This week I put on my adjunct faculty hat to teach a Doctor of Ministry seminar for Central Baptist Theological Seminary, so I have thinking about the entire process of learning. In a recent blog, Maryellen Weimer wrote about four student misconceptions about learning and prompted me to reflect on the learning process as I observe and experience it.
The first misconception that Weimer suggests is that learning is fast. In order to understand a subject, a student must have a good foundation and a perceptual framework. This does not happen overnight. A good student spends time developing the tools, perception, and information that will allow real learning. (See more about “discipline” below.)
Second, knowledge is composed of isolated facts. We do not live our lives in silos. Although academia would have us think that disciplines can be neatly divided into recognizable categories, life is messy, interconnected, and surprising. The greatest insights come when people from different disciplines interact with one another. This allows new perspectives to be applied and new solutions to a problem to emerge. We need more dialogue between disciplines rather than less.
Third, there is the misconception that being good at a subject is a matter of inborn talent rather than hard work. Although individuals may have inherent gifts that allow them to easily embrace a discipline, if they want to get really good at it, they will have to work at it. (That’s why it is called a discipline!) Even those without inherent gifts can learn to perform acceptably in a field if they are willing to invest themselves in it.
Fourth, “I’m really good at multi-tasking, especially during class or studying.” If only this were true! Recent studies show that most of think we are better at “multi-tasking” that we actually are. Certainly, one can listen to music and read or exercise and listen, but real comprehension requires focus.
Learning is a challenging opportunity that requires our best, but it can be fun and life-transforming if done well.