In a comment added to my earlier post on Feral Learning (February 24, 2006), Yusra Visser refers to the need for actors in a structured learning environment, such as is typically the case in an instructional context, to be able to cope with ambiguity, challenge and frustration. I imagine that an animal that escapes from domestication faces a similarly uncertain world as do learners (and their teachers) when they decide to depart from the beaten track, the given curriculum, to walk out and to walk on. The more rigorously a set curriculum is being imposed, the less it will leave scope for innovation and for the pursuit of individual pathways to learning. The curriculum, the way it is regularly interpreted as a linear sequence of knowledge and skills areas ordered according to some logical principle, however much sense that principle may make, has also a deadening influence on those who learn and teach if there is no vision present in the learning environment that allows the given curriculum to be seen as just one option and not necessarily the best one in all circumstances for all people. Flexibility is thus required in any instructional context whose primary aim is the growth of those who participate in it in accordance with their evolving needs. Thus, if feral learning is to emerge from an instructional context, the process will be enormously helped if it is accompanied by feral teaching. Few schools, whether at the K-12 or higher level, appreciate such flexibility, though. Many school administrators and deans frown on feral teachers. Indeed, as the comment states, flexibility implies trust among those who collaborative learn and those who guide and facilitate that process. Such trust is often hard to be found in schools. It is also a notion largely absent in the scholarly literature in the field of education.
Mary Hall's reflective journal on instructional design for flexible learning, started, I believe, as a course-based activity, is in and of itself an encouraging example of how a given course structure can lead someone to walk off in directions that the curriculum may not have foreseen, provided of course that the right conditions are in place. Besides, Mary's blog is an excellent resource for thoughts, experiences, findings, and links to relevant papers about feral learning. It is highly recommended.