principles of learning
Image via ecology of education

I was sitting in class before church services this past Sunday and the question came up, “What is a Disciple?” It’s someone who engages in learning more in-depth about a subject, a follower of certain teachings, or an apprentice of a trade. I think many of us are disciples in a sense, choosing to constantly learn more about subjects of our liking.

This won’t become a sermon on the blog, though I will include a number of reference verses at the bottom if you’d like to follow-up, but rather I was thinking how much this applies to the agriculture and food dialogues I engage in so frequently.

Learning is a process. What is the best way to learn? Everyone has their own approach. When are we most receptive to learning? Each has their own interests peaked in a different manner. Who engages us most in learning? We all respond to different teaching styles. How can that student-teacher relationship best be utilized? Understanding and Application of the process works differently for each situation.

Engaging in conversations about food and agriculture can be uncomfortable for many farmers and ranchers. It pushes some of us out of our comfort zone, past the normal topics raised in our circle of friends and neighbors. Social media can make engaging in these conversations even more daunting because the internet seems to void the filter for what some folks may spout off in response to a statement they dislike.

What makes this situation even more cumbersome is when we encounter someone unwilling to listen, learn, or even consider that there may be some truths to our side of the situation. Sometimes we have to be patient and identify when the opportunity arises for a good learning experience.

6 Principles of the learning process

Readiness – Individuals learn best only when they are ready to learn, when there is reason and interest in learning. If there is no reason for learning, they probably won’t. The best learning occurs when we are ready, willing and open to learning.

Exercise – The things repeated most often are best remembered. Repetitive nature allows us to improve. Once you have learned something, you need to practice it. Continually working and practicing the things I need to learn and know. Correction, training, repetition.  Mistakes will be made, but we must continue striving to learn.

Primacy – The thing first learned is often the best retained, instructors must teach things correctly the first time. The instructor must explain the subjects so that we can understand. There has to be a balance to it. Of course, instructors may be held to a higher standard of judgement.

Effect – Learning is weakened when the experience is unpleasant. A student learns best when the experience is pleasant and satisfying. A positive environment allows information to be best retained. Afflictions are temporary and understanding the reward improves retention. We also have a responsibility in the community to gratify, lift each other up, mentor, and encourage others along the way. Testing of Faith builds endurance.

Intensity – The student learns more doing the “real thing” versus simulation. Oh, how this is SO applicable to food and agriculture conversations! Applied instruction is the best way to learn. The person doing the explaining needs to engage and reinforce principles in a meaningful way. Also, you’ll retain most on the subjects that you must learn to explain.

Recency– The thing most recently learned will be the thing most learned. Time usually diminishes what has been learned. Exercise and revisiting issues improves learning. An example of this would be trying to recall what you remember from a class/workshop two weeks ago versus a month ago. We must continually go back and refresh ourselves on the materials covered.


Everyone has their own theory on how we best learn and I am sure there are several more Principles of Learning you can add to this list. I just thought these were pretty applicable to the advocacy I so often talk about on this blog.

When you engage in a conversation with someone, be it online or in-person, keep these principles in mind to help you identify if they are ready and willing to learn and how you both may best go about that process. These are also good reminders as you work to learn more about agriculture and try to stay on top of your game in the world of information that surrounds us today.

Let’s face it though – there are many people in social media who are not ready or open to learning something that goes against what they have already chosen to believe. Don’t focus on the loudest voices in the crowd, but rather look for those who are open to the conversation.

Scriptures on learning

In case you were interested, here are the verses that were shared along with many of these principles in the class.

  • Ephesians 4:20 – come to know Christ
  • Matthew 11:28-30 – learn how to do something, apply the principles He is talking about
  • Matthew 7:28-29 – teaching His authority, amazing the people
  • Matthew 10:24 – student-teacher relationship
  • Hebrews 4:12-14 – understanding and application. Word is only as good as the person who hears it and applies what they hear.
  • I Corinthians 3:1-3 – teaching the word is not enough, make an effort to grow, transform and renew.
  • II Corinthians 4:3-4 – Self gets in our way of being ready to learn.
  • II Timothy 3:14-17 – you have learned this, you have practiced this.
  • John 1:14, 17 – full of grace and truth.
  • James 3 – instructors to a higher standard of judgement.
  • Galatians 5:22-25, James 1:2-4 – the Spirit is gratifying and satisfying.