Looking at life through a learning lens

The first thing we were asked to do when recruited as volunteer community researchers was to complete a learning timeline. If you don’t know what that is, it looked like this:

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At first, I thought this would be easy and wouldn’t take too long. Then I got started. I pored over the timeline for some time – much longer, I’m sure, than was intended!

I found myself thinking back over my life in an entirely new way – as a life of learning. Taking the broad definition of learning suggested by the note at the top of the timeline, I got lost in thought about the volume of learning, both formal and informal, that takes place over the course of an average life.

The timeline also made me wonder about the learning experiences that were most important to me. Sometimes I had experiences that were sad or painful from which I learned deep and enduring life lessons.  At other times, I pursued learning deliberately and determinedly to improve myself or move my life along.

A couple of hours later, I sat with a heavily annotated page in front of me. I had resorted to grouping my learning into lists and columns that looked in danger of falling off the page. I suppose I had failed in the task of brevity. But I am not sorry. For the first time, I had viewed my life through a learning lens, and it was far richer than I had expected.

It is surprising that this simple exercise could reveal so much or be so uplifting. It awakened in me a sense of myself as a dynamic, growth-oriented creature, constantly learning, daily acquiring new knowledge and skills. Much learning, it seems, happens simply as a consequence of being alive; it feels like an inextricable part of being, a sort of life-force – one that we all share and can tap into.

I am looking forward to conducting the research I have planned as part of this project and I hope that I can share this sense of wonder at our universal ability to learn with others.

Helen Bolton, Community Researcher

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