One of my favorite classes this semester was my civilizations GE requirement, an Honors 201 course entitled “History of Learning in the Arts, Sciences, and Technology.” The title intrigued me because it seemed to fit my interests as a prospective teacher and sounded like an exciting way to look at world history.
The class discussed the history of the world from its beginnings until 1500 (a quite daunting time frame) through the perspective of learning. We looked at different events and civilizations and discussed the ways learning was present or absent, how learning was encouraged or discouraged, and the influence that learning had, etc. The teacher did a very good job stimulating class discussion and exposing us to a lot of information. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and only regretted that we had to touch on things so lightly because of limited time.
During the course of the semester, we were asked to define learning numerous times, culminating in a final project where we gave our definition and discussed it through various historical artifacts. I found it intriguing and difficult to find a good, succinct definition of learning after discussing so many facets of it throughout the semester. Here is my not-so-succinct definition of learning: learning is the cycle of action, struggle and discovery that includes exposure to information, making connections, application, and eventually becoming different because of the context the information gives you for your attitudes, decisions, and beliefs.
I found the class very helpful as a prospective teacher. It helped me see learning in a historical context and then find principles and important parts of learning that I can understand and apply as I try to help students in my classroom. For example, thinking about making connections and how vital that is to the learning process helps me prepare to have a big focus on connecting new information with things that students already know. Another example is the realization that learning all types of information is important because of the context it gives a person. That can help me focus on relating learning to students’ lives to give them a greater context for their lives. I plan on taking the second half of the course (from 1500 to the present) next semester. I think we can all benefit from pondering what learning really is and how it relates to society.
How would you define learning?