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A Doorway to New Learning

In human development and learning, the idea that “there’s nothing new” might sound unreasonable.  I heard myself say this recently to a colleague and it gave me pause for thought.  How does that sound? Have I given up on learning? Not at all!

Even though the world is always changing, paradoxically many things do stay the same. In my work, I’ve noticed that while new discoveries and technologies are always emerging (and there is a plethora of new books, podcasts and approaches to explore) the basics of human relating remain constant.

We all fundamentally crave belonging, recognition, understanding, and meaning in our lives.  And we are all flawed in our own ways.  These are the dynamics that play out in all that we are and do. At work, at home and in our communities. They are at the core of much of my work, and they are influenced by so much more. I know this and, perhaps because of this, at times I can rely too heavily on what I think I already know. It’s essential to stay awake to this and allow the fresh air of new possibility and learning into my being and doing.  

What helps, for me, is remembering some of the ways in which we can keep the doors to new learning ajar: 

Integration of New Knowledge: Integrating new knowledge and insights from fields such as neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and ecology can offer fresh perspectives and approaches to understanding and nurturing human connection, belonging, and collaboration.  With discernment, we do need to explore what is out there.

Adaptation to Changing Contexts: Recognising that cultural norms, societal structures, and technological advancements shape the context in which we interact and adapting our approaches to recognise these changing landscapes is crucial.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: The differences between us hold immense potential for learning and growth. Actively fostering environments that embrace diversity and inclusion, where individuals feel valued and heard, can lead to richer dialogue, deeper understanding, and new insight. This needs to be regarded as less of an ‘add on’ and more intrinsic to our development and learning.  

Continual Reflection and Dialogue: Engaging in ongoing reflection, conversation, and peer learning processes can help us challenge our assumptions, expand our perspectives, and release potential.   By creating spaces for open and honest conversation, where individuals feel safe to explore and question their beliefs, we create opportunities for genuine learning and change.

Engaging in rigorous discourse: Sharing new or more established frames of reference, ideas, and concepts with others who can provide robust challenge allows for the exploration of all of the above, and more.

What I have come to appreciate most in my 30 years of facilitating in adult learning environments, is that a fruitful gateway to new learning lies in the differences between us. That ultimately it is in and through relationship, dialogue, reflection and pushing gently against our supposed ‘knowing’ that there is the greatest potential to discover what is not yet known or understood.  This is learning that enlivens and refreshes our engagement with ourselves and one another.

As we navigate this paradox of change and constancy, the question arises: where and how do we create the spaces needed for this work? What is possible?  

And – as I believe is always the case – a good starting point is for each of us to start with ourselves, by reviewing our own beliefs and ways of knowing – including about what is new and what is unchanging.  

What do you think?

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Marion Ragaliauskas