Spontaneity: The Secret Ingredient of Learning

Spontaneity: The Secret Ingredient of Learning

Francisco Cua (Academy of Unit Standards (Hong Kong) Limited, Hong Kong), Sarah Stein (University of Otago, New Zealand) and Alevir Perez-Pido (South Philippine Adventist College, Philippines)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch026


Higher knowledge, such as reasoning, emerges through everyday common-sense spontaneous activity, said Vygotsky. Consequently, formal education needs spontaneous learning experiences to be perfect. In this chapter, the authors explore knowledge on spontaneous activity from everyday life experiences of 11 second- and third-year students who studied at a Philippine university. Students told their stories through a focus group discussion. Their stories were triangulated with an interview of their instructor, one-on-one interviews with some of them, and an open-structured essay-type questionnaire. The grounded theory approach in analyzing their learning practices reveals spontaneity that fits students' contexts, needs, and expectations. Spontaneous learning is a process of discovery and reflection when students conduct active learning engagements. Students who preoccupy themselves with their spontaneous learning bring to themselves new self-knowledge. The self-knowing process redefines and empowers the self. The implication is that spontaneous activity could be embedded into formal, non-formal, and informal education to maximize students' learning.
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Scientific activity needs spontaneous activity to be perfect (Linkenkaer-Hansen, Nikulin, Palva, Ilmoniemi, & Palva, 2004; Mathewson, Gratton, Fabiani, Beck, & Ro, 2009; Vygotsky et al., 1978). A scientific activity starts with stimulus (the input) that triggers the learning engagements (the response) to achieve skill development or knowledge acquisition (the output). Associated to spontaneous activity are words, such as those referring to natural, uninhibited, common sense, every day, beliefs, and experiences. These words contain the idea of time and space (Deco, Jirsa, & McIntosh, 2011; Fox & Raichle, 2007).

Kurikawa and Kaneko (2013) experimented with spontaneous activity on sensory stimuli (inputs) to enhance scientific activity (response) and found that (1) spontaneous activity is “highly structured in time and space” (p. 13) even without a sensory stimulus and that (2) it spreads over many patterns but converges to one integrated pattern by applying an input. Without the sensory stimulus, spontaneous activity can exist by itself (while scientific activity on the other hand needs spontaneous activity). Prior to their study, Linkenkaer-Hansen et al. (2004) and Mathewson et al. (2009) found that spontaneous activity complements and enhances scientific activity. Spontaneous activity is a form of nuisance other authorities believed it to be. It not only has the power to complement scientific activity, it also has power to connect itself to scientific activity, its inputs, its process, and/or even its outputs. Furthermore it has the powers of divergence and convergence.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Divergence: Is a phenomenon of drawing apart or of disagreement. It is the movement toward different or opposite directions.

Learning: Is a multidimensional process that results in a relatively enduring change in a person or persons, and consequently how that person or persons will perceive the world and reciprocally respond to its affordances physically, psychologically, and socially. The process of learning has as its foundation the systemic, dynamic, and interactive relation between the nature of the leaner and the objective of the learning as ecologically situated in a given time and place as well as over time.

Spontaneous Adaptation: Is the unplanned everyday experience of the ability of a person to adjust to situations in order to mitigate unexpected undesirable consequences, to cope with the unexpected but desirable consequences, or to take advantage of opportunities. The adaptation, although it is spontaneous, can be anticipatory or reactive.

Demography: Is the study of human populations. It can be a statistical study. It can refer to nationality. It can be qualitative in terms of cultural indices, such as Hofstede’s power/distance, individuality, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation indices.

Spontaneous Activity: Is a complementary activity to scientific activity. It is an activity that is a by-product of everyday experiences generally without prior planning.

Contexts: Are the circumstances that frame an event, a statement, or an idea for it to be fully and thoroughly understood. The three dimensions of contexts are macro, meso, and micro. The macro dimension is about the external uncontrollable environment. For example, government rules and regulations and culture are uncontrollable macro contexts. Meso is institutional (organizational) in nature. Micro refers to individual circumstances.

Spontaneous: Refers to a result of sudden inner impulse without premeditations or external stimulus.

Learning Environment: Is about social, physical, psychological, and pedagogical contexts in which teaching and learning occur. The context can be macro, meso, and/or micro in dimensions. The dimension can also be political, economic, societal, technological, environmental, and/or legal.

Frame Of Reference: Is the perceived structure of concepts, values, or perspectives by an individual or a group of people evaluating, communicating, or regulating the data or behavior.

Spontaneous Learning: Is synonymous to spontaneous activity.

Scientific Activity: Is a term used by Vygotsky to differentiate it from spontaneous activity. He associated this type of activity to formal education in school where students experience the learning that is planned for them.

Convergence: Involves inputs, activities, and outputs moving toward union or uniformity.

Experience: Refers to the knowledge acquired through involvement or engagement in task(s) or event(s). The concept itself refers to know-how (praxis) knowledge. Philosophers call this experience-based knowledge empirical knowledge or “ a posteriori ” knowledge.

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