Processional, rather than successional

In wrestling with the notions of time and space in learning ecologies – I have come across an interesting way of thinking about skill. Tim Ingold in Being Alive describes the difference between tasks which are performed as a series of discrete steps, which he describes as being successional, and those which he describes as being processional – where every step is a measured response to what has gone before and what is still to come.

In detailing the skill required to use a hand saw in the making of a bookcase he describes the drawing of a guide line, the making of a nick in the wood in which to rest the saw – a point of departure, and the slight adjustment of each up or down stroke to ensure a straight and accurate cut in the plank. He contrasts this with both the skill required and the ability to adjust ones course mid cut, when using a circular saw.

The point to be made, for today – is that what I witnessed in those 549 hours, was the processional journey of skilled learners, accompanying apprentice learners on a journey. Within a looser conceptualization of time, learning becomes differentiated in a way that is not possible when one holds to a fixed partitioning of time, which serves only to deliver a sequential list of outcomes – regardless of what has been mastered; and what remains to be learned, in relation to one’s destination.

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2 thoughts on “Processional, rather than successional

  1. Fascinating stuff. So much of learning is being open to it — once you have left the world of formal education. I’m an auto-didact (pedantic word, but accurate) and so much of what I learn (and prefer to learn) is hands-on and experiential.

    1. Yup, I had to look it up – I’m one of them too.

      Funny that, and I’m back at University? Maybe for me it’s about learning-along-a-line, my line. Driven from within, shaped by what and who is around me I make sense of it all. I feel at home in world where people talk about embodied and distributed cognition and situated learning. Where everything isn’t cerebral, linear and still. Where the learning is in the doing and not what must be done before being rewarded with an opportunity to do.

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