Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The labor of learning: A study of the role of pain in education
by Mintz, Avi, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2008, 210; 3317653
Abstract (Summary)

At virtually every moment of interaction with their students, educators must strike a balance between creating experiences which are too difficult—and would lead to impassable frustration on the part of the student—and experiences which are too easy—those which would fail to provide any challenge to the student and, in turn, fail to foster any beneficial development. Yet, with the exception of an important discussion about the experience of suffering at the suffering of others in social justice education, if theorists or practitioners were to seek scholarship about negotiating this balance, they would find that contemporary researchers have had quite a lot to report on one side of the equation and have had very little to say about the other; while there are countless books and articles about the importance of students' experience of care, trust, interest and so on, there are relatively few works about their experience of unsettledness, confusion, frustration, discomfort, worry or anxiety—experiences which I refer to as "pains of learning." Indeed, when anything at all has been written about these educational pains, they tend to be characterized as obstacles to learning.

Drawing on Plato's midwife metaphor, in which learning is depicted as analogous to the labor of childbirth, I argue that proper to the labor of learning are joys and pains, successes and failures, excitement and frustration, anticipation and anxiety. I make this argument by considering the role of pain in learning in four distinct topics. I first examine rhyming proverbs from Ancient Greece similar to our own expression "no pain, no gain" to consider various ways that pain has been tied to human development. I then consider the pains of learning proper to two specific educational subjects—mathematics education and social justice education—to argue that a more sophisticated understanding of the pains proper to those subjects could improve how they are taught. I close by considering the role of self-esteem in education and I argue that a narrowly defined conception of self-esteem might enable students to have more productive encounters with the pains of learning.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hansen, David
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 69/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Teacher education, Education philosophy
Keywords: Learning, Pain, Philosophy of education, Struggle, Suffering, Teacher education
Publication Number: 3317653
ISBN: 978-0-549-65749-1
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