Why Meaning And Purpose Is So Important For Learning

Learning, it’s something that strikes fear into a lot of people of all ages. How often do you hear someone talk about hating school or hating learning. Education is fantastic, why so much hatred? Perhaps because we’re doing it wrong.

The importance of meaning and purpose in learning can not be underestimated. With purpose and passion anyone can learn almost anything, but how can we spark that passion for learning and education?

As a child learning was required. It was my job. I had to go to school, study and learn. I had no choice in the subjects, the pace, or how the lessons were presented. I was expected to adapt and learn.

The pressure was constant and lasted until I graduated high school.

I was never a great student in grade school. I graduated only by going on a canoe trip, which I hated, but gave me the PE credits I needed to get my diploma.

I was good enough to get into University, but not by much. My acceptance arrived only weeks before term started, as if I was an after thought, slipped in at the last moment.

University was more school, but it held more appeal than working more dead end retail jobs. Plus University held promise of change, hope for a new way. There was something alluring about the idea of University that sucked me in. So I accepted and started learning as an adult.

And I LOVED it!

Well not right away. It was a huge adjustment. I took a lot of classes only to drop them when I found them uninteresting or too hard. But through that process I realized that no one cared. Suddenly I was the only one owning my education and learning. My professors didn’t know me from the 200 other faces in the auditorium in my first year University sessions. If I showed or not, no one noticed or cared.

In many ways this was terrifying, but very quickly I realized that I hated the pressure that had always been applied to my education in the past. Having that pressure removed was liberating.

Suddenly I had power, I had control. I could learn and study what I WANTED to study, I was freed to embrace my own education and growth.

After two years of trial and error I discovered my passion in the field of psychology. I went from spending my life being known as a mediocre student, to scoring top grades in all my classes. I loved University so much I stayed an extra two years working on campus as a psychology research assistant. My love of learning blossomed from that moment forward.

As an adult I no longer dread learning. I embrace learning new skills, making discoveries. If I need to know something, I learn how to do it. I take courses, read books, watch videos, all to teach myself a new skills.

I’ve learned math so I can teach my son. I hated math in school.
I’ve learned how to cook.
I’ve learned how to drive a race car.
I’ve learned how to garden.
I’ve learned blacksmithing (well vicariously through my hubs!).
I’ve learned computer programming.
I’ve learned graphic design.
I’ve learned photography.
I’ve learned financial management and investing.

Education is enjoyable now because it’s about me and what I want to learn. I can focus on learning what will give me the greatest return on my time. I can see how and why the skills I’m developing are important and will impact my life.

Learning makes sense.
Learning is fun.
Learning is enjoyable.
Learning is the greatest investment in me and my future.

No longer is learning my job or something force fed to me. Instead it’s one of the things that gives me the greatest pleasure in life because it’s so personal and it’s about my own growth as a person.

Education as an adult is about becoming a better me. Uniquely me.

Why should it be any different when examining education for children?

This insight has changed my views on childhood education. Do my children still need to learn all the important things? Yes, but just like there are many different jobs in the world to suit different skill sets, lifestyles and needs, we should have different educational programs to suit individual learning styles and interests.

Only when you get to the higher grades do you start to encounter some options and say in your learning, by then many people have come to despise learning. Why can’t we provide children with more say in their education right from the beginning?

Learning should be fulfilling, it should be empowering, it should make sense, it should have meaning to the individual, and it should have a purpose. Learning is hard work, so it needs to have all these other things, otherwise why would anyone ever want to do it?

The importance of meaning and purpose in learning can not be underestimated. With purpose and passion anyone can learn almost anything, but how can we spark that passion for learning and education?