Words convey ideas, concepts, meaning. Word choices elicit an evocative response that brings an experience beyond the explicit message. In Dr. Ramsey’s two articles, “Management Learning: A Scholarship of Practice Centred on Attention?” and “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice,” she uses words that stir the reader to respond, creating an opportunity for a transformative possibility: provocative, social poetic, social constructionism, tension, generative, phronesis, mindfulness, relational. Integrated throughout her thesis – change requires reflective moments for an ongoing synthesis of knowledge and practice – these words emerge as part of what she advocates in her practice. They undergird the premise that the reader must respond, either favorably or unfavorably. Regardless if it’s negative or positive, the response changes the reader.
Perhaps because I have met Dr. Ramsey personally, I know provocative measures delight her. In reading her articles, I see that same desire in her use of words that convey more than meaning – she wants a response. She wants this “practice-as-learning” to be held in the same esteem as “scholarship,” setting the scene with an intrepid, daring and audacious assertion that calls for a confrontation with anyone to suggest it is only a conjecture. It is not enough to read another article. The words on the page take on life as a “social poetic” – they “center the way that our talk strikes, moves, gestures to us, calling out action from us in a relationally responsive manner. This is talk as invitational.” In the engagement of the words, conversation, and action, that’s where provocative learning occurs.
I want my words to provoke conversation. I, like her use of Dostoevsky’s work, want to continue in an ongoing generative conversation whereby new life occurs with each interchange. My hope is to provide that opportunity in the same kind of posture that I witnessed in Cape Town by Dr. Ramsey: a posture of curiosity, learning and action that demonstrates a humility of discovery which happens in the moment. The moments change us, if we’re willing to stay in the tension and phronesis (practical wisdom) that come in the praxis of learning.
As Dr. Ramsey identifies her own learning through the CAD project, I’m struck by her commitment to “attention rather than knowledge.” Willing to admit to her own mistakes as well as discoveries, she reflects a scholarship of practice that focuses on being attentive, mindful, not only our actions and judgments, but also our communication. In describing “social poetics,” as defined by “how our talk not only informs others but also strikes, move, or gestures,” she restores the value and use of words and our attention to a relational level of transformative capacities.
While I’ll admit to not understanding all of the academic jargon, I resonate with the premises of both articles that learning requires practice and practice requires learning, usually in the moment, built with knowledge that offers common language and understanding. Leaning into that practice requires a reader to reflect on his/her own contribution to and philosophy of learning.
As I prepared my post over this week (did anyone else find it excruciatingly painful knowing that the reader/facilitator of our posts is the author of what we read?), I found a prayer that helped me through. As I reflected on the power of words, the need for provocative conversation, practice-as-learning, reflection-as-action, and living in the moment-by-moment, I came to a place of confession and worship. Perhaps because I have so little to offer in this post, I share the words of another to encourage us all, in particular the last line:
O Holy One, we call to you and name you as eternal, ever-present, and boundless in love.
Yet there are times, O God, when we fail to recognize you in the daily-ness of our lives.
Sometimes shame clenches tightly around our hearts, and we hide our true feelings.
Sometimes fear makes us small, and we miss the chance to speak from our strength.
Sometimes doubt invades our hopefulness, and we degrade our own wisdom.
Holy God, in the daily round from sunrise to sunset,
remind us again of your holy presence hovering near us and in us.
Free us from shame and self-doubt.
Help us to see you in the moment-by-moment possibilities to live honestly, to act courageously, and to speak from our wisdom.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid, 10.