Edev_502 response wk9_4

In relation to the Japanese context, I couldn’t agree more when you wrote;

“It is not about guiding students to elaborate possible selves but rather to give ideas of what the students should become.”

There may be a tension amongst educators about the nature and scope of possible selves where that tension is not matched by learners themselves. Whenever teachers learn more about underlying theory, the impulse is to change teaching suddenly and radically to incorporate that learning. However, change may be detrimental if it is not integrated  into an existing, stable methodology. I’ll propose a short case that presenting relatively fixed, pre-established future identities to students can be effective. Perhaps this may resolve some of the educator-side tensions.

The problem seems to be that teachers (or the wider society) show a set of normative possible selves from which students should select. This selection places boundaries on individual choice, limits deep involvement with the consideration of the future self and serves to stabilise society rather than work towards social transformation. Educators may view this problematically, but from the students’ perspective and theoretically, there may be no problem at all.

Society is forever changing. Latour (1990) demonstrates how individuals are shaped by objects in their environment in a dialectic interaction of affordance, recognition and adaptation. In other words, humans initially understand the purpose of objects in the environment, then realise what other uses objects may have and finally change the way they deal with the object. Latour’s beautiful example of hotel room keys shows how this process can be at the non-conscious level. The point here is that technology, communications, other modern tools and expectations will most likely change the constituents of any fixed future self an educator envisages for a student. From these sets, new possible identities gradually evolve and cannot be predicted. In a similar way, Lave and Wenger’s (1991) situated learning tell us that what is learnt may not be what is spoken about as learners pick up (again often at the non-conscious level) attributes of possible selves from their environment.

Beaty, Gibbs, and Morgan (1997) identify 21 possible learner types, to which Atherton (2013) adds one more. Amongst these, a sizeable portion need models of becoming. The future is unknown: unpredictable even. Che sarà, sarà. What do you think?


Atherton, J. S. (2013). Deep and Surface learning. Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/deepsurf.htm

Beaty, L., Gibbs, G., & Morgan, A. (1997). Learning orientations and study contracts. In F. Marton, D. Hounsell, & N. Entwistle (Eds.), The experience of learning (pp. 72–86). Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Latour, B. (1990). Technology is society made durable. Sociological Review, 38(S1), 103–131.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Learning in doing (Vol. 95). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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