Updated: Jul 14, 2021
I presented a short paper at the above Conference. The paper was concerned with the idea of a possible universal pedagogy that would apply across all the disciplines. I was naturally cautious since this implies a huge generalization, and academics are taught to view generalizations with a degree of caution. But I also wanted to incite interest in the first place and to make it apparent from the outset that this was not about a social science of pedagogy but about the natural science of cognition. The image is designed to associate the familiar Universal Studios film makers logo with the term 'pedagogy'. The image invokes active learning precepts because it pushes the viewer to build from an existing knowledge (common social consciousness of the Studio logo and 'universality') to create new knowledge regarding the possible universality of a pedagogy. I spoke for a short while about what had prompted my own curiosity and journey of pedagogic and scientific discovery. I showed the picture below.
I explained the effect that seeing this image for the first time had on me. I went on to explain how it had prompted intellectual enquiry as to the image's meaning. I described how my mind had automatically gone into 'problem-solving' mode, unbidden consciously (I had been 'Brain Jacked'). I talked about how this experience had prompted me to investigate the generalisability of such an experience. That inquiry lead me to multimedia learning and Cognitive, Neurological Science - the common architecture of the brain. I'm not a natural scientist; my intellectual background is postconflict peacebuilding. I wrote my PhD whilst working with the United Nations peacekeepers in Cambodia in 1993. But the literature was made accessible by some very good scholarly writing which urged the scientific method in such endeavours. It was summarised thus:
Richard Mayer, and of course many others, are urging only that we use rigour and scientific principles to first determine what works and then test how well it works. It eschews unsubstantiated approaches and lionizes methods that are derived from research, especial in the natural sciences but not to the exclusion of social scientific inquiry. The first element of scientifically-established fact that applies to all sighted humans regards the proportion of our brains dedicated to visual processing. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Professor Mriganka Sur, in their Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, stated that 'half of the human brain is devoted directly or indirectly to vision'.
Our brains, at the biological level, are constructed around dual processing. This means we receive, process and interpret information using audio-textual, and visual, processing channels. We hear and see, digest and react to the world around us in terms of our brains' architecture. This means then if we are processing information at the textual level only, or mainly, we are not using a key mental, cognitive function we possess. If our pedagogy is presented this way, we are missing out on - ignoring - a fundamental element of our evolutionary, biological make-up. Instead, scientifically, cognitively speaking, we should be transmitting academic content so it matches how our brains are designed to receive it. It applies to everyone, everywhere, regardless of identity, with the exception of non-sighted people. We also use written words, of course, but unlike our inherent audio-textual and visual capacities, the written word is a social construct extant for only about 5,000 years of our biological evolution.
Importantly, the biological predisposition of our brains is universal. All brains are made this way, although capacity in some non-sighted people is substantially compromised. The key message here is opportunity of a universal approach to pedagogy.