My Scholarly Reflections

This is where I tell what I think, so that I see what I say

Waterfalls, rivers…and learning spaces

with 5 comments

Space embodies relationships between objects. Objects can have different relative heights. Lets take waterfalls. The contrasting heights embodied in waterfalls have a dramatic effect both auditory and visual. Water literally falls in a unidirectional and relentless manner, and often with a mellifluous or jarring rhythm. It has a peculiar inevitability, a reminder of the immutable laws of nature: gravity. Waterfalls can be memorable tourist attractions and veritable wonders to behold. Instructional spaces (e.g. a class) have parallels to waterfalls! The facilitator stands, and the students sit. Relative height affects flow. The facilitator talks and the students listen. The auditory flow is often expected by students to be definitive and unstoppable; laws of verbal gravity do not facilitate movement from down to up! Like the water pool at the base of a waterfall that laps up the inevitable and unavoidable liquid offering, students literally face the verbal cascade!

Confluence of rivers are less dramatic, as compared to waterfalls, but often more significant. Rivers quietly meet to exchange the submerged, often hidden, riches they bring from afar. They meet but do not completely merge at the point of confluence. They mix, but maintain their identity. A confluence becomes a conflux when a larger river meets a tributary. Or two streams can meet to create a new river. I would like my class to be a place of confluence rather than a cascade of a waterfall…..


Written by Amer Khan

March 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. From classical to nonclassical

    Amer, your metaphors lead me the nonclassical forms of inquiry. The classical form, as we know, depends on the if . . . then logic:

    If observation X (height), then observation Y (falling water)

    However, in teaching (or human interactions), no amount of X’s guarantee the Y that we want to see. So, one of the options is to try some nonclassical form of inquiry. One of the nonclassical forms depends on the if . . . do logic:

    If observation Y (distance from a learning conflux), then do action X
    (well, action X should stop when the observed distance is less than an acceptable level)

    Just some idle thoughts!


    March 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

  2. mmmmm…. I think we need to discuss this over lunch one of these days!


    March 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    • Perhaps X and Y are two of the many variables that interact with each other. There are, possibly, A, B or ….. that may interact with X and Y without our knowledge! What we can see is the surface of the rivers when these rivers met, at the place of confluence, but what are the forces that cause such confluence, the magnitude of these forces, the factors affecting the forces, etc… some we may know but some unknown. In teaching, we have bounded rationality but, until we try it out, it remains a mystery to the teachers of what methods can be more effective than others!

      CY Fung

      March 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

      • Yes, CY Fung, teaching and learning, like any social reality, are complex activities..I particularly note your point that we need to ‘try out’!


        March 19, 2012 at 9:07 am

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