Saturday, March 15, 2014

Only connect ...

When do we learn? I suspect that despite the best efforts of our teachers and schools we don't usually learn when and where we should. Of course a well-designed course can lead you towards deeper insights, help you form your ideas and practice the concepts but that essential insight may not come as hoped. Learning comes when we least expect it. Suddenly you make that connection and it all makes sense; lying awake in bed, sitting on a train or out jogging. For many of us education can have a delayed reaction and it can take months or even years before you actually realise that you have learned something.

Today education is carefully planned with learning outcomes, assessment, tests and planned progression. We plan courses on the assumption that students learn together and develop at the same pace: after xx weeks you will be able to do X, Y and Z. Isn't that a rather optimistic notion given the widely differing aptitudes, levels of commitment, distraction levels and ambitions among the learners. Some will get it almost immediately whereas others will struggle for ages and may never really "get it". Some will pass their exams and graduate without fully learning. I must confess to falling into that category as a student. I studied hard and passed the exams but looking back I never really understood until years later. I saw my studies as work that had to be done so I concentrated on ticking the boxes as I'm sure millions still do today.

You can't learn according to plan and you can't plan that a diverse group of people learn the same things at the same time. No matter how well educators design courses the outcomes can vary widely. It may seem that all students have fulfilled the course objectives but each one will have done so in their own way and with a wide variety of interpretations. We can learn the facts and apply the theory as the course demands but the real understanding may not be there. Real learning happens when the conditions are right and we can't control this. Serendipitous learning.


  1. Interesting that you mention Serendipitous learning, this is exactly what I am writing about,as well as rhizome learning, that one need to have this approach on learning in my dissertation

    This is also what I use to write about in my blog

  2. For swedish audience, I recommend to read this about the perspetive Bildung:

    I remain.