Influencing the Mind: Learning as It Relates to the Self
|Influencing the Mind: Learning as It Relates to the Self|
"when a man has learned anything he is, for a time at least, changed in his readiness to deal with this or that in his environment. He has become, with respect to certain things, events, meanings, as the case may be, differently sensitive, differently percipient, differently disposed as to the forms of his responsive behaviour, whether in action, in understanding, or in feeling". It can occur largely, independent of institutional education, guided primarily by self-directed learning or what McNiff (1993) termed "institution-unbound" learning. In this way learning is related to the self.
Roots of learning
In this section an attempt is made to discuss essentials that form the foundation of learning as it relates to the self.
Learning of the individual starts when his life begins
If this assumption is true, then it follows logically that children needs to be regarded as full members of a community, and they should be treated as if they are a guest in your house. By the latter I mean that if they make a mistake, they will be pardoned as any guest in a house. This will ensure that feelings of guilt and inferiority are not installed in the child. Rather, everything possible should be done to assist the child to dream (it cost nothing) and to become what he or she is able to become. When a child is proposing an idea, it is important to encourage the child to do something about the idea.
In this regard it is important to keep the thinking process going by asking proper questions and probing deeper. Always approach an idea of a child with a focus on: "what is right about the idea"? This will stimulate the child to think and learn in a more effective and efficient manner and will encourage the child always to think in terms of positive outcomes for ideas. To foster learning further, the child should be given ample time to gain sufficient understanding of the idea and enough space to explore the idea according to his or her frame of reference. Parents and significant others, like teachers, should try to understand the general thinking direction of the child and then based upon their knowledge of learning principles ask relevant questions to the child influencing the child to think as concretely as possible about the idea and to gain a broader understanding of the bigger picture that frames the idea. The child should also be encouraged to come up with even more questions relating to his or her own original idea.
Being confronted with problems or opportunities
Learning excels when a person is confronted with a problem or opportunity that he or she needs to challenge in order to solve , eliminate or explore it. Being confronted presents a challenge to the individual that needs to be taken up or it will be lost as a learning opportunity. The person benefiting most, will be the one that devoted his whole life-span generating questions, probing ideas and finding solutions for problems and opportunities.
All of this requires that a person becomes more conscious of the world, what life has to offer and the significance of other people to the individual (Thamm, 2005). The person needs to see a problem or opportunity within a time and space perspective with proper regard for the future generation, the present situation and the history from where he or she comes. Taking time and space into account will ensure that a person remains realistic, foresighted and self-controlled.
Survival is at the root of existence, demanding choices
McNiff (1993) is of the opinion that survival is at the root of existence. At the lowest level survival is driven by necessity and at the highest level the standard of achievement and recognition an individual seeks for him or her self over the entire life-span. How one intends to survive is influenced by the freedom of choice that an individual exerts in terms of his or her valuation of what is worthwile and own willpower and not by institutional expectations. This view is supported by a raped victim, Alison, who after the event discovered that she did not live her life by chance but by choice even in situations where no "map" exists to guide her often having only the milestones already lived to serve as "rock" to based decisions on (Thamm, 2005). Adventurer Heidi Howkins (2001) expressed the choice to seeking adventure and the value attach to it as follows: "We have conquered our basic fears, performed under pressure, embraced life and survival with gusto. We are validating ourselves, measuring ourselves not against a relative scale of skill or merit, but against the absolutes of gravity and our own fragile existence". Thus, the type of "fuel" that drives survival of the individual is determined by the motivational level of an individual from necessity at the lowest level to achievement and recognition at the highest level.
In the end, the final assessment is how did you live your life as a unique individual with own unique expectations and motivations. Others can only make one to do things, if they are given the power to do so. Following the institutional expectancy option, makes one only a servant of institutional expectations. Learning could be much more. It should become an instrument to free the individual taking him or her to higher levels of creative understandings and achievements.
Integration of the experience into something worthwhile
Each individual has a unique set of responses to and the way in which they internalize an experience. This can be turned into something that adds value or reduce value to the self. In this two factors play a major influencing role namely time and space to collect one's thoughts, reflect on the experience, find the meaning of the experience, making something more of the experience and to gain perspective (Thamm, 2005).
Comprehension of learning environment, growth and change that occurred
A learner needs to understand that a true learner should never accept a conformist learning environment. For a learner can only really concentrated on what one likes and what one is best at.
Further, learning should also been an approach by which an individual understands why he or she changes their lives and how to transform it in a rational manner. In order to achieve that in the fullest sense, the learner must be free, socially, intellectually and spiritually. A valuable instrument that could bring perspective according to Thamm (2005) is to communicate about it as often as possible and feasible as communication fosters sense-making.
Of equal important is that practice should occur at some time in the life span of an individual. Dreams and aspirations should be translated into action within an intended time span. What one has learned needs to be practiced and internalized allowing each individual to live according to an own life code, wishes, hopes and dreams. Through practicing, the individual will learn to discover basic underlying principles that will enable one when confronting with complex problems, to go back to basic learning principles aiding one to come up with something positive and valuable even if the individual is not able to solve the problem directly. Practicing does not imply that the individual will become the best in everything or in something particular; rather it implies that the individual will do his or her outmost to become the best he or she can be. In the words of Thamm (2005): "The woods would be silent if the only birds that sang there were the ones who sang best".
Unlearn outdated habits and behaviour
Some learning experiences and the value it have may become redundant or irrelevant over time and may even hold an individual back. The cause thereof is sometimes not known. What is known is that an individual is often confronted by situations where what one believed becomes irrelevant, one feels an inability to choose and life in general seems irrelevant. In such cases a process of unlearning, to get rid of irrelevancies, need to occur. From this, according to Howkins (2001) a new kind of awareness, new passions and new ways of knowing may emerge.
Individual learning culminates into aggregated community knowledge
In order to culminate knowledge that will form the basis of knowledge for future generations, it is important that individuals, as trustees of ideas, communicate their ideas to others so that the idea will become part of common discussion and consciousness. This is a primary responsibility of an individual with regards to knowledge creation - to convey information and ideas. It is something that an individual ought to do. In this regard Freud is of the opinion that the discovery of new knowledge is the greatest adventure of mankind. Freud expressed it as follows: "This is the greatest adventure of mankind: to find something that was never known before, or understood. Each new piece of knowledge does not need to have a specific or functional use, at least not at the moment. It is a sufficient triumph that we have learnt something and proved it by documentation that had formerly been part of the darkness" (Stone, 1971). Adding knowledge is the noblest gift an individual can gift to society as all bits of knowledge piled to bits of knowledge allowing the ultimate discoverer to invent.
The purpose of this article was to concisely describe aspects to consider in influencing the mind as it relates to the self. Eight determinants were discussed namely, the beginning of the learning process, being confronted with problems, survival, integration of experiences, comprehension, practicing, unlearning and learning culmination..