Learners and the learning process
" Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers............You teach best what you most need to learn" – Richard Bach (Illusions)
Learners and learning are not so much in the spotlight as teachers and teaching. And while the fantastic role of teachers can never be overlooked, it may not be a bad idea to look at learners and the learning process. The idea is not to get entangled in the various theoretical models of the learning process and distinct approaches to it, but to apply a layperson’s common sense approach and understanding to look at something that is so very fascinating and critical to our survival and growth
We start learning as soon as we are born; some would say, even before we are born. Watching a child jump with the joy of discovery, struggle to stand up, or strive to master the first few words, are big rewards of parenthood. When we look at infants and how they transform into fairly self-dependent pre school kids, we realize that an incredible amount of learning has taken place. The point is, all of us have an amazing capacity to learn and have been through such a process. The reason this needs to be emphasized is that many of us forget this later as adults.
Since all of us were definitely learners at some stage – and some are lifelong learners – there are some pertinent points to be mulled over :
Why we stop learning : Life is of course a big teacher and therefore we cannot really cease to learn, but the focused effort to learn is sometimes suspended for good. So you hear people shying away from new activities, or learning new skills, cultivating new hobbies and interests for the simple reason that “I have never tried this in my whole life.” Its difficult to say how this happens and in any case it varies from person to person. But one plausible explanation could be a rigorous education system that pushes us to conform to learning what is taught and curbs free wheeling thought. Over a period learning becomes a drudgery and bore that we need to escape from at the earliest. So as soon as we can earn our livelihood the compulsion to learn is off our head and with a sigh of relief we bid goodbye to learning. After that we try not to return to it unless compelled by circumstances beyond our control. The tragedy is that in this process we deny ourselves the fantastic thrill and joy of exploring, discovering and adding to one’s understanding.
Strong antipathy: I once had a friend in the university who wondered why I had not developed distaste for mathematics when we were otherwise so similar. He hated mathematics from his early days in school and it showed in poor results that prompted many a teacher to remark that although he was otherwise an intelligent boy, he just did not have the aptitude for mathematics. I found it very strange that somebody who could reason very well and loved philosophy should be struggling with mathematics. I asked him what he found so repugnant about mathematics and he thought for a while and told me that the problems in maths were not related to the outside world, and so sitting to solve them seemed such a meaningless exercise that would in no way impact the real world. I spent a month discussing this single issue and slowly the sense of solving those problems started dawning on my friend. His marks too started improving and for the first time in his life, to his very pleasant surprise, he ended up with very good grades. Note that I didn’t teach him maths at all.
Not so obvious advantages : Learning has many obvious advantages, but what most people do not realize is that if you are a lifelong learner, then life can never be too strenuous, or boring. Every problem becomes a learning opportunity and the strangest situations will only spur one on the path of exploration and discovery instead of dying of boredom. The process of lifelong learning will also take you into many unchartered territories, which, besides enriching your life, would give you a more holistic perspective of the variety and grandeur of life.
Let us strive to create a world of lifelong learners.