Your Career and You: "Learning to Learn"



I never fail to be amazed at the varying levels of interest some of my students show when it comes to actually learning what they’re studying.

The two concepts shouldn’t be mutually exclusive…but they sometimes, to me at least, from my perspective, sure seem to be.

As many of you know, I’m a full-time faculty member at Curry College in the Communication Department, riding herd over the Public Relations Concentration and teaching most of the undergrad PR courses.

I also teach part-time at Regis College in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area, but that tends to be a different set of dynamics…with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

Back to the “learning” and “studying.”

It has been a bazillion years since I was fresh out of high school and wending my hesitant way through undergraduate studies at, first, Auburn University (thought I wanted to be an engineering major…HAH!), then Middle Georgia College (had to do some damage repair after a disastrous first year at Auburn!), and…finallyUniversity of Georgia (“Go Dawgs!”).

I remember, though, morphing from the studying student to the learning student.

What happened?

Simple…sort of. I finally figured out what I really was interested in…accepted that there were going to be some courses that I initially would have zero interest in…and moved onward.

The courses that I was interested in were a slam-dunk. I knew how they fit into my life plan, and I actually looked forward to diving headlong into the books to read and remember/learn.

The other courses required some analysis and planning. “How might they fit into my world?”

One fortuitous happenstance was that my roommate for my junior and senior years was an 18th-century British history major while I was an 18th-century British literature major.

We played off each other’s interests with lively discussions that wrapped both areas together. We also had a group of friends (finance, biology…) who joined us and filled in the voids in both our spheres of study.

The result was that, even for those courses whose appeal ranked right up there with root canals and appendectomies, we learned a ton and could regurgitate that learning in the classroom on exams, in papers, and in class discussion.

“Studying” is…no argument here…incredibly important. Looking at the materials…exposing yourself to the information contained…must occur.

In public relations, this is known as “awareness,” and it is the first…and easiest…of public relations objectives to accomplish.

But that’s just the first step in the process. As I often say in my classes when discussing problems and opportunities in PR…“now that I’ve caught the snake, what do I do with him?”

To continue the PR analogy, this is where we “separate the men from the boys (or the women from the girls)” with tangible results.

What does this mean for you?

This is truly where the “learning” aspect comes into play. Once you have wrapped your head around the subject matter, you should be able to “connect the dots.”

Then, and only then…have you learned. The material starts making sense (well, maybe not calculus, but you know what I mean!), and you’re able to apply information gleaned from one course to others, and vice versa.

A liberal arts education is about learning something about the arts…the sciences…history…mathematics…the whole shebang.

Armed with that knowledge, you are able to start making sense of the greater “world” and the many influences that you will encounter in your own growth as an individual.

So take your “studying” to a different level…start looking at how the various subjects relate to or impact the others.

Simple starter question: “How many lines in a sonnet?”

Answer: 14.

See? You just called on mathematics to answer a question about poetry!

Cool, no?!?

“All things are filled full of signs, and it is a wise man who can learn about one thing from another.” – Plotinus, “Enneads,” bk. II, treatise iii, sec. 7
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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Communication, Curry College, liberal arts education, public relations, Regis College, Undergraduate Communication. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your Career and You: "Learning to Learn"

  1. Mark O'Toole says:

    Kirk, learning is more experienced-based than studying. So we don't truly learn until we "do." And we often learn best when we do it wrong! I always tell new hires fresh out of school (sometimes your school!) that you won't know what's going on for three months or so. But continue to study and at some point in the near future you" "get it." That's learning.

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  2. Very true, Mark. The description I use all the time is "stuff blows up, and you learn from it." You can't stop studying, that's for sure…but the learning does have to occur at some point!They DO need to hear…and to understand…as you so rightly say, that it takes a while before you really know what's happening. And the learning comes as a result of (another pet term) "test driving" ideas and actions.Pay attention to how things turn out when you attempt to do them, and you'll start learning!Me? I'm still learning!!Thanks for your feedback!

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