Becoming oneself, through learning

Becoming oneself, through learning

21 September 2016

There are many ways of thinking about learning – and each pedagogy has its own purpose and justification. Some focus on the process itself (whether in behavioural or cognitive terms), others consider it in the context of its impact on the self – existentially, so to speak. I prefer the latter – a sort of Gadmerian notion of Bildung, or learning as self-development. The key purpose of this would be to build oneself, rather than a career. (The latter may be an unintended consequence of the former). Most pedagogy that makes sense to me – Lave, Kolb, Moon etc. – focuses on the self and its every-day practice, experiences, transformation.

One doesn’t always know exactly what the outcome will (or should) be, at the end of each learning activity. Different people might learn (i.e. discover) different things about themselves from the same exercise. Truly transformational learning experiences are more like searching for something without necessarily knowing what that ‘something’ is – but recognising it once you find it. So perhaps we should be more open to ‘unintended’ outcomes in our teaching and learning activities, than we currently are.

I’m writing this to ask if I’m alone in thinking this way. And I would like to hear from you – my students, colleagues, peers and anonymous others – whether you have any such examples of learning towards self-discovery, rather than (or before) career-building.

… Clara, one of my first year students, shares her experience of self-discovery through learning – one that may well help her build a career, too; but that is secondary.

Click here to read Clara’s story.

2 thoughts on “Becoming oneself, through learning”

  1. On your invite, yes you are not alone! Career v. vocation. But sometimes we embark on it and have to get on with it ‘til we realise when we start “Falling Upwards” (Rohr book) of going from “Wild Man to Wise Man” (another Rohr book) that there is also higher power and purpose. So I now as a lecturer operate more in mentoring mode and draw on experience and insight and add “new” dimensions such as social justice. More fun as you get feedback.

    Becoming oneself is really to find “true self” (Thomas Merton) and get beyond dualistic thinking.

    I paste in below Rohr’s latest, which is quite apposite (from Falling Upward). He eschews the "proving oneself" syndrome, always having to hold centre stage, protecting boundaries (last lines).

    "Unfortunately, many people never move beyond the need for more infilling and never get to the outpouring which should be the natural result of a healthy ego. Basically, they never get to love. As long as they remain in this self-enclosed and self-referential position, all “otherness” is a threat to their specialness. They will need to prove and make sure that others do not belong, so they can hold center stage. They spend their whole life protecting their boundaries, which isn’t much of a life. The container becomes the substitute for the contents." (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Jossey-Bass: 2011).

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