What's lacking in online learning? Dreyfus, Merleau-Ponty and bodily affective understanding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Skepticism about the limits of online learning is as old as online learning itself. As with other technologically-driven innovations in pedagogy, there are deep-seated worries that important educational goods might be effaced or obscured by the ways of teaching and learning that online methods allow. One family of such worries is inspired by reflections on the bodily basis of an important kind of understanding, and skepticism over whether this bodily basis can be inculcated in the absence of actual, flesh-and-blood, classroom interactions (e.g. Heath 1997; Dreyfus 1999, 2008; Ess 2003; Dall’Alba & Barnacle 2005; Maiese 2013). This paper focuses on the ways in which such worries arise in the influential work of Hubert Dreyfus (1999, 2008). The negative conclusion for which I argue is that endorsing Dreyfus’s Merleau-Pontian picture of the relationship between bodily skill and understanding does not commit us to his general pessimism concerning online learning – bodily, emotional, and interactive dimensions might be essential to learning, but we lack reasons to think that online learning necessarily lacks these dimensions. The negative argument motivates a positive claim: rather than giving up on online learning we should focus on designing courses and pedagogies that scaffold the bodily, affective and interactive dynamics constitutive of understanding in a particular domain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Early online date29 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Aug 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Dreyfus
  • embodied cognition
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • online learning
  • phenomenology


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