What does it take to truly learn something from a class? What is the final factor of whether we gain knowledge from three or four hours of credit?Learning is being able to literally take away with you something from the other people and resources. Learning is not memorizing facts, spitting them out and then forgetting them. It is about discovering something about yourself or learning more about the social interactions around you. When you study a subject to develop yourself in any way, you are learning.
In college there are two opportunities we’re given to learn: inside the classroom and out.
Ironically, I think lessons learned in the classroom are less obvious than those outside. This is because most students have an expectation of the knowledge they’ll gain in a class and shut down to the idea of learning any other way.
There are two opportunities to learn in the classroom: knowledge, which is promised from the syllabus, and knowledge that may be completely unrelated to the subject. In college, perhaps the most important learning experience is that in which you learn how to bridge gaps between arenas, whether they be social, intellectual, etc.
In the “real world,” life isn’t divided into subjects, and you don’t receive a separate grade for each one: If you screw up, you get a big fat zero for the whole project. It’s beneficial for us to seize the opportunity to learn more than just what we’re asked to.
There are a few very simple ways to do this.
First, try to find similarities between your classes. These could be in subject matter, ideas, time period or people discussed. Even if you come to no fruitful conclusions, it’s a useful mind exercise.
Second, if we take away the melding of two different subjects, consider the two arenas as your life and a subject you thought you could never use. Even though we all say “I’m never going to use that in real life,” I’d say there’s a strong possibility to apply something you learn in every class to at least one situation in your life.
So what have I learned in my first semester as a college student?
My favorite lesson as a commuter is “better late than never,” but the lesson that inspired this article is what I’ve discovered about poetry.
Of course my Intro to Poetry professor has a passion for the subject, but I think it says something about an art form, as well as the teacher, when he or she can make an entire class come to understand, appreciate and respect poetry in a whole new light.
Most people, even English majors such as me, aren’t exposed to poetry on a daily basis and are unfamiliar and, therefore, uncomfortable with it. Yet it is one of the most powerful forms of writing that exists. For example, three lines of poetry have the potential to say much more than I could in a 600-word column.
The main ingredient of poetry is metaphor, and it is this metaphor that we’re not used to. In a fast-paced world, people need you to tell it like it is so they can move on to the next information bit. Even with all the hard facts laid out in front of them, people don’t always get the whole story. Poetry gives us a chance to weave the hard facts into a web of elaborate imagery and language. And yes, sometimes it takes patience to untangle it, but the wealth of knowledge that you gain alongside the hard facts are worth more than any measured time.
You see, it’s all about seeking something unknown. That happens when you learn. Regurgitating facts flashed in front of you on a PowerPoint presentation can only do so much. The effort you make to really take something from a class or find something out for yourself – that is information that will last you forever.
Anahita Kalianivala is a freshman English and psychology major from Fort Worth. Her column appears every Wednesday.