When the suggested topic, “the art of learning” appeared on Chicago Now’s series of This Blogger Life, I knew I couldn’t possibly run a blog entitled School Zone without participating in the subject. What to write on such a wide topic?
I’ve got many thoughts and opinions about learning. I’ve taken many teaching theory and methods classes as well as psychology courses in order to understand learning. With new experiences and situations, in teaching, parenting, and everyday life, these are still evolving.
Back in the day, while working for an educational publisher, I was introduced to Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences: the belief that individuals don’t possess one single intelligence, but several based on their abilities and interests. (Then, there were seven, now there are nine.) I do agree that there seem to be a variety of types of learning styles.
I did my best to apply this theory to my third grade classroom when addressing children’s various learning strengths. We would sing multiplication facts, illustrate vocabulary words, and play Simon Says with the scientific names for all the bones in your body. I definitely believe some ways of learning come more naturally than others.
Through it all, it’s been evident to me that there is no one best way to learn. It’s such a personal thing- based on many factors and situations. I’ve seen this with my own children, students I have tutored, and even recognized it in myself. What method works for one person may not work at all for another. It’s complicated.
If we are talking about the “art of learning” as some set of underlying attributes necessary for learning, I could identify a few that seem universal.
I think you have to be receptive to learning. There has to be at least some degree of openness to learn: some ability or willingness to accept new information or ideas. (For example, I have never had much interest in learning about the stock market or investing- but having children that will be college bound soon, makes me more receptive to learning how the market works.)
An individual needs to be somewhat interested or enthused to do something. Some spark of inspiration or curiosity has to be present. For some students grades or parental expectations are their primary motivator. Adult learners might be incentivized to learn more for a job promotion. Most learners are motivated by a particular goal. If a student isn't motivated, a teacher has to figure out why before any learning can take place.
In order to grow, a learner must have some degree of confidence in themselves. If you possess a belief that you can do something well or that you will succeed at something you try, you are more willing to do it. Fear of failure or making a mistake will often shut down new learning.
The art of teaching is to take these states of receptiveness, motivation, and confidence and make learning happen.
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