Our approach to learning: rediscover the inherent pleasure of acquiring knowledge

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At the Sustainability Institute (SI), we believe that education is a critical component of building a just and generative future for all. As such, we take great care to ensure that our courses and programmes provide high-quality learning experiences that are accessible, engaging, and impactful. 

The foundation of our approach is rooted in a balance between action and reflection, which is why we choose to align with frameworks and methodologies such as The Experiential Learning Theory (ELT). Developed by David A. Kolb, ELT is a holistic and dynamic model that emphasises the importance of direct experience in the learning process. Kolb’s theory suggests that learning occurs through a four-stage cycle, which involves: 

  1. concrete experiences, 
  2. reflective observation, 
  3. abstract conceptualisation, 
  4. and active experimentation.

Many of us have encountered formal education as a process centred around rote memorisation of abstract information, disconnected from, what many educators ironically refer to as, “the real world”. This conventional approach has led us to associate learning with a mundane and uninspiring task. There is indeed a prevailing notion in education that having fun while learning is somehow counterproductive or less effective. This belief limits the potential for transformative learning experiences. 

Acclaimed American author, feminist theorist, cultural critic, and social activist, bell hooks advocates that joy, playfulness, and engagement are vital ingredients in effective teaching. We agree! 

Maria Montessori, a renowned educator and innovator and also very influential in our work, aligns with bell hooks’ perspective on the inherent joy of learning. Montessori observed that children possess a natural curiosity and an innate desire to explore and understand the world around them. She believed that the role of an educator is to create an environment that fosters this inherent love for learning. 

Let us dismantle the false dichotomy between fun and learning so that we can rediscover the inherent pleasure of acquiring knowledge and reignite our genuine love for learning. Learning should not be a passive acquisition of information, but rather a dynamic and iterative process that involves the integration of knowledge and experience, thinking and action. Learning can (and should be) inspiring, and even fun!