Learning with Mind and Heart
This site is all about learning. Its purpose is to discuss some of the complexities of learning, new methods for teaching that are based on new ideas about learning and to explain the connections between teaching, training and learning. If you really want to help people learn ideas and skills that matter to them, you have to understand their values and their personal narrative (who they hope to be/become in the world) and what they hope to accomplish. This approach to teaching and training is based on “Self-authorship,” and is intended to be transformative ( Kegan in Mezirow, Learning as Transformation, 2000). It is designed to help people learn how to understand their own perspective on the world and how to appreciate the perspectives of others.
Teaching and learning for self-authorship and transformation is challenging. It shakes the foundations of what we formerly believed to be true. It requires us to open both our minds and our hearts, to learn empathy for other people and to live with ambiguity. We have to learn new information, pay attention to our emotional reactions and those of others. We often have to learn how to manage our discomfort and try to understand what the new learning means for us personally. In this era of racial violence and terrorism, we are all faced with the need to learn about people we might not have known in previous times. We need to understand people who see the world very differently from the way we understand it. We need to listen through confusion and discomfort. We need the skills of civil conversation. This is very difficult learning. However, this learning is essential if we want to improve the human condition. As James Baldwin said, “You can’t fix what you won’t face.”
So if you’re prepared to do all these things, and in the process enhance your ability to help students learn about what matters to them, you are invited to begin your journey on this site.
If you’ve ever wondered why people forget so much of what they ”learn” in school, this site will give you some new insights and ideas. There’s been a lot of research about learning in the past 20 years. Here are some of the ideas that generally haven’t made it into public awareness.
- We don’t teach the way people learn.
- People don’t remember or use what they don’t care about.
- Most teaching doesn’t address the issue of why somebody should care about what they’re learning except that “you need to know this in order to learn that,” or “You need to know this for the test.”
- Most of what we know about learning doesn’t find its way into the way many professors teach in colleges and universities.
- The most important life learning doesn’t happen on schedule or in classrooms. First you have the test, then you learn. That’s how it usually works.
- Most of what student affairs professionals help students learn isn’t called teaching. Now there’s a dilemma. What kind of learning are you more likely to remember – how to do quadratic equations or how to keep an important relationship alive?
- What’s the difference between the ways in which student affairs professionals teach students life skills and the ways academic faculty members teach conceptual information?
Why Do I Care About Learning and Diversity?
Nobody is born knowing everything they need to know to survive. We learn our way through life. One of the most important things we learn is how to relate to other people. That’s hard enough when the other people belong to our own family, community or identity group. The challenge of this age is to learn to relate to people who we think are very different from us- according to the ways we think about identity groups…race, gender, ethnicity, faith tradition, sexual orientation and other powerful affiliations. This kind of learning gets harder as we grow older. If all of us are going to become skilled at relating to each other across these lines of difference, we must use the new learning styles that integrate what we know, how we feel, how act and how we think about difference. We have to create a new tribe called HUMAN BEINGS.
You and Me and the Human Tribe
I was a really fortunate little human. I grew up in a neighborhood full of other little humans who significantly different from me. I was Jewish. They were varieties of Christian. I was white. Many of them were Black. It was right after WWII and many people were immigrants from all over Europe – Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Italy, Poland, Ukraine. Some families had recently arrived from the southern USA. We all went to school together. We ate at each other’s homes.
We celebrated every available holiday. All of this experience was an enormous gift that kept giving for the rest of my life. It was a big surprise to me when I discovered that not everyone had this childhood experience.
So we now face this question: How can we create a comfortable human tribe that is filled with differences. At the same time, how can we appreciate our similarities so that we can be comfortable with each other? Those are the questions that motivate the work I want to do with you. Contact me if you’re interested.