A sense of wonder and discovery: in support of methodological pluralism



I have been thinking a lot about methodological pluralism recently.
This is, in part, in response to the remarkable virtuosity that is now evident in approaches to the observation and analysis of performance. It is also in response to a colleague’s dilemma at a university in the United Kingdom. As she seeks to open up conversations about methodologies and the availability of rich resources in social media, some of her colleagues are keen to close down discussion asserting their own paradigmatic certainty.
I do think these are exciting and uncertain times for conversations about methodologies and the epistemology and ontology exchanges that can arise from them.
In this post I draw upon insights from then (Herodotus) and now (George Siemens) to explore the opportunities for pluralism nourished by a sense of wonder and a delight in discovery.

The Histories

Julia Kindt has an article in today’s Conversation in Australia.
Her subject is Herodotus and his Histories.
Some of the points in her article that resonated with me were:

  • The opening sentence of The Histories: “Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds … may not be without their glory”.
  • “What specifically sets Herodotus and his enquiry apart, then, is the proto-scientific way he explores the inner workings of the world. The question “why” drives this inquiry in all its aspects.”
  • “He is careful to tell his reader from where he derived his information on foreign lands, whether he witnessed personally or learned from a reliable source”.
  • “To Herodotus, at least, measuring the world, mapping new territory, noting the features of distant lands and territories are all part of the process of ‘sense-making’, in which the new and unknown is related to the well-known and familiar”.

Julia concludes her article with these observations:

The Histories stand at the transition from an older, mythical worldview – that of the heroic or archaic age as represented in Homeric epic – to a new, classical outlook that manifested in the exacting mode of enquiry into the workings of the world.


What makes the work stand out above all is the Histories’ sense of wonder and discovery. Herodotus’ Histories remain a classic testament to the pleasures of researching and learning.

Methodologies in a Digital World

Two weeks ago, George Siemens discussed the future of learning at a conference in Norway. The subtitle of his presentation indicated that this future was digital, distributed and data-driven.
In a blog post to accompany his presentation, George asks:

What is our obligation as educators and as researchers to explore research interests and knowledge spaces? What is our obligation to pursue questions about unsavoury topics that we disagree with or even find unethical?

There are 115 slides in George’s presentation. I am particularly interested in his discussions about self-regulated, self-selected and self-directed learning.
Four slides helped me think about these issues:
A quote from Maria Popova (slide 80)
These connections are made (slide 89) at a time when there is:
As Herodotus pointed out, this challenges us to make sense (George’s slide 90):
This stitching can take place locally (slide 100):


Wonder and Discovery

My friend’s conversations in the United Kingdom are about a disciplinary issue AND a meta-learning issue.
My friend seeks to live in a feedforward world where excitement, discovery and vulnerability combine to surprise and delight.
This is a post in support of her quest for sense-making in a pluralist world.
I will encourage her to read The Histories and to think about the parallels between ‘historia’ (critical thinking) and her flourishing in a world that welcomes diversity of views woven into new sense-making. I will invite her to share George’s thoughts on different world views with her colleagues.
My hope is that dialogue is much more preferable to edict.

Photo Credits

Need a Rear View Mirror (EightBitTony, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Messages (Nicola, CC BY 2.0)
_MG_7756 (Ben Rodford, CC BY-NC 2.0)


  1. I am curious about what you mean by a feedforward world. There are several uses of the word that I incompletely familiar with and was hoping you might expand on what you mean here. Thanks for pointing to the Siemens slide deck. Without the audio context some of the series seem…hilarious, the learning flow charts for example. I am looking for the audio for this. I love the ‘view from the sky’ that Siemens is so good at.

    • Hello, Terry.
      Thank you for finding the post.
      I have been interested in feedforward for a long time. Back in the 1980s, I discovered Peter Dowrick’s work and it encouraged me to think about how we use augmented information.
      In a more recent paper written in 2012 he suggested:

      The most rapid learning by humans can be achieved by mental simulations of future events, based on reconfigured preexisting component skills. These reconsiderations of learning from the future, emphasizing learning from oneself, have coincided with developments in neurocognitive theories of mirror neurons and mental time travel.

      My practice has been to share with learners how they might be and to use any glimpses of future behaviour as a sign possibilities.
      It is my response to a polygraph feedback modality in sport in which athletes were shown what they did not do.
      I tried to explore some of these ideas here.
      I enjoy slidedecks without audio and found George’s thoughts very stimulating.
      Thank you for commenting on the post, Terry.
      Best wishes


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