Guest Speaker: Joshua Hwang
Reflections on our approach to studying
As I prepare for another season of rich exam studying, I (and many others) begin to wonder
why we study so much. What do we hope to gain through studying?
There are many perspectives that students often take:
- Many people study solely to achieve the highest grade possible. If content will not be tested upon, it will not be learned. In this way of thinking, the content itself is not where one's focus lies.
- Some people study to absorb the content. For whatever reason, be it interest or a predicted future value, the content of the lessons are the focus of one's study.
- Others may study to develop their ability to learn. The process of learning is what interests them more than the content itself. Here the focus lies in the skills required.
The order I have put them in does not reflect my view on how good or bad any of these perspectives are. I firmly believe that all of these vantage points bring something to the table. Focusing on grades can allow one to study very efficiently, cutting out irrelevant or overly time-consuming content. To have a genuine interest in a subject is wonderful and can make studying quick and enjoyable. Foresight in studying makes learning that much easier in the future. Lastly, cultivating the ability to learn is one of the greatest and most profitable gifts one can give to themselves or others.
Of course all of these perspectives are not mutually exclusive, you may hold one or all of these views at the same time. In fact, that is what I often do. However, is there something more, or even something else, to be gained through the process of studying?
Bear with me here, things are about to get a little "out there".
Is possible that the process of learning, in and of itself, is enough of a gain to all of us. Maybe the studying itself is intrinsically satisfying, and it alone brings a type of fulfillment.
This is a very zen way of a approaching studying. Zen is a school of Buddhism that focuses on experiencing the present moment. What is the sound of one hand clapping? What is an exam with no grade?
So I ask you just as much as I ask myself:
Are learners limited to these perspectives?
Are there other perspectives?
Are all of these perspectives on studying good? Are they even useful?
Is it possible to appreciate studying intrinsically?
Do you even believe in this "zen" thing?
While you contemplate that, I'll be studying biochemistry and simultaneously clapping one hand.