Learning versus Development

I invite you to understand an important distinction regarding efficient learning: between development and learning. Unfortunately, there is often the tendency to mistake these two essential directions, these two needs that each of us has.

On the one hand, each of us has the need to explore and learn. During childhood, the person who wishes to explore, learn, and succeed in finding new correlations between cause and effect, is allowed to have at their disposal sufficient tools to know reality in an unmediated manner, in a way that offers the opportunity to make one’s own interpretations and correlations. When the child is given permission to explore and learn, (s)he exceeds the ability to draw the conclusions they could draw up to that time. On the other hand, they can realize that, unlike what they knew up to that respective moment, there are new rules worth learning and new conclusions they deserve to reach.

Which is the primary condition for a child to develop his/her love of learning? It is about the freedom to express themselves in a manner in which (s)he is allowed to make mistakes at first until, (s)he succeeds in knowing all needed to make decisions autonomously. In fact, each child must develop the ability to adapt to their own skills, what characterizes them, and what they can, know, and want to do, considering all their resources. It is essential that, during this stage, each child learn how to balance their needs, including their need for learning, with all the other requirements they have and with the needs of others.

Each needs to learn how to learn, i.e., a child must have the highest-performance means and resources to be able to learn at their disposal. Unfortunately, parents are often very preoccupied with making available to their children all the tools such as ball pens, pens, notebooks, school supplies, school bags, and books, and providing them with what they consider to be “education” but are not interested in making available for their children a methodology, a technology, for them to learn, remember and not just learn what is offered to them, so that at some point they would allow themselves not to forget those things but learn how to discover what they will need in the future. This type of learning already exists to a certain extent in animals – even a dog or a monkey can learn!

Researchers have shown that if one manages to create a strong enough link between a cause and an effect, for instance, an animal presses a button and receives food, any animal can learn and be trained. They have concluded that some dogs of certain breeds have the intelligence correspondence of a 2-3-year-old child. They can learn some laws of physics and be trained for quite efficient purposes. Animals definitely can learn. What distinguishes people from animals is not the ability to learn but the ability to develop.

For example, a man can learn what (s)he needs to do to work continuously. This is no problem: learning some rules and principles and applying them at a somewhat limited pace. Of course, that employee can even become very efficient in the work (s)he is doing; for example (s), he can do the same thing, only faster. However, we are not talking about development here but optimization. There is often the tendency to mistake growth with optimization; in fact, development in the sense that it is implicitly addressed in the personal, professional and organizational development refers to a transformational development towards performance and fulfillment. When we talk about growth, the autonomy under which each person’s identity manifests itself allows them to be the best self that they can be. Development implies observing specific patterns and strategically improving them; it involves a sense of specialty that leads to expertise; it implies the fulfillment it can bring and the pride that the ability to achieve pride-inspiring performances can bring. Development inspires confidence in each person’s capacities and potential to grow; it is about the results one would get when moving forward with perseverance toward where one is fulfilled, towards where we have a vocational, professional, or recreational aspiration. It’s actually about that ease of doing things with joy and the ability to optimize. In fact, it is a professional integration of all expert knowledge and all the capabilities to observe patterns and associations with the inner resources that each has.

Efficient learning and here is the most important aspect is different from learning by the fact that it instead resides from the qualities of development, it is about learning how to learn, it is a meta-learning, and there is very often the tendency to pack what is learned in school, the concept of learning and then the confusion between learning and development.

Some people are inclined to consider that development is a kind of compensation for learning that has never occurred. Thus, for example, some clients are interested in developing themselves personally, but they have not learned basic elementary skills about abilities in school, which would enable them to learn.

People who choose not to read anymore have lost their motivation to learn and, with motivation, learning practice, and, with practice, they let their neurons die. They may hardly even be psychotherapy clients, and even hardly personal development clients, no matter how much they would pay.

There is a tendency to consider that there is learning, given that we allow ourselves to forget 90% of what we have learned, and then we want to grow.

There is a tendency for some people to consider that we can develop ourselves personally or professionally given the fact that we have not gone through a psycho-therapeutic process in which we would become aware of our own limits, confront them and manage to learn how to know ourselves and learn some characteristics related to personality psychology. So, if learning leads us to knowledge, it is essential to remember that also animals sometimes learn surprisingly better than humans. For example, some studies have found that the attention span of a goldfish is, on average, 9 seconds. In contrast, other studies have found in recent years that social media users’ average attention and concentration duration is 8 seconds.

So, if even a goldfish can stay better focused than someone who spends all day on Facebook, this is a supreme demonstration of learning. But, of course, development is a different story. So, what do you think is more critical for you to bring into your life nest: learning or development?

Marcus Victor Grant

Text copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2017-present. Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Învăţare versus dezvoltare “, which was initially published in Romanian on June the 6th, 2017 on Discerne. Text copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved.

The materials published on this blog are covered and subjected to this disclaimer.

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