What is Wu Wei?
Wu Wei is an ancient Chinese philosophical concept from Taoism which means “without effort”. It can also be interpreted as action which does not involve struggle or the need to exert force.
In an educational context Wu Wei comes with practical experience and is developed by listening, observing and following the lead of the child. Wu Wei is finding the teachable moments and being able to spontaneously act upon the opportunity to extend and provide relevant learning to the child’s needs and interests at that time.
Is there a need to plan then?
Planning is still an important part of exposing children to activities which challenge and engage them. It is during these planned activities where a child is engrossed and their curiosity is piqued, that they instinctively start to investigate or hypothesise about the whys and wherefores. They also begin the process of making connections and adapt what they know or have learned from one context to another. The educator’s role in these instances is to support and extend concepts through further questioning and provide relevant scaffolding to reach a conclusion of discovery for the child. There is a point however, where the moment of learning has passed and further provocation is futile and against this principle of Wu Wei, as learning could now be being forced. This is immediately recognisable by children disengaging and losing interest in the conversation or activity.
Go with the flow.
Intentionally planning a stimulating learning environment coupled with thought provoking planned activities relevant to the target child or children, sets the stage for seemingly endless teachable moments and collaborative or independent learning opportunities. Educators who are then able to be flexible and divert from the planned path to follow the child as the opportunity arises, by adhering to a Wu Wei perspective, will assist in more meaningful learning for children. It is therefore not always necessary to complete the task if there has been constructive learning along the way. It is the journey not the destination.
How can I become more Wu Wei?
The question in itself is a statement of intent. There is no need to become more Wu Wei but recognise when you are not; when you are exerting force and need to withdraw; when it is time for the child to lead and the educator to be led.
Find your Wu Wei and educate without effort. When was the last time you went somewhere unexpected with a child and it became an exciting learning experience for everyone?