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Whole Person…Learning

whole person learning

Whole Person Learning asserts that all humans have the capacity to learn and that this is gloriously more than an intellectual process. Rather it recognises the necessity of embracing and incorporating processes that engage the physiological as well as the psychological, the heart as much as the mind, the unfettered imagination as much as the mundane – and the ever-present availability of connection to the divine.

Whole person approaches recognise the intrinsic, inseparable and dynamic relationship alive in and between such inseparable ‘elements’, and seeks to provide educational and experiential opportunities to reacquaint ourselves with them  – engaging in an active process of learning to live more fully and act more consciously and intentionally.

Capturing the essence of Whole Person Learning is difficult – perhaps even impossible for me – in a way that can do it justice, a way that recognises the fullness and mystery of our human experience of living and learning. The above is one attempt at expression, of description – getting across something of the meaning – and what it can afford us.  Settling upon a good-enough expression is an ever-constant challenge in the realm of communications – websites, social media, marketing and promotion, the sharing of ideas and ideals.  Our Comms Team deserves a medal. They really do.

I quite like that I can’t ‘pin it down’ easily. Over the years at Oasis we’ve had many rich and sometimes testy discussions about it, trying to gain some shared understanding of what we are about and then translating that into a form that can be understood – in language that is accessible – ultimately to serve those who find us, to enable ways of applying it more fully in our work. We’ve ‘lived it’ through Group Inquiry and Action Cycles, we’ve given voice to it, written about it, drawn it, walked it and even danced it.

Perhaps we will never reach a once and for all description and that, maybe, is a very good thing. It keeps us alive to the ongoing inquiry. What is ‘Wholeness’? Personhood?  How much more can we incorporate into our sense of what it means to learn.

Inquiry keeps us from getting fixed on terminology that in itself can become confining, reductionist and life-less.  Our understanding comes out of diving deep into our shared experience and sense-making, out of past happenings and future musing – out of relationships. We have history. It is revised, informed, re-vitalised, enhanced and transmuted by the novel and emergent, new relationships, new investigations and new questions.  Most importantly – and frustratingly – it is expressed, and experienced, in different ways.  Different language, nuance and texture are required, for different people and contexts.

A bunch of us at Oasis are part of an ongoing WPL Community of Practice and we managed to spend two days together in glorious, actual physical contact, in January of this year – before the lockdown and the framed conversations on Zoom – when we shared our most recent ‘take’ on Whole Person Learning. What I learned is still ‘composting’, maybe fermenting – trickling through my mind and body, waiting for a chance to form further expression. The expressions may take the form of a written document – they may appear in a piece of art or a photograph or maybe just an outward breath and a stretch of the spine. I’m relishing the notice period.  Noticing my own experience of being alive in this unreal-real-time and what meaning I am making of it – what I am learning, and how this will – is – presenting itself in my work with others, in my relationships, in the living of my life and considering what changes this will invite. Is change the ultimate goal of learning?  Does all learning need to be shared?

What excites me is this diversity and that Whole Person Learning can – and must – accommodate countless expressions. I would love to see/hear/feel yours – What whole-Person-Learning is going on out there? What are you noticing?

Marion Ragaliauskas