Why We Learn

Sometimes big questions just sit under our noses and are too close and obvious to warrant attention. The matter of why we learn falls into this category. It seems obvious that we learn every day of our lives and that learning is important but why is it so? Part of the answer lies in our evolutionary past. To understand why we learn we need to appreciate the benefits of learning in terms of survival and growth of human beings. Learning is a special way in which we can gain advantage in our quest for success. Every person and indeed all animals have innate abilities developed through natural selection. Over many generations animals adapt to their environment and acquire specialist abilities for hunting, defence, reproduction and so on. When we observe animals in their environment we appreciate the usefulness of these assets. Mink have fur coats to survive the cold winter, cheetahs run very fast and hedgehogs have spines and roll in a ball when under threat. Notice it is not easy to distinguish a behavioural ability such as knowing when to run and a physical ability such as well-developed muscle and skeleton for running. If you look at anatomy and Read More …

Viktor Frankl: Man’s Quest for Meaning

If ever you think your life is miserable and you start to get downhearted then I have a book I recommend you read “Man’s Quest for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. Frankl was born in Vienna in 1905 and even before the outbreak of World War 2 was an accomplished academic and psychotherapist.  He was also a Jew and, along with his entire family, was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Man’s Quest for Meaning documents his personal experiences of Auschwitz and other camps.  Only he and his sister survived everyone else who mattered to him: his wife, parents, siblings and friends were killed.  A good summary of his life and work is provided by Dr. C. George Boeree here. After the war, Frankl reestablished his career and produced this remarkable book which soon gained a substantial  readership and acclaim. I remember my reluctance to read the book – I was afraid I would find it depressing, after all, life in a concentration camp what could be uplifting about that?  The opposite was the case, I was genuinely uplifted and this  is is precisely the point that comes through in the text.  If, even in the most forlorn circumstances, in the depths Read More …

Plagiarism Reframed

Mention plagiarism to any third level academic and you are likely to be greeted with groans and laments.This is one topic that gets into people’s hearts – it leads to animated discussions and hard views. It is unwise to be regarded as soft on the issue. It is annoying, very annoying to be reading something presented as a student’s original work when it dawns on you – this is familiar – or – this is not the same style of writing as expected.Plagiarism is genuinely offensive to many academics – it offends one’s sense of academic integrity and is regarded as a dishonourable practice and a form of cheating.Many also feel that the student is trying to make a fool out of them – the tables are reversed – instead of the assignment being a test of the student it is a test of the examiner. Assuming the examiner will not spot the obvious is a form of insult. In most institutions plagiarism is treated as a disciplinary rather than learning or teaching matter – student’s face expulsion, suspension and fines if they are found guilty of the charge.Remarkably, despite clearly stated policies and warnings to students – it seems Read More …