The search for meaning

Stress does not increase our ability to learn and be creative. Teaching based on an authoritarian type model of judging learners produces so much stress that it compromises effective learning , creativity, the ability to practice big-picture thinking, planning for the future, and empathy and compassion . The result is colleges and universities are filled with disgruntled teachers and learners who are unhappy.

Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian  a World War II  concentration camp prisoner, in his profound book Man’s Search for Meaning,  discovered that our behaviors are driven by the search for meaning in life. Our very survival is dependent on maintaining personal meaning. Prisoners who were unable to find meaning in the extreme conditions of the concentration camps died.  While those who did find meaning in their dismal surroundings lived.  Frankl found that humans’ main drive in life “is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain, but rather to see meaning in … life.” If we want learners to use their minds more fully, we have to have to teach meaningfulness.

I believe one of the most important purposes of teaching is to help learners find purpose and meaning in their lives.  We need to begin by looking at learners as what they can be, not as we currently think they are.  If we do not recognize each learners search for meaning we make it worse for them by making them frustrated. When presuppose a learner is searching for meaning, only  then we will begin to elicit him or her what they are capable of becoming. 

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