1st Edition

A History of Inspiration through Metaphors of Learning The Height of Teaching

By Robert Nelson Copyright 2022
    240 Pages
    by Routledge

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    In this book, Robert Nelson reminds us that one of the most important elements of teaching and learning is to inspire and to be inspired. Given that inspiration itself has evolved through metaphor, the inquiry distinguishes inspirational learning by its peculiarly metaphoric character.

    We acknowledge that students respond to passion and enthusiasm, that they seek stimulation, purpose, motivation and inspiration. But because these triggers operate through mysterious language and arrive at their modern usage through metaphor, we have no means of penetrating their structure or gaining access to their powers. We mishandle educational practice through a focus on technical process and machinery rather than the imaginary animating vision that propagates inspired study through metaphor. This book corrects the imbalance and argues that metaphors are intrinsic to all our educational ambitions. It reveals the wide metaphorical backdrop of learning and teaching that works on an unconscious level and is only revealed through analysing the language that describes what matters most. 

    Inviting readers to explore learning in a non-traditional way, this book will be of interest to researchers and students in education seeking to understand better the nature of inspiration.

    Introduction: inspiration as the height of learning Part 1 Motivational metaphors 1. Passion: how the pleasure of learning is measured with agony 2. Being special: how we need to feel distinctive when we share an interest 3. Focus: when is concentration limiting and distraction helpful? 4. Group: when do we learn better on our own than among others? 5. Purpose: how a sense of mission depends upon conceit Part 2 Material metaphors 6. Step: what is the smallest gain toward an inspiring understanding? 7. Change: in learning, what do we want to alter and what has to stay the same? 8. Support: how cultural encouragements are more necessary than material ones 9. Impact: how the need to demonstrate impact damages inspiration 10. Failure: when is it more inspiring to be resigned to not succeeding? Part 3 Aspirational metaphors 11. Wonder: how does the rational mind recruit the mystical in order to learn? 12. Voice: how the sound of student voices is as important as student influence 13. Ease: how we only learn inspiringly when we are free of anxiety 14. Colour: how inspiration in learning is encouraged by imaginative language 15. Perfection: how inspirational striving depends on comfort with imperfection. Conclusion: how we will never recognize inspiring cognition without metaphor


    Robert Nelson writes on art, education and the history of ideas. Prior to joining Melbourne University as Honorary Principal Fellow, he was Head of Department of Theory of Art and Design, Associate Dean Research and Graduate Studies, Associate Dean Teaching and Learning and Associate Director, Student Learning Experience, at Monash University. Robert is also a poet and art critic for The Age and was a scene painter for the photographic artist Polixeni Papapetrou.