Are You a Student or a Learner?

Are you a student or a learner? We do not often stop to think about the labels that society applies to us during our everyday lives. However, the roles we play and the labels we apply can be very reflective of how we see the world and how we react to the environment around us. Such is the case of the roles or labels of ‘student’ and ‘learner’. So what do these labels mean and which one is the proper one to apply at a given time?

The role of student is one that has to do with skills and competencies. The role of learner has to do with passion and curiosity. Students are time-bound; learners are life-long. We associate students to curriculums, objectives and expectations. We associate learners to awareness, visions and desires. Students sit in classrooms; learners inhabit the world. Students gain through education and training; learners gain through experience and inspiration.
So which is the right role to play or label to wear? Well, both are correct and are not mutually exclusive. When you are in the classroom focused on achieving certain points of data and information, you are a student. Your role as student ends when the class ends (time-bound). However, at the same time you are also a learner grasping for the bigger picture, the greater idea, the knowledge and the wisdom. The difference is that when the class ends you continue as a learner. It bridges the gap between temporary periods where you exist as student. It also bridges the gap to higher orders of thinking.

When someone is a student, a person asks questions like “Will that be on the exam?” When someone is a learner, the person asks questions like “Why?” and “How?” Students focus on lower levels of knowing, comprehending and applying. Learners focus on higher levels of analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating.
In the end, it is not really about the labels or roles themselves, but where you want to reside. Do you want to focus on memorizing and preparing for exams? Do you want to focus on improving and growing as an individual? Being a student should be as a series of stepping-stones to being a life-long learner. You should seek to be both educated and inspired.

So which are you? Just a student or a life-long learner?


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