to Learn, not to be taught

From primary school to middle school, high school and finally to college, getting good grades during tests have been the only goal of my life. I was raised in an environment that grades speak for every child, and I felt lucky that I was so good at this. My talent on taking tests has taken me all the way from a small town to a middle city, and to the biggest city in China: Shanghai.

The more specific the goal is and the stronger the desire is, the easier one can get lost once the goal is achieved. After the most stressful National College Entrance Exam, I got a good score and went to one of the top five universities in China. Suddenly all the pressure was gone and life is much more about tests and grades. I started to skip classes, attending activity associations such as dancing club, debating team, basketball team etc., any thing but paying attention to what was taught in class. But several questions kept haunting my mind:

What do I really like? Why am I studying this major? What is my life about?

Am I being stupid and unrealistic? No. I never had a chance to ask myself these questions. But they are so important for a student to love his or her life, love learning and live happily. And I am not the only one who did not start to think about the question of significance until entering college or later. More than one of my friends realized that their true  interest lies somewhere else in the second or third year of their Ph.D.. Why? Because their life direction has been led by grades, rankings and other people’s opinions, nothing related to their true inner desire.

We’ve been taught for so many years. It’s time to really start to learn.

On the other hand, from the point view of a future teacher, we need to learn to avoid the same thing to happen to the future students. Anti-teaching and mindful learning can be a guideline on this. “Learning is the hallmark of humanity”, and the purpose of teaching is only to invoke the students’ desire to learn. We no longer need to indoctrinate the students with all the knowledge, but some of the basics and the way to learn through connected learning. And basics are not basics either. “Facts, derived from science of not, are not context-free”. “The routine stayed fixed, while the context changed.” We need to insure that the teaching environment can facilitate mindful learning. i.e., encourage the students to think while they learn. Let them enjoy learning.

5 thoughts on “to Learn, not to be taught”

  1. The true world reality, essentially. The more goal-oriented we are, the more we achieve. Even when people have the freedom to choose their area, many times they are led to choose in an interesting manner what they wanna do. Actually, this reminds me of how a lot of us even in grad school, tend to achieve more if a deadline is coming up… As if we’re not living up to our fullest. Thanks for the post!

  2. I like these questions in your mind: “What do I really like? Why am I studying this major? What is my life about?”
    Your idea is nice to answer some above questions. But how do you want to answer this question “What do I really like? Why am I studying this major? What is my life about?” by connected learning?

    1. I guess that’s a question I’m still trying to figure out. One thing I can do through connected learning is to use online courses, websites, talks and books to get a sense of how other majors/occupations are like. With more information, I can make a better choice. And because we have so many ways to learn nowadays, it is never too late to switch life’s direction. One of my friends really hates his major, so he started to try different things. He tried computer science, statistics, etc… And finally find his interest in finance. I hope this could help answer your question. 🙂

  3. You are absolutely right! As future professors we need to change the way students are taught. One student reply to my blog with an interesting anecdote about a friend that is currently teaching calculus. He knew that the old methods are not working as it should, therefore he decided to turn his classroom into a lab by applying different approaches to verify which one is more feasible for the students. According to this student, the professor decided to give 10-20 minutes break to the student that were taking a test to allow them to get out and enjoy the nature without talking to each other with the purpose of relaxing and for a moment stop thinking about the test. He said that the student results improve after he applied that technic. In other words, in the future we will have the power to implement such technics, therefore we might as well use that power to find the best one.

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