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.