2 Kinds of Learning

March 06, 2017 by John Andrew Williams

While there are all kinds of theories and models for various types of learning, it really all boils down to two kinds; academic and personal.

Academic Learning

The first type of learning is academic, which can be easily measured.

  • Can you solve the quadratic equation?
  • Can you write a summary that captures the key elements of Romeo and Juliet?
  • Can you write a three page paper on the rise and fall the Roman Empire?

Personal Learning

The second type of learning is personal, which can’t be easily measured.

  • What is your worldview?
  • What’s feedback to others have of you?
  • When are you most compelling?
  • What helps you be resilient and recover from setbacks?
  • What is it you’re most after your life you want to achieve?
  • What makes your soul sing with joy?

The tricky part of the second kind of learning is that there are no right answers. You have to do the work to find answers out for yourself. That’s assuming that you’re even asking those kinds of questions in the first place.

The Current Challenge (and Solution)

The challenge with traditional school and academia is the working assumption that the first set of questions are more important. If you asked educators, I’m sure every educator would point to the second set of questions as more important. However, the system and the structure of the system – ie. giving grades on how well a student masters an equation rather than on how well a student digs deep into personal development – pushes students to focus on the first set of questions at the expense of happiness, fulfillment, and creativity.

The beautiful thing that I have seen as an academic life coach is that when you focus on sorting the second set of questions, sorting the work needed to be successful academically falls right into place.

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