Learning through Observing?

processThis may be one of the most difficult concepts to teach: Learning is an active process. It is not ingrained in the learner through merely observing. From the beginning of time, students and children were commanded to be seen and not heard. Children were believed to be merely empty vessels or pots, simply waiting for knowledge to be poured in and fill them up. Jean-Jacques Rouseau called it ‘tabula rasa’ in his theory of the stages of human development. Tabula rasa simply meant that infants were born with no knowledge which was acquired through experience and time. Tabula rasa was also compared to a blank slate, similar to a clean chalkboard, simply waiting for someone to write on it with information.

In many ways, individuals perpetuate this erroneous concept based on antiquated views of education and how to teach. This concept of instruction originates from a time prior to the printing press before knowledge and information were readily available. A scholar would study and read subjects, texts and ancient scripts. Then, this same scholar would meet in small private settings with the wealthy and share what he’d learn. Our modern day lecture stems from this historical foundation when the ‘sage on the stage’ would stand in front of a large audience to bestow his wisdom on his benefactors.

With the conception of the printing press, knowledge became more accessible until it flooded the population despite socio-economic status. Common people who had previously been looked down up for their lack of intelligence could reach beyond their status and seek for desired yet prior obscured knowledge.

Today one of society’s greatest challenges is moving from the embedded and deeply instilled educational traditions to embrace a more active learner role. Such an active learner role, prepares our youth for a lifelong pursuit of learning and a thirst for knowledge. Of course, this attitude is vital because learning is an essential part of every day living for every individual. It requires that we acquire skills and knowledge to compete in a swiftly changing world. In this demanding global environment, learning strategies are essential to the survival of mankind. As individuals fail to adapt, they also become obsolete.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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