Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Trajectories of Learning

Posted on: September 13th, 2020 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
DSC01372-module2-320w
DSC01374-module4-320w
DSC01373-module6-320w

The path to learning

I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with my friend, Julia, about the trajectory of learning. Almost twenty-five years ago Julia founded The Penobscot School, a non-profit language school in Rockland, Maine. During the summer, they invited people from all around the world to come study English in an immersive environment, while during the winter they brought native French, Spanish, Italian speakers to teach Americans.

At one point during an Italian immersion she described the trajectory of learning she had witnessed at the school. It didn’t matter if the class was one day, or three weeks, the pattern was the same. Students began with a high level of enthusiasm and excitement but about mid-way through each class, regardless of duration, the energy waned, and participants began to get discouraged and seemingly unable to absorb anything new. In each case, though, they made it through the lull, came back up the other side, and by the end of the class they were again full of zest and passion for language learning.

Learning to find my joy

I experienced something similar while taking Louise Fletcher’s on-line painting course called “Find Your Joy” (which I wrote a little about in my last post). There were definitely moments early in the course where I was finding joy. But somewhere around week 6 I wasn’t getting anywhere; I wasn’t enjoying myself, and I just couldn’t “get it”. I had hit a wall.

And then, just as quickly as I came up against my familiar blocks and barriers, once we were into the 8th week they melted away, and I was back up and running on the path of learning.

Until.

Yup, just as the course is winding down, I hit another speed bump. Louise released her last video at the end of this week. In it she shared her process reviewing a series paintings. Initially after seeing this video I had one of those light-bulb aha moments. Then that moment morphed into a point of departure down a rabbit hole of despair.

The “trick” that Louise shared was looking at b/w photos of her work. When I turned snapshots of the work I’ve done over the last ten weeks into monochrome versions of themselves … UGH. All I saw was a bunch of grey mush; there was very little of interest in terms of contrast to help move your eye around the painting. I had to ask myself if for all these years of making art I’d been relying too heavily on my love of and facility with color at the expense of all else.

It felt like I was suddenly back at square one and that I’d wasted the past forty years and all those ten plus thousand hours of work in my studio. But here’s the beauty of on-line learning, when I expressed some of these concerns in the “classroom” Louise responded with: Do you see how black and white this thinking is? Good point.

Velocity of learning

I’ve seen one definition of a learning curve as the rate at which a person progresses in gaining experience or new skills.

Maybe I can look at all those mushy grey photos as an exciting discovery – something new to explore and learn. Maybe there is still time for me to sing my song at the top of my lungs. The opera that is my life is not yet over. So now I need to figure out how to embrace the ever changing velocity of my own sometimes steep learning curve.

(At left are images from weeks 2, 5, and 9)