My first year at Notre Dame could easily be described as trying to drink from a fire hose. The constant flow of new information was overwhelming, to say the least, as I sought to adjust to college academic coursework, dorm life and culture shock having spent my childhood in China. The challenge of balancing all my commitments was only exacerbated as I continually added more and more to my plate. In order to survive, I was quickly forced to adopt “efficient” reading habits which often times involved skimming over the abstract and conclusion to deduce the primary thesis of an article. As I reflect back, I see that I had adopted the posture of a passive learner.
This is not the way things used to be. Growing up in China, my parents decided to home school me all the way through high school. During my early years of school my parents taught me all that I needed to know: English, Math, Science, etc. However, as I got older, my parents granted me the flexibility to pursue my interests by designing my own classes through finding the necessary learning materials either through online coursework, relevant textbooks and/or connecting with local universities. This transition from a passive recipient of knowledge to an active seeker of information was truly transformative as I explored the political system of Nigeria, the mathematical underpinnings of game theory and the role of China in global affairs.
Participating in this class has helped me to experience anew this transition in college from being a passive learner to becoming an active seeker. Rather than being handed a fully developed syllabus, this class has forced me to consider what it is that I truly want to learn and finding the resources to gain that knowledge. One specific avenue which facilitates this process of active learning is the opportunity each of us have to co-teach a class with a fellow student. One particular area that I was interested in learning more about and then also sharing with the class was the topic of communication. A foundational piece of our everyday lives, communicating effectively is an essential skill set in whatever future setting we find ourselves.
Participating in this class has helped me to be more aware of pedagogical approaches to education and learning more broadly. This awareness and active engagement has spilled over into other areas of my life where I seek to shape the way in which I learn. In my other classes, I am now considering the relevance of the information and asking questions in order to take real responsibility and ownership over not only what I learn but also the way in which I go about learning it. As I undergo yet another transition next year starting the Keough School of Global Affair's new masters program I hope to continually embrace my identity as a life-long active learner.