I remember the first time I felt I owned my own learning. It was almost 10 years ago. I was studying piano at a local music conservatory, and I was assigned a program to learn during my first year. I wasn’t excited about most of the pieces, but that was what I was supposed to play. Right there I felt it was the opposite of what I had been doing before.
Before enrolling in the conservatory I had been learning piano on my own for 6-8 months. And I was the only one in charge. I decided which pieces I learned (regardless of the difficulty level or the period), how I learned them, how much time that would take, and when and where I would perform them. Everything was up to me. Until I started my ‘formal’ piano studies.
One of the issues I had when I joined the music conservatory, was that I had to play certain pieces listed according to different criteria (such as time period, style and difficulty level). Even though there were a few options for each time period, usually all the students ended up playing pieces they didn’t even like.
At the conservatory, you’re supposed to follow instructions. Nothing wrong with that. That’s how we learn. We develop our skills from states of less knowledge and skillfulness to states of more and more ability. If we receive lessons -as it happens in formal education settings-, someone else is personally involved.
The figure of the teacher is key here. It’s the person who will guide us and help us develop our potential. If we get a good one that can help us a lot. On the other hand, if we don’t get a good teacher we can lose time, remain stuck, and -sometimes- even get physically hurt.
This is a two-way process. It requires a teacher capable of giving instruction, and a student receptive to the teaching. As social beings, we’re wired to learn this way. But there’s a catch: if we’re not careful it can potentially disempower us. How could this happen? When you give away your responsibility. You stop owning your own learning. Your teacher is the one in charge, and the person who owns your learning (as odd as it might sound).
Having a teacher and following instructions is great, but don’t let that get in the way of your learning. You’re the only one in charge of your learning process. Always take the time to reflect on how you’re doing. Evaluate the process and adjust accordingly when necessary. You that by creating your own instructions.
How do you own your own learning? Easy: you create your own instructions. You don’t need to actually master a skill or a subject before doing this. It all starts with the intention to become in charge of what you learn. Most of us believe that we need to become experts in order to become our own teachers. But you don’t need to wait for that.
Get clear about why you’re learning what you’re learning. You can do this with stuff you decide you want to learn on your own, or even with assigned topics/skills. If it was given from outside, you need to find good internal reasons as well. Make it your own.
Evaluate your learning process. How are you doing? Are you getting the results you were expecting? Do you keep making steady progress? Are you practicing every day?
Think about what you can improve. How can you make it more effective and more enjoyable? If you have along the process, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. You don’t get extra points for making it harder and more painful 🙂
Everyone can own their own learning experiences. It should be natural. After all, you’re the one doing the learning and the one who will enjoy its benefits. Why not take full ownership then?