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Martin Courtney

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Why do people like to learn, but dislike being taught?

Winston Churchill once said
"Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught". This quote got me thinking about the learning process.

What is the difference between learning something and being taught something? What is better? does it depend what it is or who it is? Do people see strength in learning but see weakness in being taught?

I dunno, it's over to you guys....

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    Sep 20 2011: It is about will I guess. If you are being thought without your request it is really annoying. But if you chose to be taught then you have no right to complain about it.

    BTW: people hate so many things lately. it is interesting that we become so judging and critical about everyone else while we dont work enough to make ourselves better.
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    Sep 23 2011: Personally, independently researching and learning about topics gives me that marvelous feeling of discovery, of enlightenment. This emotional reward has taught my psyche to prefer independent research over a lecture. However, this might also be because learning on my own in my personal free time allows me to dive into the specific topic I am interested in. Schools "force" us into certain subjects in which we have little to no interest, and that often leads the student to suffer academically.

    Of course, it all depends upon the details of the lecture, such as who is giving it and what it is about. This question can hardly be answered without either risking a gross generalization or limiting the scope to incredibly specific personal anecdotes.
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    Sep 21 2011: Beyond congenital reflex (sucking and self-preservation) humans have only one way of committing new intellectual information (knowledge) to their memory. That way is EXPERIENCE. There is no difference between learning and being taught. When the smallest new piece of information is added to the memory it is the result of the "student" either learning, or being taught. Both are products of experience. Whether being told by another person, or by solitary observation the end result is the same. . . experience has allowed you to add information to your memory. To learn from media is to be taught by the creator of that media, even though you were all alone in your room when you were taught it. Gaining new understanding is not always the result of teaching, but it is ALWAYS the result of experience! Comparing learning to being taught is like comparing eating to being nourished.
  • Sep 19 2011: Personally i enjoy both! my dislike for either depends on my environment and the teacher (me, book, person)...

    There are a lot of things I would like to say about this, but I will just focus on the social assumption connected with teaching that can make being taught a not fun experience.

    Socially, those accepted as teachers (book or person) are credited with some type of superior knowledge and value. This assumption of superiority, accepted by both teacher and student, often leads to a devaluing of the student’s ideas/knowledge/experiences by the teacher, through conscious statements and subconscious actions, which slowly tears down a student’s confidence. A negative feeling of inferiority begins to associate itself with the “being taught” experience which leads to quotes like Churchill…

    Even the best of teachers with the most positive of intentions have given a look or made a comment that undermined a student’s idea/knowledge…No one likes to be 'talked down to' but our “traditional” hierarchy of qualified knowledge tends to promote that behavior.
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      Sep 20 2011: Oh gee. I didn't even think of this, but it is a perfectly valid point. A neurotic teacher could indeed be off-putting.

      I think I was lucky in that on my very first day of school, and I do mean kindergarten, the teacher argued with me about something where I was right and she was wrong (and it wasn't even something that she would even have had a case for, since it was something incredibly trivial that had to do with my past).

      I remember being confused that she would even have the inclination to argue about it, never mind the fact she was wrong, and as a result I don't think I ever saw the mystique that the other kids seemed to have for teachers. I have always understood that my learning was up to me, not them.
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    • Sep 19 2011: I have to agree with Mark. It is how we facilitate that learning process and through what medium we choose to deliver the learning. I find it interesting now how non traditional methods of learnng and teaching are becoming the norm as people look to learn in different ways. Ken Robinson suggested the same at the TEDx London Education Revolution event at the weekend at the roundhouse.Ways that suit thier preferred learning style, their life style and, so often overlooked, the subject matter that is being learnt, All have an effect on the way that they are taught, and more importantly how they are received. We talk alot these days of students taking ownership of the learning process, and that is fine, but their must be a robust and relevant delivery system in place to ensure that the learning is managed for the learners benefit.
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    Sep 19 2011: Firstly when one learns s/he is on driving seat, but when taught person is pushed back to back seat....usually one likes to have that feeling regardless of her/his competency...... even a baby when he tries to walk first don't like too much hand holding

    Secondly when one learns s/he knows own motivation behind it, but when being taught pssibilty fot teacher missing that motivation is very high

    Thirdly learning being more instinctive is more spontenous , while teaching opposite
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    Sep 23 2011: I agree with many of the thoughts people do hate being taught poorly. They also do not like to be taught things that seem irrelevant to them. The issue, I think,stems from the fact that teaching colleges generally think that all students learn by being lectured at. They do that becuase that is they way that they may learn best. Howard Gardner's frames of mind shows that lecture is just one way of learning. Sadly, my experince with teaching classes is that they are taught only by those who learn from lecture (audibly) for the most part. Thus, Gardner's ideas are given a brief shot so they can get back to writing lesson plans and practicing delivery, getting ready for State Exams (in the US), and facing a declining market for creative teachers (California usually). With this as a back gorund no wonder students dislike learning. I had a teacher in HIgh School that read from the book and I read comic books on the inside of the book becuase he was monotone and boring. I lost my l love for Marine Biology until later in college when I could take it on line and be successful. So, what do we do? I do not know for sure but I do know in the US that more of the same is not the answer.
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    Sep 20 2011: My guess is that people hate being taught poorly. Few people hate being taught well if it is something that they care to learn at all. Learning is one of the most thrilling things in life.
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    Sep 19 2011: I disagree with James comment that being taught is being forced. I think some people are simply very sensitive to teaching methods. Some teachers can be aggressive or dull with what they're teaching. It's all about finding a method that suits you.

    When it comes to learning, you can learn in many ways and not even be consciously aware that you're learning something new. This eliminates any initial reaction to resistance in some cases.

    In my opinion learning gives you the opportunity to figure out what works for you, being taught is similar to accepting the lesson as you receive it (though not necessarily in a forced manner).
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      Sep 19 2011: I love your comments, especially about teaching methods. As I have gone through college especially, I have learned exactly how I learn something. When a class fits that mold, I often find myself enjoying that class as well as succeeding in it. When I do not connect with the teaching methods, I have to work harder in order to understand the material that is being taught.

      In relation to teaching and learning, I do wonder about this: could teacher be guides? What I mean is, instead of just letting information slide out of their mouths/textbooks, could teachers understand how their students learn (on a case by case basis) and cater their teaching methods to those students?

      I know that teachers learn about all sorts of teaching methods as they work to become a teacher in classrooms, businesses, etc, but I think if teachers used a system that could profile their "learners" or students by their learning methods, that their would be more successful people because they are given the opportunity to process and understand information as they need to. Does that make sense?
  • Sep 23 2011: Hi Martin,
    Mr. Churchill, from the history. ( I was taught.) He was a stubborn human. He, like the rest of us, loved to learn, if it agreed, with his thinking or what he had been taught. The small problem is, humans learn from other humans and their TEACHINGS. We must learn the difference between, being taught, and coming to our conclusions. ( does that make sense?) I have to put this in here. Churchill, was a spoiled, fat, white guy. I also learned that. ( from the internet???)) With the Utmost Respect to You Martin. Excellent Debate!
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    Sep 22 2011: Exactly, I would like to know why for example learners, say "they have right to learn" but look at the things they do in the class while the teacher teaches.

    I have been doing School Teaching Practicals for the past 8 months but hey, after been at the school I felt like as if I chose a wrong career.
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      Sep 22 2011: Hang in Chabedi! All you ultimately need is a few students who love learning and they can change the world. Teaching is a very challenging profession for just the reasons you are expressing. I wish you good luck and I hope you stick with it!
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        Sep 22 2011: Dear Debra
        Thank you for your very kind words and I told myself that I am going to teach back home because those students are in need for better education.

        But again, teachers do not just teach but become parents, friends, counselors, physchologists etc. And they have to discipline children, whereby if these kids lacks basic morals from home, its a challenge that needs to be solved.

        How is Canada, would you advice me to teach there?
  • Sep 20 2011: Putting aside the fact that some (teachers) do not know how to teach and some subjects are not interesting enough for the person being taught I think it is better to show people how to learn. Learning is something people accept and even like, it has a positive attitude. Being taught, however, is sometimes meaning of being bossed around. People are not in control. It has a negative attitude. If you are learning it shows you are capable of doing something, when you are taught it shows exactly the opposite.... You are not capable so you need to be taught.....by someone capable. In this last relationship the person being taught is in a inferiority position. I wonder if Churchill thought that way when he said what he said.
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    Sep 19 2011: Somethings are learned through trial and error or demonstration rather than through someone just telling you what will happen.

    And then there is the reality that people have different learning styles - I am lucky in that I am an aural learner, but then it is reduced by being forced to copy down exactly what is being said rather than my own mnemonic keys. I know people who are kinaesthetic learners, and don't retain as much when they are seated.

    I'm also at the stage in my life where despite being an aural learner, I don't want to listed to a canned lecture, I'd rather have specific questions answered, or at least fast forward through the parts I already know.

    Maybe it's less an issue of not wanting to be taught, but the style of teaching that is a mismatch.
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    Sep 19 2011: You can learn about what you feel like learning, but you're not always taught what you feel like learning.
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    Sep 19 2011: It depends who the tutor is and how committed to his job is he/she. I've aways the way my history teacher was telling us the lesson as a story. You just have to find the right way to students minds, hearts and souls!
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    Sep 19 2011: Learning is often something done spontaneously, and on its own.

    Being taught is being forced.

    Often we are taught in ways contrary to our learning style, and often taught things we never cared to learn and may never have any practical use for in our day to day existence.

    When we learn it is because we go out and wished to find something out.
  • Sep 19 2011: I love learning but on my own, I do not like being taught.