Liberal Education

From the Editor

How we learn is a fascinating subject at any time. Many of us create a working theory about learning from a combination of available research, reading, and personal experience mulled over into an explanation all one's own. The current educational emphasis on learning has contributed to our understanding, as educators apply theory on learning to practice in the classroom.

Competition for students' attention and new learning modes surely expand the field for research. With the visual and aural impact of cable--all sorts of messages, all the time--as well as the near-limitless resource of the Internet, I can only speculate on what sort of consciousness students bring to the classroom and what it takes for the classroom experience to cut through to enable and support intellectual and ethical growth.

Watching a child learn to speak has often struck me as watching the greatest intellectual effort (or accomplishment) anyone will ever make. Each child must, in a sense, do most of the work of learning on his or her own, parents and other caregivers introducing the sounds, referents, and grammatical structures of language, guiding, encouraging, correcting, and generally cheerleading the process. The strongest impulse to communicate rises from within, and each step toward speech has its own wonder, wresting intelligibility from the flow of
experience. Yet it is only the first step in an intellectual journey of a lifetime.

Setting aside individually tailored theories, I find that the research presented by the authors in this issue of the journal offers a variety of perspectives on learning: its stages, its inherent value, the need for a context of reflection and interaction with peers, an analogue in Global Positioning Systems. Questions about teaching consequentially arise about readiness to learn and the levels of capability among the learners in any given class. Now more than ever, it seems, personal experience of teaching needs the informing power of cognitive theory to break through "environmental" competitors from popular culture vying for attention and presenting possible unwitting barriers to learning.

Previous Issues