DOING LEARNING DIFFERENTLY
‘Doing’ takes precedence in everything that we focus around our learning pedagogy. Taking massive action around one’s enterprise clearly differentiates what our fellows are able to achieve within a short span of time. And those who do not, clearly miss the action.
How many of us have ever pondered over these questions:
How do we learn?
Why do we need to learn?
Where do we learn from?
What happens if we learn well?
Who is responsible for our learning?
Is being tutored the best way to learn?
Do I learn better in groups?
I’ll be honest with you – until a few years ago, I never gave a thought to the above. In fact, till recently I never found it important to understand these questions and generally without understanding the question, I would start finding an answer or believe I already had the answer.
Various experiments have taken place worldwide that reinforce different approaches to learning, many of which came from experiments in the field of education. Some of these took place in India while others occurred in the West. The likes of Tagore’s Sriniketan experiment, Gandhiji’s Nai Talim, J Krishnamurti’s ‘Rishi Valley’, Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s system of Integral education & philosophy of EDUCARE, Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf system based on Anthroposophy and Michael Young’s School for Social Entrepreneurs… have left an indelible mark on me till date.
Michael Young, derived his utopian social values from his progressive education at the Dartington Hall School and deep engagement to learn from the Elmhirsts of Dartington who were part of Tagore’s Sriniketan experiment. Young was influenced by Tagore and his writings that nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit and social conscience. Young believed such experiments were beginnings to liberate society of the myths that were prevalent and which continue to plague society. The school at Dartington relied on children’s initiatives to determine its activities through its form of ‘learning by doing’ – keeping chickens to sell eggs, growing and selling vegetables, fixing latrines and plumbing to be able to use them etc.
As true to the saying of Descartes, the French philosopher: “The chief cause of human error is to be found in the prejudices picked up in childhood.” But, this error can be erased at any point of time during one’s life. All it needs is a method; a method to engage and a commitment to learn differently.
On that note, I’d like to present my own understanding of ‘Doing Learning Differently’, based on my experience and readings over the last few years. In no way do I intend to preach, this is my attempt to speak my mind and share my own experiences with my readers.
This forms the essence of the approach that ‘ACTION’ is key to change. American Author David Deida in his writings mentioned about how committing a human error is to think that eventually things will be different in some fundamental way. Most of us think that one day it will be done. “If I can work enough, then one day I can rest” or “I am only doing this now so that one day I can do what I really want with my life.” This cycle never ends; as long as life continues the challenges keep us on our toes. The key is do it NOW, do what you really want to do. Stop waiting, because this waiting is never ending.
Social Entrepreneurs take action NOW. Nothing stops them, limited money, family disapproval, social isolation – nothing. They constantly work on harmonising their thoughts through their words and actions – and for me, this is what ‘DOING’ really is all about.
Learning is so closely associated with ‘unlearning’ and it is so important to unlearn before you learn. And, it is a more important part of the differential approach we encourage at SSE.
In my interactions with one of my mentors who worked on J Krishnamurthi’s philosophy of education, where he shared his thoughts on ‘learning’ with me while we designed a new learning programme, together. According to him, “Learning must change the thinking process – it must make us more responsible.” For me, this responsibility is towards a larger purpose that each of us have. The purpose of our contributions to human growth, human culture and human goodness. And, learning must make us more responsible towards this contribution, more consciously.
But, how do we do learning differently? This is an important question for me and I have spent considerable time in my thoughts on this question. I recall one of the group agreements made with the first cohort when they started their journey with SSE India last year – the agreement to ‘Embrace Your Vulnerability’. It is not honourable to pretend and be fake but rather important to admit and acknowledge our fears and insecurities. It is this pretentious behaviour that becomes the reason for one to give incompletely in anything s/he pursues. And, when this lack of completeness becomes complete, difference occurs. Our strengths or weaknesses lie between what we want and what we choose in life, and once there is an alignment between the two, there is no scope for disharmony. That again is what makes a difference.
Mother Teresa constantly pursued her purpose to serve the poor against all odds, despite being opposed by the Mother General of the Loreto Convent and her demands to return to the Loreto order. Her faith in God and perseverance to serve led her to start a new congregation ‘Missionaries of Charity’ with the permission from the Vatican and the Holy See. It was the first of its own kind, and created on requests from Mother Teresa to the highest authority. And, that made the difference.
Each of one of us, in our own way leads a life of purpose and does what needs to be done. And that is what the path of ‘Doing Learning Differently’ is all about. It is no great science or an art, no spiritual ordeal of attaining the highest – but constantly working on one’s own self to change and adapt to new ideas and new ways of doing things differently.