A central part of our own contribution to the course, as students, revolves around making our own connections between information, situations or phenomena and particular theories we come across in the lectures and reading material.
Well, our brains cannot actually learn anything without making connections between new information and something we already know. Repetition is one way (ah, I’ve heard this before), and linking related pieces of information together is another.
(This could lead me into a personal rant about the futility of the scientific strive for objectivity — the idea that it’s good to view things completely absent of our own personal biases and context — which thus goes completely against the biology of our minds. However, I want to keep this post short, so let’s save that for another day, hehe… )
About to fall asleep, my brain made such a connection between phenomenon and theory. So far, the most rewarding and meaningful learning methods used in this course is discussion in small groups. I linked it to a fascinating theory about how we create meaning out of our experiences: symbolic interactionism.
Symbolic interactionism postulates that we do not grasp meaning from objects or events themselves, but rather from our social interactions with other people about those objects or events. My understanding and beliefs about what a rock is does not come from observing rocks; it comes from how I see other people behave toward rocks and maybe toward me in relation to the rocks.
I doubt this holds true for everything we could make meanings about. What if it’s about a cookie? If I eat the cookie, I’ll experience the delight myself and would be very capable of forming my own meaning of it.
I think what this theory really suggests is rather that the meanings we have about stuff comes more from our social interactions than our own exploration. It relates to the idea that it is much easier to see yourself with a mirror.
And the world is your mirror, as Elliott Hulse said. (More about that another time… but think about it.)
I found that the theory of symbolic interactionism nicely explains why I learn so much better through group discussions than lectures or reading texts.
(Now, notice I said learn, not memorise. The subject becomes more meaningful through discussion, even if I won’t remember the details of what was said. Critical distinction.)
I intend to take this insight, connected and verbalised with the theory of symbolic interactionism, and make it a central part of my academic studies, from now on!