Learning: an Action Word

I recently read the first chapter of Elizabeth Ellsworth’s bookPlaces of Learning, and found it interesting.  The author was introducing the topic of learning in different places, but also that true learning is an experience in which students are able to engage body, mind, and spirit in the task rather than having information shoved down their ears and eyes.  She talks about how when we know something for certain it is a dead topic, in that we cannot engage with it as if the outcome of our learning was not so concrete, so we would have to engage with the topic to fully understand it and grapple with the implications to finally put our curiosity at rest.

One major point she makes is that places of learning is very important, and that changing up where we learn is a great tool that teachers have when engaging students.  Places such as museums, galleries, and other public places are great ‘anomolous places of learning’.  I know that I have learned best when seeing the work done and then doing it myself based upon what I have seen accomplished.

Learning done is much more effective than learning taught.  When students experience the struggle of trying to find an answer, the success when they do find it is that much sweeter, and place is a huge part of that, as restricting students to rows and columns of desks will likewise restrict their minds.  But instead, allowing and in fact encouraging all kinds of learning styles to succeed, whether in a group or with one’s hands, and creating a place where students can try, fail, try again, and succeed with equal enthusiasm is the best way for students to truly learn.