Learning is prickly

Learning is seen as a path to personal and professional growth and enlightenment, a journey toward acquiring knowledge and skills that can transform our lives. This journey is rarely smooth or straightforward. I recently heard someone say “learning is prickly”, and it is. It’s filled with challenges, discomfort, and obstacles that must be navigated.

Learning’s ‘prickliness’ is the inherent discomfort it brings. As workers, parents, and friends, we are often required to step out of our comfort zone, confront challenging situations and grapple with complex concepts. This process can be unsettling, leading to frustration or self-doubt. However, it is precisely this discomfort that drives growth. Psychologists look at the growth mindset as a means to the individual’s ability to embrace challenges and to view them as opportunities to develop, rather than as insurmountable obstacles, as being crucial for effective learning.

Formal education is inherently complex, like a prickly object with multiple sharp points. Learning involves mastering new concepts, changing personal (sometimes long-held) opinions, developing critical thinking skills, and applying knowledge in practical contexts. This multifaceted nature of learning demands perseverance and adaptability. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students who engage in active learning, where they must apply concepts and think critically, show significantly better retention and understanding of the material. This reinforces the idea that the prickliness of learning, and the need to tackle various difficult aspects simultaneously, are integral to achieving deep understanding.

Learning is not just an intellectual process; it’s also an emotional journey. Students of all ages experience a range of emotions, from excitement and curiosity to anxiety and frustration. These emotional struggles can make the learning experience feel prickly. Yet, these emotions are a natural and necessary part of the learning process. Published research highlights that acknowledging and addressing the emotional aspects of learning can significantly enhance educational outcomes. By understanding and managing these emotional challenges, learners can better navigate the prickly path of education.

Despite the discomfort and challenges, persistence and resilience are key to overcoming the difficulties of learning. The rewards of pushing through these difficulties are profound: deeper understanding, greater competence, and personal satisfaction. In the context of online and distance learning, where students often face additional challenges such as isolation and self-motivation, resilience becomes even more critical.

In the digital age, online and distance learning have become more prevalent, bringing their own set of prickly challenges. Feedback in these environments can sometimes feel harsh or impersonal, adding to the discomfort of learning. However, constructive criticism is crucial for growth and improvement. A study in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching found that timely and meaningful feedback significantly enhances student learning and satisfaction in online courses. Embracing this feedback, even when it feels uncomfortable, is vital for educational progress.

Learning is undeniably prickly. It is filled with challenges, discomforts, and emotional struggles. Yet, it is through navigating these prickly aspects that we grow, develop, and achieve meaningful educational outcomes. By understanding and embracing the inherent difficulties of learning, we can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth. As educators and learners, we recognise that learning has it’s challenges, but once we overcome them it can help us approach education with greater resilience, persistence, and a willingness to step out of our comfort zones. In doing so, we pave the way for a more profound and rewarding learning experience.

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