LEarning tools for personal transformation and social change

When working with study abroad students in field research and internship courses, and also when I try to learn something new in my own life, I like to follow the lead of the Popular Educators of Latin America.  They think of learning in a cycle, with experience, relfection, and action flowing in a circle, and leading to personal and societal transformation.  There are also some great tools of the sciences that you don't have to be a scientist to use: asking questions to think about what you want to learn, observing, reading, and talking with people about your questions, and synthesizing the information.  Find the steps below, and see an example of how I used these steps to learn about urban gardens in my neighborhood in Costa Rica.  Follow my Facebook page to get more examples and reminders about using these steps in your own life.

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Learning Cycle

It all starts here

Popular and experiential education teach us that learning from our own lives is truly transformational.  Experience and reflection lead to new action.

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Asking questions

Question Formulation Technique

The Right Question Institute inspires this practice that I use with students, and that I have incorporated into my own life.  Ask as many questions as you can think of, and then work with them to guide your own learning.

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Observing

Being mindful and intentional

Use an observation guide, or just your five senses to notice what is around you, and connect that with what you know, or what you want to know.

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Talking with folks

Interviews

The most important thing is to listen, but a few strategies like coming up with some questions ahead of time can help you accomplish your goal of learning from others.

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Reading

The literature review

Literature includes all kinds of things: newspaper articles, books, blogs, academic journals, and more.  Visit your local library and see all of the different kinds of books they have on your topic of interest!

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Reflecting and acting

Systematizing and using the information

There are many ways you can reflect and show your learning by acting: write an essay or article, draw a picture, plant a garden, advocate for political change, and more!

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Celebrating

Enjoy the process!

We learn and change and act in community, and when transformation happens, it benefits all of us!  Let's celebrate that with food, fun, and joy.