Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date:Tue, 18 Nov 1997 07:36:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random Thought: What Is Real Learning

A new-found colleague, Philip Riley of Deakin University in Australia, asked me some profound questions about learning. I jotted off some quick sentences promising a reflective reply at a later date. But, thinking about it, I have found those spontaneous replies are often far more honest then the ones we play with to make sure every "i" is dotted, every "t" is crossed, and every word is in its proper place. Those unpolished relfections come far more from us than they go to impress someone else.

With that in mind, I'd like to share with you my comments to him. I think my desire to share is heightened as I prepared to particpate this weekend in an always revitalizing conference on teaching at Miami of Ohio. But, I also feel compelled by a comment I read--after I wrote Philip--on a student evaluation, written anonymously, about another triads presentation of what we call the "Broadway Project." She wrote, "I started this project as just another assignment, but after listening to Nakesia's, Chris' and Lindsay's triad presentation, 'Are We There Yet?' it was not. It took my breathe away. I stayed up all night sometimes in tears. I can't stop asking myself questions, questions, questions. It got to me. I thought I was a good Christian. It was painful to admit I am a quiet, passive racist. I don't like that and I will work to cast it out. I can honestly say that that single five minute presentation has made this course worthwhile. It has changed me and I have grown for the better. I hope it stays with me. I will fight to keep it with me and help me grow some more. Please share this with the class. I didn't sign it. I haven't the courage yet to be that open. Maybe someday I'll be there." I share with the understanding that I am not asking to accept what I say, but that I merely offer it up for reflection; that my comments are a bit disjointed, but I just went with the flow; that I'm no philosopher or psychologist or pundit or education specialist; and that I'm not sure that I'm not going into areas where angels fear to tread. To be honest, I am very nervous about what I am about to say. Anyway, here goes.

I think "learning" in today's language has lost a lot of its true meaning if not it's essence. It is not taking in packaged information; it's not spewing back on what the academic jargon calls an "instrument of assessment;" it's not a course grade, a GPA, or even a degree. It goes beyond time spent in the confinement of class although time spent is important; it goes beyond competence and skill although it is grounded on them; it even goes beyond attitude although it demands emotional and spiritual growth. No, I think taking in information is only distantly related to real learning because learning is about people, not facts. It's about a comittment to the full human development of each of us. And THAT is the fundamental issue in education: we do not pursue emotional development with the same intensity with which we pursue intellectual development. Yet, it is both emotional and intellectual development that offers each of us the greatest opportunity for striving towards our full potential.

So, if real learning is about a comittment to full human development, it is about personal growth, about personal change, about rooting out self-deceptions and self-imposed limitations, about broadening horizons, widening perhipheral vision, seeing more clearly, listening more sharply, feeling more sensitively and lovingly, being more open and honest. It's about seeking and tapping potential; it's about enhancing the capacity to create something new that has value and meaning to yourself and others. It's not so much about looking outside and dreaming during a sleep. It's about looking inside and awakening from a sleep. Learning is a process of unlearning, of self re-creation. It's about breaking out of moulds and ruts and becoming a better person. It's about being alive. Through learning we extend our capacity to perceive and reperceive the world, other people, ourselves, and to weave all three threads into a fabric of connectedness. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do.

I don't think there is a simple formula or technique to learning how to learn that you might see on these T.V. pop-whatever infomercials or read in a book or hear in a classroom lecture. It is not something you occasionally process. It is a process that is woven into our day to day life. I'm sure there are more competent and experienced than I who can help in this regard. But, from my own personal experience I do know learning requires an acknowledgement and acute awareness of ignorance, incompetence, shortcoming, fraility, need to grow. And, I do know that learning helps to develop a self-confidence; it helps to develop a sense of freedom from others; and it bestows a power over yourself.

No, real learning is not just about change. It's something more uncomfortable, more frightening, more exhilarating, more courageous, more essential. Real learning is about changing ourselves. And, its essence is not what it is, but what it does for each of us as this student learned.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

Return to The Complete Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to Arbor Heights Elementary School