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Enactive teaching in higher education : transforming academic participation and identiy through embodied learning Hocking, William Brent

Abstract

Enactive Teaching in Higher Education is a narrative exploration of embodied teaching in the university classroom based on the enactive view of cognition described by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. On the surface, their philosophy is a heavily theoretical critique of epistemological dualism. More profoundly, it is an imaginative proposition for reinventing ourselves as human beings by acknowledging the participatory nature of perception, how reflection-as-experience implicates us in relationships that determine our most fundamental senses of identity. Enactive philosophy is pervasively ecological. It asks us to consider not only how body, mind, and spirit are interconnected, but how subjective senses of self are disrupted and transformed by interactions with other people. It is a view that extends Hannah Arendt's embrace of human togetherness. For this reason, enactive philosophy raises questions about what it means to be and become a dynamic, well-balanced educational participant. My curiosity is how enactive philosophy informs personal and collective senses of participation and identity in adult and higher education specifically. I focus this interest around two teaching-related questions: (a) What do embodied views of cognition reveal about adult learning and self-development? and (b) How do adults' embodied perceptions of themselves and others support holistic understandings of teaching? My inquiry draws on three data sources: (a) a critical literature analysis of embodied pedagogy, (b) a field study that documents perceptions of embodied teaching and learning in a graduate seminar, and (c) reflections on my journey as an elementary teacher preparing to become a university instructor. I present my findings thematically using narratives to bridge theory and practice. The themes offer a framework for enactive teaching. My senses of narrative, like my senses of teaching, are guided by enactive philosophy. The significance of this view is to trouble instrumental and prescriptive views of education while accentuating a connection between embodied knowing and pedagogies of possibility.

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