Teaching and Learning Forum 95 [ Contents ]

An educationist's paradigm for what and how we learn: Rediscovering a touchstone

Kevin Franklin
Health and Human Services
Edith Cowan University
The objective is to revitalise an old learning and an old touchstone by looking inside the 'black box' of being human. Learning is fundamental to both education and psychology. There is, however, an absence of unifying theory. Arguably this absence of an integrating and integrated framework has led to a fragmentation of purpose and a distortion of experience. The purpose of this paper is to explore (a) a poorly known Spontaneity Theory of Learning (i.e., the How question) and (b) a poorly understood theory of Being (i.e., the What question). A paradigm is proposed. The role of the teacher is used as an exemplar. The utility of this work for people who work with people (e.g., is teachers) is discussed).


There are two models of human existence that are our current theories of knowing and knowledge. Judaic and Christian knowing and knowledge remains confused in modern life. This duality can be fragmenting and integrating. The term Christ merely means teacher and so has an obvious relevance. The Trinity, a personality theory, remains a mystery. I am excited by its relationship to the poorly known Spontaneity Theory of Learning (Moreno, 1978, p.538). My purpose here is to revitalise this paradigmatic personality theory and to promote spontaneity as a useful educational paradigm.

In our current cultural malaise there is an absence of integration. An absence of a unifying point of view provided the impetus to two well-known cognitive and affective taxonomies of educational objectives by Bloom (1956) and Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia (1964). Education in their review is: fragmenting, distorting, arbitrary, doctrinaire, and having only a semblance of order. There is no paradigm that unifies education.

The same rationale that divides educational experience into affective, cognitive and behavioural components is commonly used in psychology. The DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) is a main taxonomy of psychological disorders in its fourth major revision. There is no cogent and universal model of psychological disorder and no paradigm that unifies psychology.

Judaic and Christian models underlie Modern and Post-Modern science. Modern education assumes that experience is divisible. How can experience be used as a unifying rationale? What is the unit of measurement? These paradigmatic questions are addressed from a Post-Modernist point of view that life is purposeful in Becoming and Being.

Becoming: Spontaneity theory of learning

Moreno saw the role as the act of the person in the moment that they respond. The person enters the unconscious - feelings, thoughts and actions- through the role. The role identifies the person's being (e.g., being a teacher). It is this (psychosocial) role that is significant in life, and so also in learning, training, education and teaching.

Mead (1934) took the experienced role taker as his model whereas Moreno observed the process of how a role is formed (Becoming). Both use role, however, this disguises their different role constructs (i.e., social and psychosocial) and the different social and psychosocial realities constructed by Modern and Post-Modern science.

Prior to spontaneity learning there is a First Universe of "co-being" (Moreno, 1980, p.61). When this mother-infant bonding is complete there is a readiness for combinatory acts that prepare for later spontaneity learning. Moreno identified two phases in this Second Universe: (a) the first phase of creativity and (b) the second phase of spontaneity. Figure 1 shows the process of role formation in spontaneity learning.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Dr. J. L Moreno's [1889-1974] Spontaneity Theory of Learning.

The role emerges from the action of spontaneity on creativity. Creativity becomes spontaneous play, just as the infant grows and role reverses to feed and care for the next generation in child's play and later as a parent to an infant. Compare your practised driving skills with your learning to drive a car. Compare, for example, a mother with her first, second, and third neonates. Initially a role taker and then with practice and with wit, a role player learning to be a father, a lawyer, a psychologist, a teacher, a nurse.

Being: A personality theory for psychology

Moreno has identified two universes: a First Universe of the neonate and a Second Universe following the split of personality with roles having their dual origin in fantasy (psychodramatic role) and reality (social role). In Christian theology there is a Third Universe as Being emerges in consciousness from this redeeming action of psychosocial relationship. This may not occur and predicts psychopathology in general and especially anxiety. This hypothesis has been empirically tested and convincingly supported (Franklin, 1988).

This Third Universe became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth as he discovered that his being (i.e., a teacher) emerged with his increasing spirit of relatedness. This relatedness was between Christ's creator role (The Father Who is in Heaven) and his spontaneity in his social role (The Son of the Father). Being emerged from this role reversing metaphysical relationship within his personality. The infantile breach that originally and dualistically split his fantasy and reality roles is redeemed in the integration of role. He Becomes-a-teacher actualised in his Being-a-teacher in a conscious psychosocial reality.

Figure 2

Figure 2: A model of psychosocial Being showing the spontaneous spirit of
relationship between his metaphysical fantasy and reality roles.

Role or psychosocial identity- being a teacher, a lawyer, a mother, a nurse - is a relatedness of the learner-teacher phases of spontaneity learning. Role reversal is the expression of relationship. Originating in creativity the learner has now, with role reversal, become the teacher transformed in spontaneity. In this individuated Third Universe of Being there is a reconciliation within ourself of our private nature (psychodramatic role) and our collective nurture (social role). Christian theology is unified, a theory of role, a role of theory and a psychological paradigm. Psychology and education have a paradigm in this personality theory of Becoming and Being.

Towards a framework of educational utility

Figure 3 shows two models of education. In a role taking model of education (stage 4) defining the time, territory and the task provides boundaries and this defines the educational work. In a role playing model of education (stage 5) how the task is done within these boundaries is the educational work. The stage 4 model asks WHAT and is a cognitive model of education. The stage 5 model asks HOW and is a skills model.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Developing skills using the spontaneity principle.

Figure 4 shows a WHO model of education. In this identity formation model both questions of what and how become permeable to both student and lecturer.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Education for roles [after Dr. D. Brandes, 1994]

Role taking frequently remains a valued end-state of existence. Learners willing to become role players must necessarily become more conscious. Initially this increased awareness may result in some social anxiety. This model provides a method of resolution to the dilemma of education (i.e., power and authority).


Education requires a renaissance. Education and psychology are currently non paradigmatic. These paradigms provide explicit rationales to Becoming and Being as purposeful points of view in a Third Universe of Post-Modern human experience. I recommend their fuller application as we approach the third millennium.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook 1, cognitive domain. London: Longmans.

Brandes, D. (1994, November). Philosophy of student-centred learning. Symposium conducted by the Regional Association of Student Centred Learning (R.A.S.C.L.), Fremantle Education Centre.

Eagleton, T. (1983). Literary theory: An introduction. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd.

Franklin, K. T. (1988). Gender identity in the homosexual male: Identifying two theories of object relations within the personality. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Tasmania, Tasmania.

Krathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Masia, B. B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook 2, affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Moreno, J. L. (1978). Who shall survive? (3rd ed.). Beacon, NY: Beacon House.

Moreno, J. L. (1980). Psychodrama, Volume 1, (6th ed.). Beacon, NY: Beacon House.

Please cite as: Franklin, K. (1995). An educationist's paradigm for what and how we learn: Rediscovering a touchstone. In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p94-98. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/franklin1.html

[ TL Forum 1995 Proceedings Contents ] [ TL Forums Index ]
HTML: Roger Atkinson, Teaching and Learning Centre, Murdoch University [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]
This URL: http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/franklin1.html
Last revision: 16 Apr 2002. Edith Cowan University
Previous URL 15 Mar 1997 to 15 Apr 2002 http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/pubs/tlf/tlf95/frank94.html