Guides And Mentors in Self-Education

Self-educating or self-teaching implies that you will learn much about some subject or skill entirely on your own. Still, we have opened up the idea in previous posts that the educating need not be something done by one person acting entirely alone. Indeed, often two or more people in a spontaneous conversation will come to the quick conclusion that they share a similar interest in wanting to know much more about the subject of their conversation. Agreeing that they both just learned something, they agree to meet again, usually to talk about an aspect of their mutual interest that they didn’t quite finish talking about.

What do we call this form of educating? Maybe it’s not “self-educating” or “self-teaching,” but rather self-educating with help, or self-teaching with supplementary teaching from another person. It’s certainly not a “formal” education program, but rather one which is only somewhat extended from self-educating to involve learning by more than one person, each of whom will have a say in what the other learns. Who will learn the most and who will teach the most is not necessarily clear at the outset. But, we should also note that while learning we sometimes teach, and while teaching we sometimes learn.

To the extent that learning may involve asking important questions and learning from them, it’s also true that each will learn more rapidly and more effectively since each person is asking questions that are key to learning. The probability of learning has now at least doubled by virtue of the fact that both have agreed to learn the subject and to help each other with that goal.

While we don’t know the situation that presents itself in this hypothetical case, we can think about at least two possibilities. In the case that one of the two knows far more than the other, the one who knows more will initially act more like the teacher and the other more like the student. If the one teaching has a clear understanding of what he or she knows, then this person can act to accelerate the self-educating program of the other. In time both may be learning from and teaching one another, but in the beginning, one is more likely teacher while the other is more clearly the learner, and things may stay that way.When the one teaching remains in that role and is effectively always at a more advanced knowledge level with respect to the other, then the one with the primary teaching role may effectively become either guide or mentor to the other.

During the program the teacher learns more as well. As the program moves forward the teacher may always remain in a position of knowing more. Then he or she may remain guide or mentor.  But, it should be noted that even in formal education programs learners will occasionally exceed the knowledge of their teachers.

Pursuing self-educating goals in collaboration with others may create additional valuable assets. First, working toward educational goals entirely alone can invite procrastination. It’s always harder to do something on schedule when you are inconveniencing others by not meeting at an agreed upon time. Alternatively, setting your own schedule really requires a lot of discipline. Also, some learning is just harder if you have no one to talk to. But once there are two or more of you meeting on a regular basis, progress improves. There is more pressure to make progress than when you are working alone. Working alone and not always making great progress can be discouraging. Secondly, when you are working together with one or more additional people wanting to make progress in learning, one member of the team may push interest and passion for learning to new levels. Whoever in the group sees added reason for enthusiasm, can have the same function. It does not always need to be the same person in the group. It can be a different person each meeting. But we need to remember that enthusiasm is usually infectious. Certainly interest, passion or enthusiasm for learning accelerates the achievement of educational goals.

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