to respond to necessity and which brings an instrumental and “machinical” use of body and mind. This long archeological operation lets us understand the two concepts that we have introduced, in all their strenght, but also ambiguousness. It has been possible to see that since the origins Action and Practice implied eachother in a mobile relation of

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inclusion: from Aristotle to the Modern Age, Action has had a wide meaning which distinguished within itself the instrumental/material acting and the free/aware acting, the Prassi. Successively, the aristotelian Praxis has been translated with “action” and placed in the center of principal moral theories; so, the concept of Practice was relegated to the mere exteriority setting. With Hegel and Marx the two words has soldered themselves with these meanings (si salderanno con questi significati), going both inside the reciprocal mouvement between mutable subjectivity and objectivity: Action and Freedom can no more be thought outside socially situated contexts. This reconnaissance gives us the possibility to introduce two different authors, who recovered in different ways the concepts, determining an additional enrichment with their use of the meaning: Bourdieu and Foucault. Pierre Bourdieu was a versatile author, who went throught various disciplinary areas of interest. He kept a constant deep critic of the dualism subjectivism/objectivism, as the writing of two importants texts about action and practice confirmes: Le sens pratique (1980) e Raisons pratiques (1994). His critic is centered on the theme of possibilities social conditions. Until now we have distinguished possible sphere from unchangeable sphere: now, in the heart of subject/object rapport a feature sets in; it digs inside the acting subjectivity and it places it within objective social rapports, which define/determine for what it is. Habitus is a fondamental sociological cathegory: it’s a combination of durable dispositions which grew in the practical context of social experience. So the habitus is ambivalent: it shows the totality of organized deteterminations as result of historical acting; at the same time, it is an amalgam of determinations which produce, cause, organize practices; in this way it delimit the field of effective possibilities action and thought. For this reason Bourdieu can say that there are some actions “raisonnables sans être le produit d’un dessein raisonné […]; habitées par une sorte de finalité objective sans être consciemment organisées par rapport à une fin explicitement constituée; intelligibles et cohérentes sans être issues d’une intention de cohérence et d’une décision délibérée; ajustées au futur sans être le produit d’un projet ou d’un plan” [Bourdieu, 1980, 85-86]. So practices, in their complexity, become the place of subjectivity production: the focal point in which social field meets and produces an acting subject. Later, he’ll say that it’s necessary to return to the practice like “lieu de la dialectique” between opus operatum and modus operandi, of products embodied from historical practice, structures and habitus. The border between Action and Practice becomes ephemeral: the first one gets spurious, it takes root in a context which gives (or denies) a meaning to it. Practice becomes a space where situated action (modus operandi) compares itself to the variety of codes, distinctions, “permanences” present in the objectivity. Inside the analysis concretness of social and power field, does it remains the space for the Action? Can we speak about free intentionality? We can find an interesting answer in works of an author who has consacrated his

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life to the study of devices and thought systems; during his last years he subterraneanly developed a positive thought about action: Michel Foucault. The majority of his works presents itself like a researche about internal limits of society, which defined thresholds from which acting subjectivitys shape themselves: these clivage have an history made of sedimentations and removals. The processes of inclusion and exclusion, namely and corporal dispositions subjectivities form themselves in their practical complexity. We could call them “formation canals”, inside which the magma of spurious subjectivity goes and comes to life, even denied (“perverted” subjects don’t stop to exist like polyphonic echo). And freedom of action? However, subject does not extinguish itself in the immanent strenght of power: starting from the course Du gouvernement des vivants of 1980, Foucault commits to the study of free subject, adding it as a third central element in constant relation with know and power. Subject represents an immovable axis to the other two, because it reflects itself and adfirms its autonomy and truth. In front of devices and microprocedures, forms of domination on human-being, “saying the truth” represents a dangerous and destabilized action. It breaks with established order from preexisting codes and knows [saperi]. Along these lines it affirms “beyond” [al di là] of acting subject (Foucault, 2009). So Action becomes an individual and collective act of autoreflexion and autocritic, because it always has to compare itself with a reality made of schemes and words which are the same expression of itself. Action amounts itself as self-government (individual and collective), an embedded act which opens to the possibility of an otherness compared to the established order: freedom as the reopening of the field of possibilities. Free action is the recognition that inside the Self there is a multiplicity of desires, thoughts, needs: in turn it hasn’t to hierarchize, divide, organize. It has to multiply, express, give voice through an act of autonomy and self-affirmation. “Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia” (Foucault, 1977). This chronological and archeological analysis has allowed to highlight the fondamental elements of these two concepts, whose value remaines opened to redefinitions and new uses. Semantic wealth of these two terms tells, in lateral form, the history of subject relation with objectuality, the society, the otherness. An history of closures and openings, stiffenings [irrigidimenti] and modifications, where the same research can’t be an action of freedom, awareness and autonomy able to modify totalitarian practices which live in the field of study.

References Arendt, H. (1958), The Human Condition, Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Aristotle (2000), Nicomachean Ethics, Cambridge University Press. — (2001), Metaphysics, Santa Fe, Green Lion Press.

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— (2011), Politics: a Treatise on Government, Create Space Independent Publishing Platform. Bourdieu, P. (1970), La reproduction, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit. — (1980), Le sens pratique, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit. — (1996), Raisons pratiques: sur la théorie de l’action, Paris, Seuil. Foucault M. (1977), Introduction to the non-fascist life, in G. Deleuze, F. Guattari L’Antioedipus, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. — (2009), Le courage de la verité. Le gouvernement de soi et des autres (tome II), Paris, Gallimard-Seuil Hautes Études — (2012), Du gouvernement des vivants: Cours au Collège de France (1979-1980), Paris, Gallimard-Seuil Hautes Études Hegel G.W.F. (1977), Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, Oxford University Press Marx K. (1845), Theses on Feuerbach. Thomas Aquinas (1953), De potentia et alt., cura et studio P. Bazzi et al., Ed. 9. Revisa, Taurini, Romae, Marietti.

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1) Enactivism (by Valentina Prenna) Maturana H.R., Varela F.J. (1987), The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Boston: Shambhala. Varela F.J., Thompson E., Rosch, E. (1991), The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience, Cambridge: MIT Press. This is the basic book for Enactivism. Moving from Merleau Ponty’s phenomenology, the authors argue that the new science of mind must reconsider the role of the body in experience and cognition: our bodies must be seen both as physical structures and as lived-experiential structures, outer and inner, biological and phenomenological. Reid R. (1996), “Enactivism as a methodology”, in L. Puig, A Gutiérrez (Eds.), Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, 4, 203-210. In this paper Enactivism is proposed as a new methodology for research in mathematics education; some key concepts of Enactivism such as autopoiesis, structural coupling and determinism and co-emergence are transferred into the activity of research giving a new idea that is opposite to the “stereotypical image of the experimental research”. 1. the interrelationship between researcher and data, in which we find ourselves learning new things within a context which is partially of our own creation. 2. the interrelationships in the research community, in which we as autopoetic researchers engage with other researchers in ways which preserve the structural coupling between us. 3. coemergent autopoetic ideas which live in the medium of our minds, and of which we are emergent phenomena. Chiel H.J., Beer R.D. (1997) “The brain has a body. adaptive behavior emerges from interactions of nervous system, body and environment”, Trends Neurosci. 20, 553557. In this paper, adaptive behavior is described as depended both on the functioning of the neurons and neural circuits and on the interactions between neuron systembody-enviroment, each of which have complicated and rich dynamics. The body offers constraints and opportunity of interactions and actions in the environment, and the nervous system receives continuously feedbacks from the body and from

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the environments. So, in cognitive science there is a growing awareness of the need to take into account the embeddedness of the brain both in the body and in the environment to understand cognition. Lakoff G., Johnson, M. (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Book. The central idea of this book is that “our sensory-motor systems thus limit the abstract reasoning that we can perform. Anything we can think or understand is shaped by, made possible by, and limited by our bodies, brains, and our embodied interactions in the world-the body and brain have an important role in human reason and language-metaphor are largely embodied: Metaphor appears to be a neural mechanism that allows us to adapt the neural systems used in sensorymotor activity to create forms of abstract reason. Begg A. (2000), Enactivism, a personal interpretation. http://www.ioe.stir.ac.uk/docs/ Begg%20Enactivism%20.DOC (verified in October 2012). This paper describes Enactivism as a new theory of learning, according to the author’s interpretation; he highlights new concepts of Enactivism earlier underestimated, putting in evidence some criticisms about constructivism and Cartesian dichotomies, describing phenomenology, considering the contributions of neural biology and systems theory and the importance of non cognitive knowing. Pagano G. (2000), Il marchio enattivo della realtà virtuale. http://org.noemalab.eu/sections/ideas/ideas_articles/pdf/pagano.pdf. This paper describes the system of Virtual Reality as an enactive cognitive technology: in Enactive approach to cognition, there is a circularity between action and experience and between action and knowledge. Cognition depends of the kinds of experiences made possible by having a body with certain sensory motor capacities. The system of Virtual Reality are projected for a subject that is immersed into them with the globality of his body, they are based on interactivity, on the usage of sensory-motor and kinesthetic skills, on a process of knowledge that is dependent on the cognitive possibilities of the body. They are perceived and enacted. Thompson E., Varela F. (2001), “Radical embodiment: neural dynamics and consciousness”, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5, 10. The authors proposed a new approach to neuroscience of consciousness moving from three statements: research2: (1) understanding the complex interplay of brain, body and world requires the tools and methods of nonlinear dynamical systems theory; (2) traditional notions of representation and computation are inadequate; (3) traditional decompositions of the cognitive system into inner functional subsystems or modules (‘boxology’) are misleading, and blind us to arguably better

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decompositions into dynamical systems that cut across the brain–body–world divisions. Noe A. Action in perception (2004), Cambridge, MIT Press. This book present a new view of the relation between perception and action that is opposite to the “classical sandwich model”. For enactive approach to perception, to perceive is having an implicit knowledge of patterns of sensory motor dependencies: the perceiver implicitly understands the effects of movements on the consequent sensorial stimulation. So, perception is active and connected with cognitive processes. Proulx J. (2004), “The Enactivist Theory of Cognition and behaviorism. An Account of the Processes of Individual Sense Making”, Proceedings of the Complexity Science and Educational Research Conference, Canada, 115–120. In this paper the author points out some key concepts that distinguish enactivism from behaviorism in locating decisional mechanism. He starts with the importance of agent in the learning process, stating that it is not the environment stimulus, but precisely one’s internal structure that determines the changes that happen. These internal dynamics, in turn, enable us to perceive in our environment potential triggers. If we do not ‘see’ the triggers in the environment, we cannot be ‘affected’ by them. Decisions don’t arise in the environment, but it is through the agent’s interaction with the environment that its internal dynamics can recognize potential triggers in it and get triggered by them4. Learning is not determined by the environment, but it depends on it “you get triggered by what you can get triggered by”. Frielick S. (2004). “Beyond constructivism: An ecological approach to e-learning”, in R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer, R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference, 328-332. Perth. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/frielick.html Thompson E. (2005), “Sensorimotor subjectivity and the enactive approach to experience”, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4, 407-427. This paper focuses on dynamic sensorimotor activity. Recent dynamic sensorimotor approaches to perception and action have made important contributions to the scientific and philosophical understanding of consciousness. The aim in this paper is to build on these advances in order to address the “body-body problem,” the problem of how to relate one’s subjectively lived body to the organism or living body that one is.

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MCGee K. (2005), “Enactive Cognitive Science”, Constructivist Foundations, 1, 1934. In this paper it is described Enactive Cognitive science as an approach to the study of mind that seeks to explain how the structures and mechanisms of autonomous cognitive systems can arise and participate in the generation and maintenance of viable perceiver-dependent worlds, opposite to the traditional cognitive view in which cognition in representation of a pre-given world. De Jaegher H., Di Paolo E. (2007), “Participatory Sense-Making: An enactive approach to social cognition”, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6, 4, 485507. This paper proposes an Enactive approach to social cognition. It talks about participatory sense making moving from the idea that the interaction processes can take on a form of autonomy. For the author the problem of social cognition can be redefined as that of how meaning is generated and transformed in the interplay between the unfolding interaction process and the individuals engaged in it. Thompson E. (2007), Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. London: Harvard University Press. Moving from the awareness of the continuity of mind and life, the Author proposes to bring phenomenological analyses of experience into a mutual relationship with scientific analyses of life and mind. Li Q. (2008), “How enactivism helps reform e-learning”, Asian Women, 24, 4, 1-20. This paper is focused on Enactivism applied in Educational Technology and describes how it provides a more encompassing framework to meet the current epistemological challenges for education caused by rapid development of technology. Lozano M.D. (2008), “Characterising algebraic learning through enactivism”, PME 32 and PME-NA XXX. The author proposes an approach to Algebraic learning based on Enactivist theoretical framework, describing a longitudinal study in school. Through an Enactivist analysis of six themes (effective behaviors) algebraic learning was found to be promoted in classrooms where the embodied, rational, emotional and social aspects of learning were taken into account. Oliverio S. (2008), Esperienza percettiva e formazione, Milano: Franco Angeli.

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Proulx J. (2008), “Some Differences between Maturana and Varela’s theory of cognition vs Constructivism”, International Journal of Complexity and Education, 5, 1, 11-26. The paper highlights three main differences between the theory of cognition of Maturana and Varela and Constructivism: the biological roots of cognition, its phylogenic and ontogenic basis, and the nature of reality and knowledge. It focuses on the third point with the idea of “bringing forth a world” as the real conceptual shift. Damiano L. (2009), Unità in dialogo. Un nuovo stile per la conoscenza, Milano, Bruno Mondadori. This book is based on a philosophical and scientific vision opposite to the computationalist one. It is focused on some concepts related to Enactivism: self organization, autonomy and co-emergence; complexity as an irreducible feature of the modern reality; involvement of the observer in a dialogue with the reality he studies to understand it; mirror neurons and intersubjectivity. Thomson E., Stapleton M. (2009), “Making Sense of Sense-Making: Reflections on Enactive and Extended Mind theories”, Topoi, 28, 23-30. In this paper authors describe the differences between Enactive approach and the Extended Mind theories focusing on a new concept of autonomy and sense making. The following issues are treated: following issues: (1) the debate between internalism and externalism about cognitive processes; (2) the relation between cognition and emotion; (3) the status of the body; and (4) the difference between ‘incorporation’ and mere ‘extension’ in the body-mind-environment relation. Fuchs T., De Jaegher H. (2009), “Enactive Intersubjectivity Participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation”, Phenom Cogn Sci, 8, 465-486. In contrast with the current theories of social cognition based on a representationalist view, this paper proposes the social understanding as a dynamical process of participatory sense making (through the interaction and coordination of two embodied agents) and mutual incorporation (the lived bodies of participants form a common intercorporality). Through intersubjectivity common meanings are generated. Proulx J. (2009), “Directions and possibilities for enactivism and mathematics education research”, Proceedings of the 33rd Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, 1, XXX-YYY. This paper describes some contributes that Enactivism could give to Mathematics education research regarding learning and teaching, pointing out the differences between Enactivism and Constructivism.

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Li Q., Clark B., Winchester I. (2010), “ID and technology grounded in Enactivism-a paradigm shift?” British Journal of Educational Technology, 41, 3, 403-419 This paper explores enactivism as an alternative paradigm in the field of instructional design and technology (IDT), describing its contributes to this field comparing similarities and differences between enactivism and objectivism and constructivism. Holton D. (2010), “Constructivism + Embodied Cognition = Enactivism. Theoretical and practical implication for conceptual change”, AERA 2010 Conference. This paper explores Embodied Cognition and Enactivism as an advancing of Constructivist theory and describes some theoretical and practical implications of for the design of effective learning environments that support a conceptual change. Di Paolo E., Gapenne O., Stewart J.S. (2010), Enaction. Toward a new paradigm for Cognitive Science, MIT Press. This book presents the framework for a new approach to cognitive science. The proposed paradigm, enaction, offers an alternative to Computational Theory of Mind in viewing cognition as grounded in the sensorimotor dynamics of the interactions between a living organism and its environment. Some chapters describes aspects of enaction paradigm; others address specific areas of research, including artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, neuroscience, language, phenomenology, and culture and cognition. Damiano L. (2011), “Vita, Cognizione e scienza come processi di co-emergenza. Segmenti dell’evoluzione teorica ed euristica della scienza dialogica”, Riflessioni Sistemiche, 5. This paper moves from the definition of the theme of “self organization” and connect this concept to the processes of life, cognition and science to characterize them as co-emergence. Ward D., Stapleton M. (2011), “Es are good: cognition as enacted, embodied, embedded, affective and extended”, in F. Paglieri (Ed.) Consciousness in interaction: The role of the natural and social environment in shaping consciousness, Philadelphia: John Benjamin. Moving from the idea that cognition is enactive (it depends upon the cognizers’ interactions with their environment) authors present some statements to support that it’s also embodied, embedded, affective and extended.

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2) Enactivism and neurosciences. Intra-individuality and inter-individuality Gallese, V. (2005), “Intentional Attunement. The Mirror Neuron System and its role in interpersonal relations”, Interdisciplines, http://www.interdisciplines.org/mirror/ papers/1. Gallese, V. (2003), “La molteplice natura delle relazioni interpersonali: la ricerca di un comune meccanismo neurofisiologico”, Networks, 1, 24-47. Gallese, V. (2003), “Neuroscienza delle relazioni sociali”, in F. Ferretti (Ed.), La mente degli altri, Roma, Editori Riuniti, 13-43. Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. (2001), “Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the understanding and imitation of action”, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 661-70. Rizzolatti, G., Craighero, L. (2004), “The Mirror-Neuron System”, Annual Rev. Neurosci. 27, 169-192. Carr, L., Iacoboni, M., Dubeau, M.C., Mazziotta, J.C., Lenzi, G.L. (2001), Neural mechanisms of empathy in humans: a relay from neural systems for imitation to limbic areas. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., 100, 5497-5502. Singer, T. (2006), “The neuronal basis and ontogeny of empathy and mind reading: review of literature and implications for future research”, Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 6, 855-63. Gallese, V., Keysers, C., Rizzolatti, G. (2004), “A unifying view of the basis of social cognition”. Trends in Cognitive Science, 8(9), 396-403. Decety, J., Chaminade, T., Grézes, J., Meltoff, A.N. (2002), “A PET exploration of the neural mechanisms involved in reciprocal imitation”, Neuroimage, 15, 265-272.

3) Simplexity (by Paola Aiello) Aiello, P. (2012), La ricerca didattica sul corpo in movimento verso la semplessità. Aspetti epistemologici e metodologici, Lecce: Pensa. Alon, U. (2006), An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits, Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall. Alon, U. (2007a), “Simplicity in biology”, Nature, 446, 497. Alon, U. (2007b), “Network motifs: Theory and experimental approaches”, Nature Reviews Genetics, 8, 6, 450-461. Berthoz, A. (1997), Le Sens du Mouvement, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A. (1999), Leçons sur le Cerveau, le Corps et l’Esprit, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A. (2003), La décision, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A., Andres, C., Barthelemy, C., Massion, J., Roge, B. (2005), L’Autisme de la recherche à la pratique, Paris: Odile Jacob.

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Berthoz, A. Recht, R. (2005), Les espaces de l’homme, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A., Jorland, G. (Eds.) (2005), L’empathie, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A., Petit, J.L. (2006), Physiologie de l’action et Phénoménologie, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A., Vercher, J.L. (2006), Le traité de la réalité virtuelle, volume i: L’homme et l’environnement virtuel, Paris: Les presses de l’Ecole des Mines de Paris, Collection Sciences Mathématiques et Informatique. Berthoz, A. (2006), Emotion and reason: the cognitive neuroscience of decision making, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Berthoz, A., Petit, J.L. (2008), The Physiology and Phenomenology of Action, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Berthoz A. (2009), La simplexité, Paris: Odile Jacob. Berthoz, A., Christen, Y. (2009), Neurobiology of Umwelt, Berlino: Springer. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1963), Le strutture del comportamento, Milano: Bompiani. Piaget J., Bandinelli F.B. (1983), Biologia e conoscenza: saggio sui rapporti fra le regolazioni organiche e i processi cognitivi, Torino: Einaudi. Piaget, J.(1993), L’epistemologia genetica, Bari: Laterza. Sibilio, M. (2012), Traiettorie non lineari nella ricerca nuovi scenari interdisciplinari, Lecce: Pensa editore. Sibilio, M. (2012). “Corpo e cognizione nella didattica”, in P.C. Rivoltella, P.G. Rossi (2012), L’agire didattico. Manuale per l’insegnante, Brescia: La Scuola, 329-348. Uexküll von, J., Müller, P. (2004), Mondes animaux et monde humain: suivi de Théorie de la signification, Paris: Pocket. Uexküll von, J. (1936/2001), “An introduction to Umwelt”, Semiotica, 134, 107-110.

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Book Reviews


182 M. Sibilio (a cura di), Ricercare corporeamente in ambiente educativo, Lecce, Pensa, 2011, pp. 267. The formative, educational and inclusive value of motor experiences in schools has been widely recognized from a scientific and institutional point of view through the National Guidelines of the Ministry in 2007. Despite this, motor experiences, within the didactics of Italian primary school, still appear profoundly limited or, in most cases, essentially absent. The difficulty shown by didactics in receiving suggestions about the importance of body in the process of acquisition and construction of knowledge can be considered as a reflection of a lack of conceptual and practical instruments and appropriate teaching methods able to receive and enhance the role of body in the teaching-learning process. The experience of action research presented in the book “Searching corporeally in educational environment”, which is part of the ministerial project for school inclusion “I-CARE”, begins with this theoretical framework and leads the reader through the methodological approach of the research, which involved fourteen schools in Campania, in a building process of inclusive teaching methods focused on the importance of bodily experience, in full awareness of body and its movement, which are “tools for supporting the teacher and the student in knowledge acquisition” (p. 18). The proposal of using concept maps for the creation of languages and concepts corporally determined seems

Book Reviews to be, in this sense, a learning strategy for school teachers, able to substantiate and adequately decline, in terms of teaching practice, the theory that bodily experience represents an “instrument able to foster and support teaching processes” and that it acquires a “special significance for students with disabilities whose special needs require the construction of appropriate teaching methods for the specific decoding systems of the subject and for the characteristics of its cognitive system” (p. 19). The book thus presents itself not only as a “diary” of the research, but also as a precious collection of methodological and instrumental resources designed to enhance, from a didactic point of view, according to Berthoz, all the processes used from the body to decipher the complexity of reality. Very interesting is also the theoretical framework drawn in the book that starting from a conception of the embodied knowledge, as stated by the scholars of this approach, enhancing the knowledge as mapped in our sensory-motor system which provides the structure for the conceptual content and characterizes the semantic content of concepts in the way we work with our bodies in the world, finds in the relationship between biology and knowledge an original way to achieve an effective and efficient didactics for special needs.

BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM

Stefano Di Tore


Book Reviews

P.G. Rossi, Didattica enattiva. Complessità, teorie dell’azione, professionalità docente, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2011, pp. 156. The ongoing educational research contents should be reconsidered in the light of new perspectives which are more suitable considering the intricate situation of Education as well as the globalisation-related issues, the latter influencing cultural processes of contemporary societies. Pedagogical researchers should make efforts in terms of creativity on a series of subject matters, such as educational relationships, educators’ knowledge, teaching and learning, the relationship between general and disciplinary education, professionalization of teaching bodies. This is fundamental because our society reorganises and rebuilds many of its social and cultural systems, including the educational ones. How can educational theories preserve the same structure in terms of comprehension and interpretation in this new, different scenario? Starting from this question the author aims at walking through a new track dealing with research in Education and Teaching: the fundamental background he refers to is the enactive theory by Maturana and Varela. Enactivism, a concept imagined by the Chilean neuroscientist Francisco Varela and here recalled by the author from an educationalbased perspective, claims that “there is life beyond the objective/subjective duality” and entails a close relation-

183 ship between individuals and his/her environment and between action and knowledge. Nevertheless, unlike the most conventional constructivist theories, he tries to overcome the ancestral dualism between subject and object (a typical Western scheme from Plato on) by introducing a mutual and simultaneous relationship between these two entities (Proulx, 2008). Subject and object; entities and environment; mind and body exist because of their fundamental correlation rather than their opposition. This new perspective is fostered by a new boost in the field of Neurosciences which have redefined the interaction mind-body-environment as autopoiesis: this is a crucial process for the evolution of knowledge. There is no knowledge without the “structural combination” and “action-driven perception”, these being two principles of enactivism. Knowledge creation is the result of the combination between Educators and Learners, that is an autopoietic relationship. The term autopoiesis, from the Greek words auto (“self”) and poiesis (“creation”) is the most distinctive trait of this learning relationship: for this reason it may provide a precise explanation about the actions carried out by Educators. This autopoietic system redefines itself continuously, sustaining and reproducing itself. It may be represented as a network of connections among its organic elements which keep the entire organism alive. Why not considering Education in terms of autopoiesis? Educational procedures

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184 require a different relationship between theory and praxis and research methodologies which consider their complexity and unpredictability. In this context the enactive methodology is to be tested. This volume has two sections: Education and other education-related sciences and Education and current challenges. In the first part the problem of Education and its relation and positioning in the vast domain of Education-related sciences is described. Here the author tries to explain the issues introduced at the beginning in terms of language (the foundation of any kind of scientific research) and interpretation sharing: here he refers to the Action theory and the postconstructivist enactive paradigm according to which one may reinterpret Education as a relationship among subject matters like “the autonomous and fundamental nature of learners; the role of practice; the relationship theory-praxis; and other key domains of our social and cultural context such as competence, complexity, action…” (p. 13). The second part of the volume focuses on educators’ competence. The author underlines that realism, cognitivism and constructivism have influenced educators’ actions, depriving them of their creative power which is “combined” in their educational procedures. This topic is developed according to three factors: “how one may learn from action; how experience is built; how experience may be

Book Reviews represented” (p. 88). The underlying theory explains that enactive education is able to set educators free from pre-constructed influences, thus making him/her an active “maker” of new educational patterns. The main criterion described here is once again the relationship between action and knowledge. Three steps are involved in this educational process: dialog, recurrence and general presence. Professionalization is a path built by the use of dialog in a specific context, connecting every actor involved in the educational setting (the so called F-A-P model: aims, variables, paths. Rossi, Toppano, 2009); being aware of the fact that educational processes are not coherent; in the part-whole relationship between tools and general features in the educational path and minimal features of this action (using glimpse, a given posture, a certain answer, etc.). Rossi provides examples of this kind of practices drawing on his long-serving experience at University of Macerata (teacher portfolio, Rossi, Giannandrea, 2006). He identifies three scenarios: traineeships, visual and narrative practices and the connection between Research and Education. He also underlines that the university system has its faults in training new educators. The volume ends by affirming that Education can be considered a science not only when it “validates” and “tests”, but mainly when it can provide methodological tools that can facilitate educators’ activities and the interpretation-analysiscomprehension of its related practices.

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185

Book Reviews Therefore, Education may also be a beneficial science. Loredana Perla

M. Sibilio (a cura di), Il corpo e il movimento nella ricerca didattica, Napoli, Liguori, 2012, pp. 256. The book Body and Movement in didactic research broaches the ontological and epistemological complexity of movement sciences, offering a crosssection about the possible linear and non linear trajectories of didactic research in motor field. The extraordinary variety of contributions in the text belonging to different traditions and heuristic approaches underline an unexpected plurality of common spaces and a possible interdisciplinary potential. The definition of a shared space allows the integration of several types of information, giving to the study a specific connotation irreducible to an elementary vision and promoting a new perspective of approach to scientific research in motor-didactic field (Sibilio, 2012). The idea of a corporeal dimension no more related to a physical one, opens new scenarios where the body and the action become instruments to start a formative process which involves the whole person in its physical, cognitive, sentimental and relational dimensions. In this way body becomes “a place of contact of aims and didactics and research becomes the way for understanding, interpreting and com-

municating what it often seems to be incomprehensible”. The meanings of body and movement in the intentionality of a didactic action become the result not only of a sophisticated and articulated technical competence, but also of a cultural basis which can be spread also through body behaviours. The first part of the text, dedicated to the comparison among the most significant contributions of each discipline, avails itself of the reflections on corporeal dimension in the framework of scientific traditions specific of each subject. The reflection of sports psychology and its possible transpositions in social domain advanced by Stefano Boca, the description of psycho-motor formation proposed by Andrea Bonifacio, the elements of motor integration presented by Giorgio Fanò, the motor function stressed by G. Sorrentino, the studies on physical activity and old age by Amilcarelli, the importance of hygienist subjects for health protection by Mario Capunzo, anatomic sciences treated by Giovanni Orlandini join the contribution of natural sciences to movement sciences proposed by Giuliano Minichiello and Francesco Piro. The second part of the text concerns themes related to assessment and methodological aspects related to movement sciences, with particular reference to the application of new technologies in didactic research. The contribution of Vladimir Medved and Franco Merni on principles and methods in movement analyses, together

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186

Book Reviews

with notational approach proposed by Mike Hughes allow the consideration of a possible integration on a methodological level and in operational models of qualitative and quantitative models which can make use of heuristic contributions of action research, of experimental research and instruments of observing research in motor didactic field. Rodolfo Vastola

P.C. Rivoltella, Neurodidattica. Insegnare al cervello che apprende, Milano, Raffaello Cortina, 2012, pp. 184. Si parla molto oggi di neuroscienze anche tra quanti si occupano di educativo, ma, come accade spesso nei territori di frontiera, non sempre le frequentazioni evitano due pericoli: da un lato un’analisi superficiale e approssimativa, dall’altra un’applicazione riduttivistica dei risultati. In relazione alle neuroscienze termini quali neuroni specchio, specializzazione degli emisferi sono ampiamente presenti anche in campo educativo, ma non sempre sono trattati con la dovuta competenza, e, d’altro canto, dalle evidenza delle ricerche delle neuroscienze cognitive vengono dedotte indicazioni per la formazioni con modalità a dir poco deterministiche. Il testo di Pier Cesare Rivoltella riesce in maniera magistrale a evitare entrambi i pericoli ed elude sia le facili conclusioni, sia il determinismo.

Illustra in modo approfondito e con ricchezza di riferimenti gli aspetti teorici e propone interpretazioni dalla prospettiva didattica delle teorie analizzate. Non a caso la prima parte del testo cerca di sgombrare il campo da quelle che l’autore definisce neuro mitologie, ovvero quei riduzionismi e quelle sovra interpretazioni derivate da una lettura sommaria delle ricerche neuroscientifiche. Una per tutte: la specializzazione dei due emisferi cerebrali. Sicuramente la specializzazione è un dato incontestabile, ma, usando le parole del Rivoltella, appiattire il dato culturale su quello naturale, ovvero dedurre in modo meccanico dalla specializzazione la spiegazione di difficoltà nell’apprendimento è quanto mai inappropriato, così come dimenticare nell’analisi la complessità e la capacità di rimodulazione del cervello stesso produce effetti nefasti. Segue una proposta metodologica su come affrontare i territori di frontiera tra scienze differenti, in particolare là dove si tratta di coniugare scienze hard e scienze soft. Si analizzano poi alcuni settori specifici della relazione tra neuroscienze cognitive e didattica. Si inizia dal “conoscere la conoscenza” e dall’analisi di alcuni processi specifici, quali l’attenzione, la memoria, per sottolineare da un lato il ruolo del contesto e dell’apprendimento, dall’altro il ruolo di pratiche, a volte denigrate, come la ripetizione, il tutorato diretto, anche se l’attenzione si focalizza soprattutto

BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


Book Reviews sull’interazione tra differenti modelli di curricolo. Si affrontano poi il “cervello visivo” e, in particolare, il ruolo delle immagini nella mediazione didattica. Le immagini semplificano alcuni processi senza eliminarne la complessità. In tale percorso si tiene conto delle due prospettive, quella dell’insegnamento e quella dell’apprendimento, ovvero del ruolo delle immagini nella mediazione didattica e nella conoscenza. Segue l’analisi del “cervello che agisce”, ovvero di come le nuove evidenze delle neuroscienze cognitive forniscano nuova linfa all’analisi delle relazioni interpersonali, del “cervello che legge” per approfondire i processi di letto-scrittura e meglio comprendere lo scenario didattico che le nuove tecnologie aprono. Il testo termina con l’analisi della relazione tra didattica, cervello e teatro. Scegliere di chiudere con la metafora del teatro per guardare in profondità la didattica non è casuale e permette di riattraversare l’intero percorso del testo. Tale metafora sottolinea alcune caratteristiche della didattica come scienza dell’insegnamento: come tecnologia della parola e della cultura, come tecnologia della performance, come tecnologia dello sguardo. Rimane ben salda la prospettiva e la distinzione dialettica tra insegnamento e apprendimento: la didattica è scienza dell’insegnamento e delinea le funzioni e l’habitus del docente, un docente che comunque conosce e ha approfondito, fuori da ogni riduttivismo o approssimazione,

187 i processi dell’apprendimento anche alla luce delle teorie delle neuroscienze cognitive. Pier Giuseppe Rossi

L. Damiano, Unità in dialogo. Un nuovo stile per la conoscenza, Milano, Bruno Mondadori, 2009, pp. 275. “L’uomo non funziona come un calcolatore”: non riceve informazioni per poi elaborarle e, infine, decidere l’azione. Il testo parte da questa ipotesi e, riprendendo la posizione teorica di un indirizzo eterodosso, sostituisce a tale modello – lo schema ingegneristico dell’elaboratore - lo schema naturalistico del sistema auto-organizzatore. Per tale operazione l’autrice esamina con dovizia di particolari e con una ricostruzione teorica meticolosa i processi che dall’inizio del secolo scorso hanno portato all’approccio enattivista, partendo da quelli che chiama i pionieri del nuovo processo. Analizza due assi. Da un lato l’embriologia organicistica degli anni ‘30 (i biologi del gruppo di Cambridge e di Bruxelles), i lavori Paul Weiss fino ad arrivare alla termodinamica delle struttura dissipative (Prigogine e Morin). Dall’altro l’asse cibernetico: Norbert Wiener, Heinz von Foerster, Henry Atlan. Emergono alcuni concetti chiave, quali autonomia dei sistemi,chiusura organizzazionale, emergenza, per arrivare alle dinamiche auto-eco-organizzazionali e alla co-evoluzione.

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188 Si ripercorre poi la ricerca di Varela, sino a focalizzarsi sull’enattivismo. Il concetto di autopoiesi e la relazione vita-cognizione vengono osservati da una particolare prospettiva, quella del dialogo tra sistemi. Il punto di arrivo è una diversa interpretazione degli input endogeni: “le azioni ambientali perdono i connotati degli input informazionali esogeni di classica tematizzazione. Si qualificano come destabilizzazioni che per il sistema non solo sono indistinguibili da quelle endogene, ma sono anche prive di un significato intrinseco” (171). Anche il loro valore informativo dipende in modo essenziale dalle specificità strutturali del sistema che determinano quali eventi possano essere percepiti e quali modificazioni possano comportare. Si passa così all’ultima parte del testo, nella quale si analizza la tematica da cui deriva il titolo del testo: Unità in dialogo. Il percorso crea interazioni significative tra la teoria vareliana dell’enattivismo e le ricerche sulle neuroscienze cognitive del gruppo parmense di Rizzolati e Gallese. Secondo l’autrice l’analisi “non si limita a stabilire connessioni estrinseche tra menti confinate nello spazio intra-individuale. Ha la specificità di superare i confini che distinguono le individualità, generando un accesso privilegiato all’altro e, inseparabilmente, un accesso comune all’ambiente - l’ingresso a un mondo condiviso. È un’intelligibilità di sintonizzazione la quale si sviluppa originariamente nella sfera interindividuale” (192). Elemento centrale di questo proces-

Book Reviews so è la mente incarnata e il ruolo attivo nella conoscenza del corpo. Secondo l’autrice, Varela e il concetto di azione incorporata riprendono e superano la prospettiva costruttivista. L’enazione per Varela è “azione incorporata che pone innanzi un mondo: le regolazioni neurali rispondono agli eventi esogeni perturbatori proiettando sulla scena ambientale oggetti che esprimono prontezze all’azione. Il contributo innovativo dell’enazione al costruttivismo radicale classico si inserisce qui, nella descrizione della dinamica regolatrice della rete neuronale” (209). La ricchezza dei riferimenti, l’esauriente ricostruzione storica e la fecondità dell’ipotesi proposta di una sintesi tra l’enattivismo vareliano e le neuroscienze cognitive rendono il testo un contributo innovativo per esplorare settori di frontiera che anche la ricerca didattica sta indagando. Pier Giuseppe Rossi

F. SANTOIANNI, Modelli e strumenti di insegnamento. Approcci per migliorare l’esperienza didattica, Roma, Carocci, 2010, pp. 110. Il termine “ricetta didattica” ha trovato ostracismo da tempo nella letteratura scolastica e, forse, proprio per questo F. Santoianni lo riprende provocatoriamente per poi superarlo. Quello che si propone, infatti, non è di fornire la ricetta, ma una serie di proposte che possano fornire al docente una ampia cassetta di attrezzi da cui

BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


Book Reviews scegliere in base al contesto e a un percorso personalizzato l’approccio e la metodologia da privilegiare. Il testo, in realtà, offre un spettro ampio di teorie dell’apprendimento, dagli anni Settanta ad oggi, e per ciascun modello fa emergere alcuni suggerimenti pratici, la “ricetta applicativa” appunto. Le teorie sono organizzate in tre insiemi: le ricette tradizionali, le ricette attuali e le ricette sperimentali. Appartengono alla categoria delle ricette tradizionali i modelli che prendono le mosse dal comportamentismo, dal cognitivismo e dalla meta riflessione. Vengono evidenziate di questi approcci la centratura sul docente e la metafora di riferimento, quella “della brocca e del bicchiere” ovvero il travaso di conoscenza. Particolare attenzione è focalizzata sul modello metariflessivo, visto come un trait d’union con la categoria successiva. Pur sottolineando il legame tra meta riflessione e meta cognizione, si evidenzia come l’approccio riflessivo permetta l’emergere di tratti impliciti e come ciò sia essenziale per favorire la padronanza dei processi apprenditivi. La seconda area, quella degli approcci post-cognitivisti, coglie come punto nodale la conoscenza distribuita, situata e incorporata e anche in essa si propongono tre modelli: il modello contestualista e la “ricetta mediazionenegoziazione”, il modello culturalista e la “ricetta esempio-responsabilità”, il modello costruttivista e “la ricetta guida-cambiamento”. Nei modelli attuali della formazio-

189 ne sono presenti già alcuni aspetti che troveranno ampio spazio nei modelli sperimentali; tra di essi un ruolo importante gioca lo studio della dimensione implicita degli apprendimenti e, soprattutto, il passaggio dalla centratura sui processi di apprendimento a una focalizzazione sui processi di formazione delle strutture di conoscenza che si attuano proprio quando il soggetto “esce da se stesso” per entrare “in un sistema di apprendimenti condivisi, la comunità di apprendimento, dove ogni informazione si struttura non perché viene trasmessa o elaborata, ma perché viene condivisa”. Emerge come centrale il concetto di “mediatore”, in particolare nel primo dei tre modelli che fanno capo a questa area, ruolo che nell’accezione della Santoianni è svolto da colui che insegna, descritto dall’autrice con l’immagine, molto efficace, del conduttore televisivo. Nell’ultima area, quella delle ricette sperimentali, essenziale è l’influenza delle neuroscienze e delle scienze biologiche e i modelli, come dice la stessa autrice, sono interpretabili in pedagogia attraverso l’ambito di ricerca delle scienze bio-educative. Si percepisce anche una maggiore affinità elettiva dell’autrice con questi modelli che sono fortemente connessi con la ricerca della scuola a cui l’autrice stessa appartiene. Elemento essenziale dei modelli di questa area è il superamento di una derivazione deterministica degli aspetti educativi dalla ricerca scientifica, come avveniva nella bio-pedagogia

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190 della seconda metà del Novecento, per arrivare a una prospettiva pluridisciplinare frutto di “accordi reciproci” tra pedagogia, scienze biologiche e neuroscienze. Due sono i nodi centrali, senz’altro condivisibili e fondanti per la didattica nel contesto attuale: la correlazione tra mente e cervello e della mente con l’organismo inteso come corporeità e ambiente, il che comporta il superamento del fossato galileiano, da un lato, e il superamento della centratura sul docente o sullo studente per fondare il processo formativo sulla relazione e sull’interazione tra i due soggetti, il secondo. Questo ultimo elemento era in realtà già presente per certi versi anche nei modelli post-cognitivisti, ma trova ampia reificazione nei modelli sperimentali. In essi si passa così dal modello arricchito, al centro del quale vi è un ambiente “predisposto per stimolare il più possibile gli studenti che imparano al suo interno”, al modello organistico, dove troviamo la dialettica tra implicito e corporeità, tra i processi automatici e un corpo che incide sui processi stessi dettando le sue regole e i suoi tempi, al modello adattivo, che prevede quei processi di reciprocità, definiti anche come “l’accoppiamento strutturale”, tra soggetto e ambiente. Il testo è ad un tempo breve e molto denso, e molti concetti sono presentati e suggeriscono piste suggestive non del tutto esplorate. Si colloca in un terreno di mezzo tra pedagogia e didattica e questo forse è il suo punto di forza e di debolezza in quanto se l’esplorazione dell’apprendimento e dell’educazio-

Book Reviews ne, da una prospettiva pedagogica, risulta intrigante, far discendere da esso la ricetta applicativa, ovvero come insegnare, non valorizza correttamente l’autonomia dell’insegnamento. Ogni capitolo, infatti, espone in una prima parte il modello teorico e in esso si inquadrano i processi dell’apprendimento, mentre nella seconda parte si esplora “la ricetta applicativa” e si analizzano gli aspetti più fortemente connessi all’insegnamento. Il testo colpisce per la sensibilità con cui vengono colti e sottolineati quei nodi teorici che maggiormente caratterizzano la contemporaneità, ovvero il ruolo della bio-educazione, la forte interazione tra mente e corpo, la relazione di reciprocità tra soggetto e ambiente e il superamento di una centratura sullo studente o sul docente per porre l’attenzione sull’interazione e sugli spazi di mediazione tra insegnamento e apprendimento. Si parla di accoppiamento strutturale e ciò dovrebbe comunque permettere di non perdere di vista la specificità e l’autonomia dei due processi che dialogano nei contesti educativi. Pier Giuseppe Rossi

F. Zannoni (a cura di), La società della discordia. Prospettive pedagogiche per la mediazione e la gestione dei conflitti, Bologna, CLUEB, 2012, pp. 347. Il volume affronta il tema dei conflitti e della mediazione grazie al

BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM


Book Reviews contributo di molti autori, e non solo dell’ambito pedagogico ed educativo, che restituiscono un quadro complesso di una realtà sociale frammentata e caratterizzata dal bilico costante fra individualismo e conflittualità delle relazioni umane. Compito e sfida dell’educazione sono quelli di riuscire a rintracciare e promuovere modalità innovative per confrontarsi e gestire la discordia che si genera nella molteplicità di contesti del quotidiano, a partire da un approccio problematicista aperto al dialogo e alle contaminazioni. Il testo si articola in due parti, fra loro strettamente connesse. Nella prima parte, si sviluppa il tema dei conflitti in relazione alle teorie e alle strategie di gestione, a partire dall’uomo come soggetto nel mondo, centrato su se stesso in modo egoistico e sulla sua necessità di essere riconosciuto, e, allo stesso tempo, in cerca di relazioni che possano rendergli la vita meno solitaria, intrecciando la dimensione del sé e quella sociale. In questo senso, “rendendoci di volta in volta un po’ meno incompleti, gli altri sono artefici della inarrestabile ridefinizione della nostra identità e autostima e, quindi, della nostra felicità” (p. 17). Ciò non toglie che, proprio in virtù del fatto che si necessita di una continua revisione di sé nell’incontro con gli altri, si può dare origine alla conflittualità, la quale risulta essere pervasiva in differenti contesti e dinamiche che tracciano un profilo della società della discordia in cui diventa necessario saper gestire la rabbia per superare la paura, a fronte dei complessi mu-

191 tamenti a cui assistiamo. È il dialogo che può avviare la gestione del conflitto, dialogo che necessita della messa a punto di strategie comunicative per divenire in grado di riconoscere e di attraversare il conflitto stesso; un dialogo non solo costituito dalla dimensione verbale, ma anche strettamente connesso con l’espressione corporea quale fondamento relazionale. La seconda parte del testo propone l’analisi della mediazione e degli ambiti in cui essa può declinarsi, a partire dalla mediazione umanistica e familiare, fra legami ambigui e da rigenerare che sempre più spesso si creano tra la coppia e i figli; ciò conferma l’importanza di porre l’uomo al centro della costruzione del suo progetto esistenziale, nella ricerca di un riconoscimento reciproco. Ampliando l’orizzonte dell’interazione, è possibile osservare la funzione strategica che può assumere la mediazione sociale, quale lavoro di comunità e di empowerment, anche attraverso la descrizione di alcune esperienze effettuate che intrecciano riflessività pedagogica e agire educativo. Di seguito viene trattata la mediazione culturale, mettendo in luce come sia necessario ricalibrare tecniche e strumenti nell’incontro delle differenze, in riferimento al contesto multiculturale. L’ultimo ambiente sociale preso in considerazione è quello della scuola in cui numerose sono le dinamiche da mediare per gestire conflittualità singole e collettive, fino a spingersi al conflitto “intrattabile” (p. 305) e al ruolo che l’educazione può assumere.

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192 In chiusura, si trova un dialogo tra gli autori che riportano in luce le suggestioni e le riessioni articolate nei vari contributi, restituendo la complessità della tematica proposta e aprendo la via a un confronto continuo capace

Book Reviews di generare conoscenza rinnovata e strumenti operativi attenti al cambiamento sociale.

BIO-EDUCATION, SIMPLEXITY, NEUROSCIENCE AND ENACTIVISM

Rosita Deluigi

Education Sciences & Society gennaio luglio 2013  

Rivista

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