When we look at teaching and learning, we need to look at knowing and understanding and the awareness of knowing and understanding. In the company of my other theorists, Dewey seems way ahead of his time, synthesizing a variety of principles to envision an educational ideal which is experiential, democratic, respectful of individuals without being indulgent, socially responsible, balanced and grounded in the reality of human experience.
We're living in our bodies, and using them to learn; we can't escape this fact and, as Gardner, the Dunns, and von Glasersfeld say, must take this into consideration when we seek to teach.
Theorists such as von Glasersfeld and Bateson reinforce, and build and expand upon Dewey’s contributions. We need to distinguish between teaching and training, memorizing, knowing and understanding. We should accept that we cannot fully know what we know (and therefore, cannot assume to fully know what others know), and that we cannot fully know what we teach. We can understand that when we’re teaching, there is much more that some particular lesson going on, and that when we teach we touch the future as well as the present field of possibilities in ways we cannot begin to comprehend. We can strive to be content with this not knowing; we can be at rest with it.
Traditional education seems to be founded upon and fraught with a number of assumptions which lack construct validity. Traditional education typically builds on a model of teaching which wrongly assumes that knowledge, wisdom and understanding can be uploaded to an unused block of hard-drive space within a student’s brain. Testing assumes that all knowing is explicit, that explicit knowledge assures the ability to have practical use of such knowledge, that explicit knowing which can be manifested in certain specific types of paper and pencil representations within certain specific time frames implies understanding, and that the knowledge that is theoretically being measured provides some increased insurance for a better future life. As a result, teachers and schools become more concerned with measurements and files and statistics which are assumed to imply a level of understanding manifesting in the students which may not in fact be there at all, but which allow the system a blamelessness, a plausible deniability of sorts: “well, I taught that, you can see the proof of this in all my paperwork; if the student didn’t learn it, it’s not my affair.” There’s an irony in the fact that a substantial number of techniques and methods in traditional education do not stand up even to the measurements endemic to that same field. That is, valid justification for traditional education can not be found even through its own systems of assessment.
Among recent educational trends are learning styles and multiple intelligences. I think perhaps the next wave could be or should be, a renewed recognition and appreciation for the speeds of thinking, specifically rapid cognition and the undermind, and that a true education will seek to nurture all three in a balanced way. I doubt this will happen easily. One problem with fast and slow thinking is that they are difficult to measure, at least in the way we like to measure things, and our entire educational system has become not only preoccupied by, but tethered to measuring. We do this even in the face of evidence that it contains no construct validity. Perhaps it’s a part of our human condition to have a longing to be sure, even in the face of knowing that it is impossible as a goal. Ernst von Glasersfeld talks about this when he reminds us of the illusion that what we think we are teaching is what we really are teaching. So does Bateson.
Likewise, we seem to have a habitual, cultural attachment to the linear, medium tempo, “d-mode” type of thinking and learning. Traditional education regards this kind of thinking almost exclusively, even in the face of evidence that other types of learning are critical to our well-being.
In considering the three types of thinking, I first envisioned them in a line, slow to fast, left to right. But, if I envision these three kinds of thinking on a circle, perhaps this is closer to how we go through life, alternating between the three. Arranging these on a circle I can place at the top the deliberate, linear, “d-mode” thinking and learning process that traditional education concerns itself with, then on the bottom are the rapid cognition of Gladwell and the contemplative undermind of Claxton, right next to each other. Because I believe these two types of thinking have a special connection with each other, I like this arrangement. Traditional education cultivates and attempts to measure d-mode thinking, but does not deal with the other two. This could mean that a significant part of learning, possibly the majority of learning, is not addressed in traditional education, which is what many of the above theorists have argued as well.
The special connection that I feel with fast and slow thinking comes from personal experience with these two kinds of thinking and their intimate connection, through my experiences with T’ai Chi, with music, and with life. In T’ai Chi, for example, we slowly and meditatively go through the seemingly same movements over and over, but in truth we are meandering through them; like stepping into a river, it is never the same experience twice. We move in a contemplative, relaxed mode. Getting to the end of the form is not the goal, the process of moving through it is. Slowly we inhale into our tan t’ien as an opening of the hip and an energetic connection with the ground motivates our relaxed right arm to roll up from our hip area to our brow as if through water as we transition into “Stork Spreads Wings.” Perhaps ten or more times daily (ideally), our left hand, motivated by a shift of weight from our right to our left foot and a simultaneous turn of the waist to the left, rises up in front of our torso and turns out into “Single Whip”. We do these movements hundreds and thousands of times as years go by. We are not trying to “get anywhere”. If we have a goal at all, it is to stay as completely relaxed and open and natural as we can as we move through the postures.
When suddenly one day a basketball comes flying unseen across a playground towards our head, our conscious mind arrives on the scene only after our body has turned and our rising hand has turned out to successfully meet and deflect the wayward ball. This actually happened to me, and, while I was surprised after I realized it had happened, it is by no means an atypical sort of event in the T’ai Chi community. When it comes to my T’ai Chi friends, almost everyone I know has a story like this. This is deliberate slow thinking manifesting as effective rapid cognition.
In music, we spend time with d-mode thinking in terms of understanding theory and learning technique or how to read, but we spend much more time just being in the presence of the music, just letting the music roll around in our heads without thought of the goal of performance. In performance, we catch and ride an energy wave emanating from the audience, which flows through us and then back to the audience through the music that’s manifesting in us as a result of the energy flow. We’re on that knife’s edge, where we’re creating and responding simultaneously, a kind of sustained rapid cognition, I believe.
Creativity seems to belong in this bottom part of the circle. So do some aspects of experiential learning, improvisation, self-directed learning, process versus product approaches to education, intuition, inspiration and invention. Ernst von Glasersfeld’s alternations of experience and reflection and Bateson’s of participation and observation seem to line up nicely with rapid cognition and the undermind, respectively. Also in this bottom half (or two thirds) of the circle I would put flow, what athletes call being in the zone. Performers, painters and potters know this. So do people in law enforcement, as well as those who fish or cook. What do such fields as these, which are typically regarded as being outside the realm of education, have to teach us about education?
We build our world one experience at a time, and each new experience we encounter meets with the continuum of our previous experiences and becomes a part of it. This means that the teacher is not the gatekeeper of knowledge, not a superior supplier who doles out tidbits to a nest full of waiting open mouths, but more a service person, a facilitator, who creates and supplies his client students with opportunities for engagement which can lead them to explore, review, build and create their own understanding of their world. Because of this, educators must be mindful of the experiences they are providing to learners, and avoid fostering miseducative expereinces.
We build our world one experience at a time, so perhaps much of learning may be viewed as experiential and possibly therefore based in sensory experience and perhaps, kinesthetic by nature.
In the next section, I explore the history and definitions of what may be considered kinesthetic teaching/learning.

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