Why do you want to learn?

There are two types of learning. There’s the experiential learning that you do in the course of living. You learn to walk, talk, and solve problems that allow you to do bigger things. You know that tired cliché, “You learn something new every day?” It’s true. I learned something about lawn mowers, air filters, oil, and my son’s temper today. I’ve picked up on weather “tells” and how to care for my tomato garden. I’ve learned about some cooking tips, some behavioral traits of dogs, how to get along with extroverts. I’m sure you have some random things you’ve learned by just existing.

The other kind of learning is prescribed. You go to school to learn to write and spell and figure. You study what someone else determines is essential in becoming a responsible adult. Some of the material you might see as frivolous, useless, or unnecessary. Some you might consider priceless, critical, and fascinating. But in our current educational program, you rarely get a chance to choose what you want to learn.

I had a friend who hated science of any kind. She hated the math, she hated the formulas, she hated poking frogs. She took a general science class in High School. She had nothing but disdain for all the subjects covered except one: geography. She loved the landscapes and how the formations affected the farming community. She was fascinated by conservation techniques. It amazed her in studying the biospheres how humans could occupy so many of them while some plants, animals, and insects were restricted to a twenty-square mile area in a remote location and could not be transplanted anywhere else. But she only got to study geography for a month or so. She didn’t have the option of learning more in school. Two years later, she majored in geography in college. What did she do during those two years before college? She devoured everything she could on the subject. This is intentional learning. This is learning based on experience in a class that sparked her curiosity. This additional learning was not prescribed by anyone.

The reason she learned all that the library had to offer on the subject was because it captured her imagination and she could see herself involved in geography as a lifelong quest. It called to her.

It’s the reason I keep going back to my music–it calls to me. The sounds, the combinations, the expression of feelings beyond what words can reveal, those things pull me back into composition, learning new instruments, experimenting, and appreciating music.

Experiential learning is seen in the working world as internships, apprenticeships, practice teaching, or shadowing. In the financial field, for instance, you must pass some licensing tests to be able to solicit business. There are two types of students: the kind who studied for the tests by reading and re-reading the material that would be covered, and the kind who read the material and then go into the field with an experienced representative. Those who proceed into the field read contracts, look at portfolios, study the strategies and the tactics of the finances already in place, discuss the risk tolerance and the goals of the client. They come back to the office armed with a plethora of information and a feel for what the client wants. They must use all the material they’d studied, integrate the information provided by the field agent and the paperwork they’ve brought back. This actually makes it easier to pass the test than just studying the books.

Usually, and I don’t have statistics on this, experiential learning is curiosity-based. The reason you are pursuing this information is to use it in the marketplace or in the world. It isn’t just to be stored in a box in your garage or donated to charity after you’re done. The retention rate on experiential learning is vastly different than prescribed learning simply because it calls to you and you put all that information and experience in a “place” where you can access it easily.

Do you have something that calls to you? We can explore that together!

Published by Rebecca Fegan

To be a better anything, I have to be a better person. My results come from the quality of my thinking and it is something I always work on.

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