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The miracle of learning

'... the majority of people take learning for granted. They think learning is something that "just happens" and that there is one "right" way to learn. Therefore, anyone who doesn't learn the presented concepts (whatever they may be) gets labeled with a learning disability or as a slow learner. Because of this mindset, we fail to see learning for what it really is - a miracle. And the miracle of learning is the key to unlocking your dreams and happiness.' (Dr. Laurence D. Martel, The 7 Secrets of Learning Revealed).

Learning is the foundation of human success, as a species and as individuals. We learn from our mothers and our mistakes and our ability to learn allows us to deal with both the familiar and the unexpected. We learn from the moment we are born and continue learning until our very last lesson - death. Without learning we would not be human beings. When we cease to learn, we are humans no more.

Martel points out that learning is at once a 'quite ordinary act that takes place every day in every culture and at all age levels' but it is also an 'extraordinary process, uncommon in all of nature, that we have been endowed with, which permits the possibility for us to move from the selfish, humdrum of daily routine to the potential of unfolding our dreams and uncovering our unique purpose on this earth.' Martel rightly marvels at the power of learning and its direct relationship with our ability to live.

We can describe how learning occurs but, Martel notes, 'we have not satisfactorily explained "why" learning occurs the way it does or "how" innovative and new outcomes arise from learning, such as creativity, scientific invention, and problem solving.'

It is significant also that all human beings are unique and this is demonstrated in the different ways that we learn. We all make connections, use symbols and communicate as best we can. Learning involves our nervous systems, brains and memory mechanisms. But learning is an individual process - we each have our own unique learning style. Unfortunately, we also believe that our particular style of learning is the 'right way' and frequently try to impose it on others.

Martel describes this individuality of style thus:

'The fact is that no two people learn in exactly the same way (...) each person has a unique focus, application of learning, and a manner or modality of learning that is tailor-made for taking in new information and thinking about it.'

Martel regards an act of learning as being 'an act of creating something entirely new or modified out of the current experience or knowledge base.' He sees five outcomes of learning which go beyond most people's notion of what learning involves:

1. Learning "to know" with certainty and truth
2. Learning "to believe" with faith and value
3. Learning "to perform" with work and production
4. Learning "to be" with meaning, purpose and identity

And, perhaps most surprisingly, for those of us with more conventional beliefs about the process of learning:

5. Learning "to serve others" with love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, humility and kindness

Martel does not regard these outcomes of learning, knowledge and skill as being innate. On the contrary, he argues, 'we must learn, grow and develop in each category to gain capability for the journey toward personal and community enhancement.'

More articles:

The adult learner - andragogy
Induction - orienting new employees
The role of the trainer
Learning Organizations
Knowledge Management
The value of lectures

Excerpts from Chapter 5, The Trainer's Handbook

  1. Evaluating Effectiveness
  2. Short-term Evaluation
  3. Project Sessions
  4. Case Histories and Practice Sessions
  5. Examinations
  6. Types of Exam Questions
  7. Assessment Sessions
  8. Self-evaluation
  9. On-the-Job Evaluation
  10. Long-term Evaluations
  11. Bottom-line Evaluation


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