Privilege and Developing One’s Mind

About two weeks ago I decided to give running a try again…10 years ago I ran every other day pretty consistently.
Good-Running-Form
(This is what I imagine I look like when I’m running)

Since that time, I moved away from running and began doing other things such as spinning, a Les Mills program called Body Pump (a great program that I highly recommend), and I will admit it…sometimes nothing. This winter, though, felt endless. And so, as soon as the weather turned a bit warmer I decided it was time to get outdoors and be active. A few students within the program I teach inspired me to take up running by sharing their stories, and so this spring I began running again. So far I am up to two miles, and it feels great!

Not only have I felt better physically, but running has provided me with some greatly valued reflection time. Lately, I’ve been spending time considering learning on my runs. To anyone who has spent time with me as a student affairs professional or now as a faculty member, you will know that I have a passion for learning….student learning, organizational learning, etc. I am known for describing the process of learning as magical, the biology behind learning, and I work hard to be a good learning partner to others around me. While I could speak about the challenges and rewards in helping others to learn, what has been on my mind recently is the privilege that exists in higher education when one does not consider learning. It isn’t that I think privilege is suddenly gone when learning is considered, but I can’t help but wonder what it means to not be intentional with what individuals are learning from one’s practice.

James Zull speaks about the learning process in both The Art of Changing the Brain (2002) and From Brain to Mind (2011), and reminds us that learning isn’t necessarily an option. Just by simply interacting with the world around us we are bound to learn. So, learning isn’t something we can simply shut off or separate out from our understanding of the world around us. Zull encourages educators to help students (arguably he considers everyone an educator and thus, every is a student) move beyond encouraging the kind of learning that is comprised primarily of copying, and toward the kind of learning that develops ones mind. This is the kind of learning that Mezirow (2000) labeled transformative learning, which is the kind of learning we are called to practice in Learning Reconsidered (2004) and Learning Reconsidered 2 (2006). These documents encourage us, student affairs professionals, to establish learning outcomes, shape the environment to reach those learning outcomes, and to assess for learning in the experiences we provide through our practice. Regardless of the method one follows to move through this cycle (I strongly encourage being as inclusive as possible), I can’t help but wonder what one’s practice is doing if one is not pausing and intentionally moving through this process? What does it mean if one thinks that it takes too much time to consider what people should be learning from their practice, if they are helping them to learn it, and how they know if they are helping them to learn it? Or, if one thinks that learning is for the classroom? For faculty members to take care of? So, as I’ve been asking these questions on my run, I keep coming back to how much privilege must be present to be able to not consider what one wants others to learn. It seems to me that without the incorporation of intentional learning, one simply stays in a place where they are able to copy what either they themselves, or someone else, is doing, and prevents one from developing one’s mind.

Thoughts:

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