the blog of dan pontefract | The Wolf Pack and Learning
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The Wolf Pack and Learning

Ever had a lesson on the wolf pack? Ever had a lesson on the wolf pack and how there might be parallelisms to the learning space, particularly K-16?

Sit back and enjoy, otherwise, click away here to some other random place on the web.

Wolf packs at their core have an alpha male and an alpha female. Let’s refer to them as the pedagogy, curriculum, academic senates and/or ministries of education. They dictate terms of the pack, numbers, roles, territorial jurisdiction, and so on. They clearly have the most experience, are at the top of the hierarchy and thus safeguard rules and ensure they are followed. There is seldom flexibility; rigidity somewhat guarantees survival.

Other pack members have and play specific positions in the hierarchy. Let’s refer to them as teachers, professors and/or instructors. They may help in the raising of offspring, feeding, and so forth but they most certainly play a role in the hunt for food or the staving off of other potential predators. They listen and obey to the alpha male and female, and should they deviate, they will be forced to either find another clan (rare) or start their own (likely). If the latter were to occur, they too would then become the alpha male and/or female of the new pack driving identical rules, policies and procedures through innate tendencies.

There are typically pups in a pack as well, so let’s refer to them as the students. Their job is also to follow orders from the alpha male and female and to ultimately learn as much as possible, both through theory and application, from the entire pack family, regardless of level in the hierarchy.  At least in the first 3-6 months, they learn in and around the den where they were born, so let’s simply and rather rudimentarily refer to this as the classroom.

The wolf pack, in my opinion, is a lot like what happens in the learning space today, particularly the K-16 continuum, in terms of established hierarchies.

Pedagogy and curriculum is set by academic councils and ministries of education, be it provincial, state, county, etc. and depending on where you live in the world. If a university, college or high school student doesn’t consume (and then pass) the span of pedagogy, they will be kicked out from the pack. Consequently, pack members (not the pups) are forced to teach to the stated curriculum and typically follow the marching orders of the hierarchy in terms of what to teach, often teaching for purposes of final grades.

There are brilliant examples of individual teachers, professors and instructors doing fantastic things in the classroom; pushing the boundaries of the teaching profession (at all K-16 levels) and creating beautiful moments of both theory and application for the learner. This is no longer becoming a rare instance, it’s becoming the norm. For this, I applaud you.

The problem for many pups, however, is that they are forced to consume far too much theory without enough application. They are creatively destitute fixated on marks and not necessarily on the process of learning, problem solving, collaboration, and real world application.

The hierarchy entrenched within the K-16 continuum ensures theory wins the day, despite clever and innovative ways in which the pack members are actually teaching in the classroom today. Pups want to learn the theory, but they want to apply it as well. Wolf packs teach both the theory and they allow the pups to apply their knowledge in the real world, along the path of growing up.

I’m not suggesting abolishing the hierarchy, per se.

I am suggesting, however, that we, the learning space, need to evolve.

More to come from me at this event. Hope you can tune in.

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