What is Learning?

There has been varied definitions and descriptions of learning and theorists have explained it in different ways. However, everyone (including me) has learnt one thing or the other, at one point or the other in life. So in the past few weeks, I had been thinking about what learning is to me and much more, what the components are.


When would I say I have actually learnt something? What happens when I say I have learnt this or learnt that? First, Learning is the process that begins with identifying new or additional knowledge or experience, reflecting on it to extract meaning and interpreting it for a change.

Learning goes beyond passive consumption, it involves active creation.

Just listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube/TED video or reading an article does not necessarily translate to learning… all of that is consumption. The hope of Learning is achieved when creation is involved. And this in my understanding has three basic component parts – IDENTIFICATION, REFLECTION & IMPLEMENTATION.

1. Identification
This is the first necessary stage for learning to take place and some people find this difficult. You must be able to wade through the hundreds of content to find or identify what is in it for you. When reading an article, a blog post, listening to a podcast, going through your twitter feed, or Feedly, flipping through your Flipboard or any of your content sources, it is important to ask the question:

“What am I getting from here?”

You must identify a new knowledge, a new idea, a suggestion, something you’ve not heard before or something you’re hearing in a different way. Since learning must bring about a change (mindset or behavioural), there must be something to identify that leads in that direction. So your questions at this stage are What’s the main point? What are they saying? What’s this about? Simply identify the learning gist here.

2. Reflection
This is the second stage and to me, very critical for learning to take place. This has to do with thinking and meditating. Now, you’re looking beyond what’s being said and you’re looking for what it does mean. At this stage, you’re trying to extract meaning from the content you’ve gone through. This will involve asking the question:

“Why is what I have just read, heard or watched important, and why is it important to me? What impact will it have in reaching the goal I have?”

This will involve interpreting the content and applying it to yourself. You’re not just discovering what it means, you’re also seeking to note what it means for you and how you can benefit from it. If, for example, the podcast is speaking about blogging as a teacher, what would that entail? What does that mean for you as a person? It is taking a deeper look at the content and trying to dive into it for a personal practical application. Reflection stage turns the general talk into something personal and sets the stage for real learning to take place.

Reflection may also include some form of Curation. At this stage, you may want to put together what the whole thing means for you. You may want to write about the content in your own understanding and words. Some, reflect by tweeting their own understanding and thoughts, others blog about it while some simply keep a private journal of their reflections. The important thing is to have some quiet time to meditate about what you’re hearing and find its application in your setting.

3. Implementation
This last part is the action part. It’s the doing what you’re heard or read. Or let me say it is the decision aspect. The first step to implementation is decision making. Here, you must take a decision on what you’ve read. If the blog post talked about blogging for teachers, you must decide (after reflecting on it), “I am going to start blogging” or “I am not going the blogging route yet”. The reasons informing your decision would be based on your reflection.

But then beyond taking a decision, techy guys will always say “the best way to learn a tool is to use it”. I wondered for long how Twitter works (and I just didn’t understand it) until the day I decided to go on Twitter (after my reflections) and I actually signed up for an account. You must remember that

“No matter how much you learn “about” something, you don’t really learn (or know) it until you actually do it”.

I’m sure you’ve heard this quote –

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

So implementation is important. This is the crux of implementation. It is actually stepping out to practice or do what you heard or read.

Do you agree with this learning anatomy? What’s your experience with learning?

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