Whitehead’s 3 Stages of Learning: Romance, Discipline and Fruition

An apt suggestion for structuring a class, course, or curriculum.

The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once suggested that, properly organized, education should proceed through three stages. In the first stage, that of romance, the student’s interest is aroused; he or she is brought face to face with the object of study in all its power and mystery. If the subject is mechanical engineering, for example, the student could be taken to see a steam locomotive or a steel mill in operation. In the second stage, labeled discipline the student acquires the concepts and methods required to analyze the subject and its parts and processes. In the third stage, that of fruition, the methods and concepts are applied to the subject so its structure and functioning may be understood and, perhaps, improved (Whitehead, 1929).

From W. Richard Scott’s Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems (pg. 3).

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