Navigating the end of the learning “honeymoon”

‘Learning honeymoon’ may not be a real term (yet) but we know how it feels. We are ensconced in deep learning, pumped with new ideas and experiences that elevate us and make our hearts sing (too much?!).  But what happens after we return from a formal learning experience be it Grad School or a half-day workshop. Then what?

I’m knee-deep in this feeling after just finishing my Masters Degree.

I tucked the material contents of nearly two years of Grad School away in my apartment closet and closed the door. After the binders, books, pens, and pencils were put away I wondered… was it all just a crazy dream?

The physical proof of learning is there but how can we work to sustain, apply, and ignite the learning to help others? 

When people return to the office from a learning experience we hope they feel inspired, yes – but what if they feel overwhelmed, unsure of where to start to apply something, and keep it in memory? This burden can keep even the most motivated learner feeling shaky.

For help I turn to one of my favorite professors,Adult Learning educator Dr. Stephen Brookfield.

Dr. Brookfield introduced me to some of the many ways adults experience the end of the learning honeymoon — be it impostorship, lost innocence, and cultural suicide. These may seem like harsh terms but they can leave adults feeling inferior, separated from the pack and lonely.

Chances are you’ve experienced this when you try to explain newly learned jargon and vocabulary to your friends.

What’s key to sustaining learning long after the honeymoon has ended is keeping a sense of community and opportunity for communication. The binders are a nice-to-have but connection and conversation keep the learning and thinking audible, inclusive and personal in a way that fuels dialouges going forward. The real challenge is in translating what you’ve learned for new and different audiences so that the learning is sustained and keeps spreading beyond the singular experience. With a bit more understanding and support, the honeymoon doesn’t need to end.

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