Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Does Learning Look Like?

What Does Learning Look Like?
Tom Johnston April 18, 2012

All human beings have the same three fundamental experiences. We experience BODY , MIND , and SPIRIT(defined as a strong sense of connectedness to others and world).

Look down at your body. Now look around. If you focus on your physical world right now you are having the BODY experience of being human. Our experience of BODY includes our actions, the objects around us, the food we eat, the emotions we feel, all the physical sensations we have of being alive in our bodies.

We also have the experience of MIND. This is the mental stuff- talking to ourselves with that inner voice, logic, thinking through things, reason, creating with ideas, brainstorming, and discussing anything with others. Without MIND, BODY would just be instinctual. MIND transcends BODY and carries BODY into the world of understanding and wisdom.

Of course there is no separation between BODY and MIND; but we experience it that way.

And there's no separation of SPIRIT either- but we experience it that way.

SPIRIT is experienced in our sense of connectedness to people, to our humanity, to the earth, to the universe, to source energy that seems to bind us all together. All generations past, present, and future, experience SPIRIT (no organized religion has a monopoly on SPIRIT)

Using this approach I will offer a definition of:  WHAT LEARNING LOOKS LIKE:

LEARNING is an experience where we are interested, engaged, and curious about something, and as a result of our actions, we grow in some aspect of BODY, MIND, SPIRIT. We can see it, we can feel it; but we can't measure it. Learning is qualitative, not quantitative.

All learning has an emotional content. Engaged, interested, passionate, motivated, excited, curious- this is what learning would look like at the BODILY LEVEL. We see it in children all the time. It's one of the most natural experiences we can have. Learning would probably not look like sitting-in-a-row-quietly-hands-folded-on-the-desk-everyone-writing-the-same-test, for example. Learning at the BODY level definitely requires humour and laughter.

Learning would look like a MIND that is asking questions, interacting with others, being puzzled, being shown how to do a skill, processing, and being highly interested and motivated to do these mental exercises. The motivation comes from having a sense of purpose and direction that is both felt and thought to result in our PERSONAL GROWTH. Learning at the MIND level would question the value of tests and rooms and rows and subjects and teaching walls.

The SPIRITUAL experience is similar to school spirit. It's people being together and sharing a bigger collective experience. Being a part of something bigger, our school, our family, or our community,  ultimately our humanity, and beyond. Learning at this level would look like a group of students collecting money for Trayvon Martin's family because they thought it was important to help someone in need.

Each of these levels of learning experiences are hierarchical: BODY is lower than MIND. MIND transcends and includes BODY. In other words, we need to have a great experience at the BODY level before MIND can work at its most efficacious. When we're sick, learning slows down. When MIND finds greater purpose and connectedness, it reaches SPIRIT and then anything is possible. BODY and MIND are greatly enhanced when infused with a sense of purpose. At the SPIRITUAL level, learning looks like joy- or play.

Learning looks like a curious, interested and motivated human being putting effort into finding out new discoveries, doing new skills, creating new results, engaging with others, and doing all of this changing because of a higher sense of purpose and human connectedness.

Have you ever watched a child play with a toy? Have you ever been curious about something and pursued your quest (ions) because it seemed more important than writing that essay for English? Have you ever felt passionate about what you are doing because it connects you to a greater purpose?

The human experience can be understood in terms of BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT. When we respect and nurture all three of these experiences in our learning and in our lives, we nurture our humanity.

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