“The whole world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”George Whitman
Volunteering programs that you participate in national or international framework are projects where you design a learning and development environment for other target groups, but do not forget that the special purpose of the program is to support your personal and social development. In this sense, while you add value to the learning processes of others, you will also be a learner in a learning and development journey in these programs.
Learning is the ability to react to certain situations and problems, to develop new behaviors and change them when necessary and to get new ones. In other words, the process we call learning is not only about storing certain information in our memory. We must associate this information with our experience, make sense of it and reflect it on our behavior. For example, learning good and effective communication does not only mean knowing the steps of communication; It means being able to communicate well and effectively with people.
We always learn to be more competent. We learn to overcome difficulties, adapt to changing environments, solve our problems and become more qualified individuals. There are three dimensions to a competence:
Knowledge: Facts obtained through research, observation or learning. At the same time, we can define knowledge as intellectual products that result from the process of human intelligence.
Skill: Depending on the person’s predisposition and learning, it is the ability to accomplish a job or task in accordance with its purpose.
Attitude: It is the position of the individual’s behavior towards other people and objects.
In order to be competent in a subject, we need to develop ourselves in all three dimensions above.
For example; to be proficient in using a wall drill;
You need to know the working functions of the drill, for example screwing and hammer functions, what the dowel does, nail lengths and types.
You should be able to carry the drill and, most importantly, be able to hold it at the right angle. You must be able to apply enough pressure while the drill is running and be able to move at a fixed point during the drilling process.
First you need to be patient. If you are in a hasty and impatient attitude, you can force the drill and even burn its engine. Moreover, you should be sensitive to the noise made by the drill and disturbing other people. In other words, you should have a correct attitude about not to use it early in the morning or late at night.
When we exclude even one of these three dimensions, we cannot say that the person is really competent in using a drill.
The ways of obtaining information on a subject are increasingly diversified in today’s world, access to information is not as difficult as before. The information we can find only in encyclopedias 20 years ago, or the research we need to do in the libraries of universities, is now just a click away with search engines, academic portals and electronic libraries.
So what do we need to develop skills and attitudes?
“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”A. Einstein
Experiential learning is a process that we turn our experiences into learning. It is a learning theory that is particularly effective in developing skills and attitudes. Experiential learning consists of four stages that progress in a cycle:
EXPERIENCE: This step, which is the first stage, is the present time when the individual is at the moment with all his senses. We feel, observe, think, make decisions and take certain behaviors and we see the results of these behaviors.
OBSERVATION: In the second stage, we analyze our experience and the whole process. We establish integrity between what we feel, our observations, our thoughts and actions, and their consequences.
THOUGHT: All these observation and analysis processes give some new implications and new information. We associate this information with other existing information and we reach learning outcomes.
APPLICATION In a similar situation in the future, this time we develop a different attitude to what we have learned, we choose a different way, in short, this time we try the new inferences we have learned. This experiment naturally gives us a new experience, and the cycle continues constantly throughout life.
Let’s remember the person who tries to be competent in using a drill, the skills and attitudes he should have. In order to develop relevant skills and attitudes, that person must be progressing exactly in the experiential learning cycle.
The only way to improve skills is through trying and repeating. However, each trial needs to reflect on it, to see how accurately he holds the drill, to see its results and analyze it. Also he needs to get new information about using the drill.
Experiential learning also provides an effective method for attitude development. Someone who has a sleepless night due to the drill sounds of other people while trying to sleep late at night can raise the sense of empathy about this issue.
Let’s remember the experiential learning cycle. In the concrete experience part of the cycle, you will actually have your volunteering experience. Will this experience remain only as a good memory, or will you be able to take this experience further into the cycle and turn it into a learning process?
This question actually has two answers;
To be aware that you are in the learning process.
To follow the steps of the cycle.
Often we may not be aware of a meta-cognitive level that we are in a learning process. Especially while taking an active role in the learning process of others, we can actually forget that we are learners too. It should not be forgotten that a good educator is also a good learner.