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.
I agree completely with your point of view. I feel like their is value in learning for career-building, as it gives one the opportunity to potentially open new doors. However, I think you make a great point about essentially learning something accidentally or "unintended outcomes." I personally wonder how one can even know which career or career path would be right for them without any form of self-exposure through learning. I also feel like learning solely for the purpose of career-building can potentially limit the amount that can even be learned. When you learn for the sake of self-discovery there are no set guidelines or agenda to be had. The learning can be more spontaneous and accidental. I like that you mention the impact of the learning as opposed to the way in which you learn. Learning can happen anywhere at anytime. If we are speaking strictly about academia and learning within schooling then the concept still applies.
well-reasoned distinction between the spontaneous, ‘unintended’ learning, and that which is planned and organised. You’re thus continuing my thinking, for my initial reflection was centred around experiential learning seen as self-development, without considering whether it is intentional or spontaneous. You’re right to highlight the latter – for this is in the nature of all things live and authentic.
But the question of career-building remains; how much should (or could) this be planned – and what is the role of chance, or hazardous experience in it. I would argue the truth is somewhere half-way between these, and the notion of an entirely planned career. But even if I’m wrong – imagine one would indeed manage to plan every aspect of one’s career – what truly matters, in the end, is the extent to which that fully-planned career brings one a real sense of fulfilment. That’s where the notion of ‘self-development’ matters, because it’s key to fulfilment (as much as meaning or purpose is).
I 100% agree with the importance of learning towards self-discovery over career building. While having a career is obviously important realistically speaking, but before that happens it only make sense that you get to know yourself first. Sure, you could get any job and aimlessly do the tasks asked of you, but that’s not really learning is it? It’s more regurgitation. Which is how i felt the school system was run, specifically in high school. I went to high school in the states, more specifically Florida. It was the definition of a regurgitated population. I absolutely hated high school because i felt like i wasn’t really learning anything, i was just being prepared to pass the next exam to get me to the next grade. In one ear and almost simultaneously out the other. That was true for the majority of my classes, about 90%, but the other 10% were pure bliss and fed my curiosity in more ways than i could’ve hoped for. Film class fed my curiosity of other points of views, cultures, languages and people in general. Literature fed my need to better understand human nature as well as fed my creativity and allowed me to learn the craft on a technical level.
I then graduated high school but was still surrounded by the same regurgitated people I mentioned earlier. So I decided i needed to know more, about what i wasn’t entirely sure but i was excited to find out. So i saved my money and did just that. after spending 3 months in a completely different environment than i was used to, I still learn new things just thinking back on it. Learning should be an experience, something that will always stay with you. if you forget it, can you say you ever learned it? If something in you wasn’t changed or at least contemplated then can you say you ever really learned anything?
Thanks for your story, Jaeda. I think a lot of people can relate to that. We all had our share of ‘learning things by heart’ experience. But if we’re ever faced with that again, we’ll know to challenge it – or turn it on its head, by questioning the things we are expected to learn, thinking about them and offering new perspectives.
I would be keen to learn more about ways in which you have changed, as a result of a better kind of learning. Examples?
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).
Yes. Self before career in the sense of vocation of course rather than joining egoistic rat race.