Discussion Post 1

Originally posted to the Walden U discussion board on July 7th, 2021.  Please see this blog post for my reply.

       I have, embarrassingly enough, often considered how I learn. This likely stems from my desire to try new things and is compounded by the fact the things I “try” are not usually the “easiest” option. To summarise a few: I studied Mandarin Chinese in university (and later took a Russian language class in Chinese), traveled to Colombia to pick up surfing, and attempted salsa classes without myself having any sense of rhythm to speak of. In learning new skills, especially ones that do not come naturally to me, I have, in some respects, become aware of my mind and how my relationship towards a new skill changes as I proceed.

 

     For example, a couple months ago I took formal swimming lessons.* The first phase of my learning was initial excitement for trying something new, which gives me enough momentum to get through phase two: confusion, with a twinge of distress. Even though I intuitively know it is not possible to master all the strokes in a day, I still find myself frustrated when I catch water too early or if my strokes are out of sync. The third phase is the absolute worst and a large reason I have abandoned other interests—boredom. Swimming my tenth lap on frog kick, I begin to resent my chatty swim coach and question why I invested in these overpriced lessons. Of course, practice and repetition is necessary, to some extent, for all learning and is the only way to proceed to the final, most rewarding phase, absorption. Only after weeks of practice and trial and error does freestyle begin to feel as natural as walking or a turn-turn-sombrero start to look seamless. Even Russian verb conjugation does not seem nearly as daunting.

   

      I think strange list of hobbies is why I have taken interest in learning as “what’s going on inside the head”; and not always just my head, but those of my students as well (Ormrod, n.d.). From my own personal experience, I understand learning is not always an intuitive process; a learners attitude and relationship to the material will change over time, and all learners come to lesson with different experiences and opinions. In my own practice, I try to prime students or arrange the material in such a way to “get them thinking in certain ways” so I can ease them into the learning process (Ormrod, n.d.). I myself had to frog kick before I could butterfly, and I frogged for a long time. I did not always enjoy it and looked for excuses to leave class early—and I’m an adult. I sympathise with students who are struggling with their learning and try to coach them through the rough patches as well.

 

      In taking an interest in how I learn, I have also come to the realisation some of my resistance to learning is not always conscious, or apparent, even to myself. Learning is largely internal, and a private process and some “events which are not publicly observable” may effect a learner’s behaviour (Moore, 2011). For example, my salsa instructor used to constantly remind me to dance with more confidence and intention. Señor Kevin did not realise I have a complex relationship with my body and weight and internal dialogue going on inside my head influence my own behaviour in class. In class, surrounded by dozens of attractive twenty-somethings, I found it impossible to communicate my needs clearly.

 

      In my opinion, this is why understand learning is important; in understanding how we learn we also become “concerned about [our own] welfare” (Moore, 2011). I understand my mind, and understood the hiccups in Salsa class was not the same as being bored while swimming laps. My personal anxieties were putting a mental block on my progress in class. I was able to trace the origin of my behaviour and talk myself through my anxieties and also advocate for myself. Ultimately, as jarring as it may be to try new things, I am thankful for these experiences because I have learned about myself in the process.

 

 

*Yes, the surf lessons proceeded the swim lessons. I like the new things I try to be as difficult as possible.

 

References

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). An introduction to learning [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

 

Moore, J. (2011). Behaviorism. Psychological Record, 63(3), 449–463.