Drawing to Learn:  A Journey of Self Discovery

Through the great Dialogue Education class Designing Learning-Centered Training for Peacebuilding at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University, I realized the importance of art in my life. The opportunity to explore myself through the use of colored pens and the paper-covered tables that course instructors Jeanette Romkema* and Marshall Yoder provided was a time of self-reflection. Surprisingly, my constant scribbles on the classroom table evolved into something that had meaning and depth, reflecting ideas and narratives surrounding my work. Visual collections of terms embodying my vision, despair, and hope for my country – it all helped me ease the burden in my mind and heart, freeing me to learn. It really was an experience of complex and profound “affectionate” learning.

The freedom to sketch on my table made the learning environment conducive to my learning. It invited and honoured my learning needs and helped me absorb the new content more easily, while still being in dialogue with my thoughts on other matters. My own personal and powerful experience in the course profoundly spoke to me of the effectiveness of such an approach. Now, as my visual creation hangs in my room, it is not the notes from the class that remind me of what I learned, but this artwork. Have I moved out of the traditional structure of teaching and learning? YES! I was one of those who filled notebooks with writing, thinking it was the best method to retain information. For some that may be true, but for me I now know with full confidence that drawing (free and uncontrolled) helps me express myself and reminds me of what I am learning.

This course has helped me find myself as a learner: not through text or notes that were given to me but through something I myself created in class. I now plan to enter every classroom with blank paper and coloured markers in-hand…

Menka lives in Suva and works for Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding.

*Join Jeanette Romkema for her next Dialogue Education class, November 12-15, 2013 in Toronto.

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