Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Journey of Learning

This is the first of a series of English assignments that I'm going to post here. Because apparently, my professors think they are rather good.

The Journey of Learning

As students beginning an academic year at Oklahoma City University, all have, at some point, made a formal pledge to the concept of university. By continuing to attend, and by paying tuition, upperclassmen acknowledge that it is still their desire to be part of a “community of learning.” When students became aware of this desire, whether as freshmen at matriculation or before or since, there were three main inferences made about said community. The statement, “We desire to begin this journey into the community of learning,” has a multilayered interpretation. Students are inferring that as a body they are stepping into an atmosphere that they expect to be safe for exercising their intellectual muscles, free for expressing their thoughts, and inspirational for further thought and reason.

A feeling of safety is imperative to a student’s ability to learn. Students must feel that they will not be made fun of, degraded or harmed if they are wrong or do not understand immediately. It must be communicated to them that this learning environment is one where mistakes are expected, corrected and reversed. A student who doesn’t feel like it is acceptable to be wrong will not feel like it acceptable to expand their wealth of knowledge because many learn only by trial and error. A student may not try if they do not feel safe to err. They may not feel secure in mental risk-taking if they do not trust that their advisors and instructors will be there to cultivate their risks or redirect the efforts. The classroom must be an environment that is comfortable, not full of fear. It is the faculty and fellow students, the other members of the community of learning, who alleviate this fear.

In the same way that students must feel safe to learn, they must feel free to express themselves. For many people, in order to retain information, facts must become thoughts and then conversations or writing assignments. A student who is afraid to speak up in class or enter into a dialogue with his instructor is less likely to gain a working knowledge of the subject matter. He may memorize facts and learn to regurgitate them, but he will lack true understanding. A student whose writing is limited by topic or length may feel like they are being told to think inside a box or structure. It may be assumed that traveling outside this structure is wrong and the student might then begin to place cognitive limits on himself. This contradicts the journey of learning; it places unnecessary roadblocks along the path to knowledge. Students are expressing between the lines of their pledge that they desire to have these roadblocks, these limits, removed for them.

Students “desire to begin” their journey. This says they are aware that they have likely not yet started to truly learn. It could be implied that students believe it is the job of instructors to show them the broadness of the horizon of learning. It is instructors’ responsibility to open students’ minds to the idea that learning has no limit and no set path. Prior to matriculating into college many students have felt that they were only “allowed” to hypothesize to a certain extent, only allowed to mentally reach so far. Yet it is the desire, the deep-seated longing, of these students to go past what they have already learned into realms of cognition that they never knew existed. In order for them to succeed in this journey, students need to feel inspired. Some only need services like matriculation to hint to them that the walls are broken down and they are at the threshold of the world. Others need to see it in their professors eyes during lecture, recognize it in the assignments being made, and understand it in the way those assignments are graded.

Students want to feel secure in their learning endeavors and free to express their ideas, conceptions, and misconceptions so that they can be more and more inspired throughout this journey in their community of learning. The desire is underlying in almost everyone and is brought to the forefront through calls-to-action like matriculation convocation.