Dr Tony Richardson, Education Consultant

Dr Tony Richardson (PhD) is a freelance educational specialist with over 35 years of teaching and research experience. Over the past 10 years Tony has been an education consultant for various government and non-government bodies, within Southeast Asia, focusing on education; primary, secondary; tertiary and VET.  He was previously the Project Director for the Integration of Financial Literacy into Cambodian government schools. Tony has co-authored a number of peer reviewed journal articles on topics relating to teachers, learners and pedagogy across several international landscapes, and also co-authored a book on preservice teacher education. He has presented, and continues to present, at international conferences on education topics throughout Southeast Asia.


First to coin the phrase multiverses was the American philosopher William James in 1895. James’ view of multiverses focused initially on morality; however, these days multiverses refer to the existence of multiple universes.

Consequently, if we extrapolate the premise that there is more than one universe then logically, as Einstein theorized, there will be more than one of ‘you.’ Therefore, based on the concept of multiverses there is a very strong possibility that somewhere, in another universe, you are taking a different path in life. This belief was highlighted in the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ (1988) where one of a London women’s lives was determined by whether or not she caught a London tube train.

The narrative of the movie focused on the differing learning journeys the women took if she caught or did not catch the same train to reach a destination. However, the greatest impact on the audience was the writer’s focus on how the actor reached her destination and not simply what destination was arrived at. One could argue that the writer realized that the audience was possibly more interested in the unfolding story, linked to the multiverses attached to the actors’ learning journeys, as opposed to the final destination.

Consequently, the 1 hour and 40-minute movie was comprised of 1 hour and 30 minutes of the unfolding multiverses surrounding the actor’s learning journey and 10 minutes dedicated to the destination. Therefore, the movie was actor-centred through a focus on the audience following the unfolding multiverses that were linked to the actors’ learning journeys to reach a destination. Maybe, one could apply the multiverse view, described above, to the teaching and learning of a student to facilitate student-centred learning?

Possibly, the first course of action to facilitate a student-centred learning focus is to have the student as an active participant in their teaching and learning, similar to the actor. Second, teaching and learning, like the movie ‘Sliding Doors,’ needs to emphasize the how, as oppose to the what? The writer had the majority of script engaging the actor, and by association the audience, in the how and not the what? Therefore, the majority of the teaching and learning needs to position the student to know, engage and understand how to reach their destination, and not simply the what, their destination.

Third, the how, is exemplified through clearly articulating the student’s multiverses, which highlight the learning journeys a student undertakes to reach their destination. These learning journeys, reflected in the student’s multiverses, indicate what a student needs to know, engage with, and understand in order to navigate their pathway to their destination.

For example, a student commences a learning journey that focuses on writing an historical essay of 1000 words. To complete this task the student must acquire skills set that encompasses some of the following; knowledge about the topic, essay structure, paragraph writing and structure, and referencing. All these skills set reflect the multiverses a student must engage with in order to reach their destination; writing a 1000-word essay on an historical topic. Therefore, the student’s learning journeys are embedded in the multiverses, the skills set, to reach their destination.

Reflecting on the example above, and the movie, the greatest impact on the student occurs within their learning journeys and not at their destination. By the student’s learning journey becoming the focus of the teaching and learning process; how to write a 1000-word essay on an historical topic, the emphasis moves away from where the student is going and instead to how the student will get there; similar to the focus of the movie. The student’s view of the task moves from focusing on simply a destination to the multiverses linked to a destination, exemplified, via the student being positioned to engage in their unfolding story.

The emphasis is not on what needs to be completed, the essay, instead what are the multiverses associated with the completion of the essay. The student’s view of their teaching and learning reflects an understanding that the completion of a task represents a number of different learning journeys that a student must undertake to reach their destination. Therefore, the student-centred approach to learning emphasizes the need for the student to be an active participant in their teaching and learning by knowing, engaging with, and understanding, the multiverses associated with reaching their destination.

The final point relates to encompassing the whole process above within the context of an unfolding narrative, in this case the individual student’s learning journey. Reflecting back on the movie the focus of ‘Sliding Doors’ was on one actor, however, if one views the movie as a compilation of different learning journeys there were thousands of actors at the tube station. Each individual actor, along with the main actor, possibly moving through their multiverses?

Consequently, if one takes a transcendental view, the main actor’s learning journey was simply part of the thousands of other actors who were also at the same tube station catching or missing the same tube train. Each actor had their own multiverses with possibly different destinations.

However, focusing on a student-centred emphasis, via the application of multiverses, a student’s learning journey moves usually towards one predetermined destination and clearly defined multiverses, all linked to that destination. Consequently, in most teaching and learning scenarios the student’s learning journeys are pre-set. The student knows beforehand their destination, and most importantly, their multiverses. Therefore, the focus of the teaching and learning facilitates how each student is positioned to acquire the knowledge, and then engage and understand that knowledge, to complete their learning journey.

Consequently, a focus on multiverses suggests that a student’s learning journey is usually predetermined. However, a student-centred focus relates to positioning a student to look through a teaching and learning lens that reinforces how the student will participant; know, engage with, and understand in order to navigate their pathway to their destination, via their predetermined multiverses.

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