Towards a “Pedagogy of Small”: A Continuing Journey

In the summer of 2018, I completed a two-week doctoral residency. While there, I had agreed to focus my doctoral work on an idea that I had begun the previous summer entitled “a pedagogy of small.” It was not the topic that I had intended to pursue when I had left for school, and on the return flight, I began to again doubt my decision. Out of that doubt, two research questions emerged: How might I define “a pedagogy of small”? What benefits might such a pedagogy afford?

This article represents an initial and tentative exploration of these questions within the context of my homecoming via public transportation. Through this exploration, a series of potential benefits connected to a pedagogy of small have emerged including: making space for consent, accepting incomplete collectivities, celebrating resistance, embracing impermanence, seeking alternate possibilities, having time to have time and welcoming endings. I did not know when I wrote this that the simple act of taking the train would be something that would disappear from my daily routine indefinitely.

Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988) ideas related to incongruence, rhizomes and the collecting of “ands,” this article is structured around a series of small vignettes that I gathered while travelling home by train. Several stories from the first leg of my trip, which were included in a different article, explored “big” approaches to learning and the risks of scaling up (Elias, 2019). This article focuses on the second leg of the journey and the potential benefits of scaling down. It begins by considering my use of the terms “small” and “pedagogy.” Then, like the somewhat circuitous route by which the train brought me home, this article explores a series of emerging themes in less than a straight line.

In keeping with Deleuze and Guattari’s (1988) non-linear approach to analysis, this theoretical article moves forwards and backwards in time and between spaces. It draws on experiences that took place before, during and after the vignettes on the train to more deeply explore the ideas that they have generated. It also seeks to connect the ideas gathered in online spaces, where my work is typically focused, with ideas from a more material world. Through this process, I begin to find that these two worlds may not be as disconnected or dissimilar as we often perceive them to be. Ultimately, this is a story both of a return to my physical home and of a developing foundation from which my exploration of a pedagogy of small can continue. It is also a journey that celebrates sharing in open and public spaces, from a time when sharing physical spaces with strangers was taken for granted, so I now invite you along for the ride.

Roberto Greco

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