Learning is Messy

Learning is messy.

I was sent this image a few years ago from a former student, and I think it perfectly portrays the learning process….at least for me.


Recently I’ve been revisiting the blurriness that the learning process is for various reasons (let’s be real…I’m probably do this more often than not since my research is on the learning process, so I probably don’t need to use the word recently or revisiting πŸ™‚ ). One of the reasons I’ve been spending time reflecting on the learning process is because of what it means as a faculty member, which like other positions (e.g., student affairs professional), is no easy feat. Parker Palmer wrote a book titled: The Courage to Teach, and the title couldn’t be more true.


Learning takes courage no matter who you are, and spending time each week trying to facilitate learning for and in front of others requires that one learns themselves, so it is at least just as challenging. I could draw connections at this point to the concept of vulnerability that Brene Brown talks about:

or remaining unfinished that Paulo Freire wrote about:


I’m not interested in doing that, however, because all that would I would be doing, or at least how it would feel to me, is that I would be intellectualizing the complicated process of learning. That don’t fully get at the messiness of learning. So, instead, I thought I would put together my own visual description of the learning process in relation to how I experience it.

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

At the beginning of the process, I’m usually pretty content. Feeling like things are going good.:

And then something new enters my world and I can’t see where it is going to take me fully, but I’m curious enough to give it a try.:

I admit that usually in the beginning I try to reject it.:

And/or worse, I think I already know all about it.:

Until I start to realize that what was once familiar I now don’t know what to think about?!?:

And I start to question all sorts of things and how I’m making sense of them???:

Through that process, I start to see things, but I’m not fully confident in them.:

And in trying to incorporate what I’ve learned, I stumble, make loads of mistakes,:

and experiences lots of failures.:

Until I reach a point where I start to understand it more clearly, which usually results in me feeling so excited and thinking about it all of the time!:

at which point, somewhere in the process it starts to become habit, or a part of how I see the world around me.:

Now, while I wrote this whole process as though it happens in a linear fastion, it is in no ways linear (please see the first visual image I included in this post). It is messy, but it is also interconnected.:

And eventually brings me back to feeling pretty good, but with a slightly different way of viewing the world.:


One thought on “Learning is Messy

  1. Pingback: Congratulations to the Class of 2015 New Student Affairs Professionals! | Sit_With_It


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