Accepted paper:

The learning environment: anthropology and pedagogy for human development


Elizabeth Rahman (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on SDG4 Education, this paper begs an enlarged understanding of what formal education implies and explores its deeply entangled relationship to other SDG. It examines indigenous pedagogies as a careful biosocial endeavour and their relationship to human and pan-species flourishing.

Paper long abstract:

The learning environment, the methods educational facilitators employ, the social and cultural milieu, the physical space and setting, the palpable atmosphere and the attitude of those present shape the potential for human development and are themselves shaped by humans. While a host of outdoor and forest school initiatives aim at countering 'nature deficit', this paper explores the phenomenon of nature learning and details ways of attending to, being in and caring for the environment. Focusing on ethnographies of childhood within 'animist' ontoepistemologies, this paper recasts the question of learning in the diffractive light of pedagogy, child development, metacognition, neurophysiology, microbiology and epigenetics, enlarging our understanding of how learning takes place and reframing the question of what exactly is being learnt. Teaching a curriculum outdated by research-insights in both the sciences and humanities, perpetuates an inoperative paradigm. The paradigm also endures by associated pedagogic methods and teaching styles in classrooms that instil unsustainable relational habits. With the example of a 30-year strong indigenous intercultural teacher training initiative in Peru, the paper explores how open and abiding attention and intentional attention sit alongside both didactic teaching and dialogic 'knowledge exchange' practices. Paying special attention to how perceptual modes are reinforced through epistemic embedding and the Buen Vivir ethos, the paper forwards a model of learning as a holistic and biosocial human endeavour, with implications for the other 16 SDGs.

panel A03
Entangled engagements: anthropology's holistic approach to the Global Challenges