Sunday, December 17, 2006

ins and outs of learning

This time of year often makes me realize how broken our education system is. High-stressed overworked twenty-somethings pack into libraries for an entire week in often meek attempts to cram extensive knowledge into their heads before regurgitating it on exams written by teachers who expect objective answers to subjective questions.
(Hero of the Light)

I just took a break from boiling down the logic-based learnings (read: vocab not included) from my semester Spanish class into about 4 or 5 pages of notes and read Hero's diatribe on education and creativity.
As I have been progressing through the 9 chapters and 200 some odd pages, I've realized I really haven't learned that much. Apart from cramming my head with vocab, which I find a futile effort anyway (learn that when you go 'there'), there hasn't been too much in the way of how to articulate thoughts or craft statements. And now I wonder why I was always so worried about any exam in there, apart from the usual reamming I took from the vocab section.

Perhaps I didn't want to learn it, or didn't think I could. I had similar blocks in the physics classes I took, and also have seen it in others (usually with math). I'd struggle throughout a set of chapters, and then right before the test when I actually buckled down and spent some time on it, could magically see the underlying theory or logic behind whatever type of problem or theory. It was that determination to see the whole picture, to become the manipulator and not the manipulated, that let me learn what was being taught. Before actually learning it, I had to first decide that I could.
I've tutored several peers in several subjects, and the difference between those that succeeded and those that sucked was their mindset. Some would allow insights to come to light while others stayed put in their self misery and refused to see the colors of the picture shine through.

Before you try to learn or do something, you must first convince yourself you can. From there it's just a matter of going through the motions of success.


Blogger Kaitlin said...

i wholeheartedly agree!

i am cramming for an econ final, and after i finally put away my overall negative attitude to the subject, i realize that i can solve problems and understand concepts.

best of luck w/ your finals!!!

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My econ exam is on Sat at 230 and i've been dreading more than anything. I'm pretty sure the thought of opening the book thats been under my desk for sometime and trying to get through the remaining chapters makes my stomach flip.

maybe i should try this whole openmind thing you speak of....

Someone might need to remind me come friday when i want to burn my econ book.

1:50 AM  
Blogger Surya Swamy said...

just the other day my sister and I were telling my mother how we thought the Indian education system is too focused on results and performance, which comes at the cost of 'learning, for the sake of learning,' and how we thought the American system of education was (for the most part) built on a different pedagogical edifice where independent thought, conceptuality and creativity are foundational pillars. Clearly, this is not generalizeable; rather, a subjective experience.

That said, I've been in the same boat as you in undergrad, be it cramming for a physics exam or focusing on creating the perfect cheat sheet the night before rather than learning concepts that would have lasted longer than a few equations on a paper. In grad school, this is not the case but anyone who has been to grad school will confirm this.

To me, the big determinant here is the curriculum, but also how a professor might teach a class. I've taken courses taught by professors who have come up with creative ways of testing one's understanding of the material where cramming would leave you nowhere. And this I believe is critical, irrespective of how well developed an education system might be.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Gracie said...

it's nice to stretch, sit back and relax.. it's nice to have been out of school for almost 2 years. you're almost there. just a little more

10:08 AM  

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