Be a Lifelong Learner: Take the 14-day Learn Harder Challenge!

If someone asked you “what are you learning in college?” you may respond with ‘subject knowledge’ or ‘writing skills,’ or ‘making coffee without a coffee maker.’ Can a college education help you fix your car? Manage your money? Learn a new skill, like playing piano? In fact, it can—by teaching you how to ask questions, and evaluate sources for answers. College is a sandbox for the curious, and curiosity will keep you learning long after you graduate.

Colleges and universities could do better at this. A recent study by Project Information Literacy found that of the over 1600 college graduates they interviewed, few felt their education had taught them how to frame their own questions, a critical thinking skill they needed most in their post-graduate lives. But take heart. Lifelong learning can always be cultivated, even if asking questions does not come naturally.

Lifelong learning is closely associated with a ‘growth mindset,’ or the belief that one’s potential is not pre-determined, and can be continually maximized. This contrasts a ‘fixed mindset,’ or the assertion that one’s intelligence and abilities are generally fixed traits, like eye color or height. Individuals with a fixed mindset are only likely to try new things under threat of punishment (like a failing grade), because they don’t see a point in trying to know more than what they already know. After the outside pressure of formal education ends, so does their learning. If you hope to continue to learn new things in your personal and professional life after college, a growth mindset is the only way.

For those who are naturally curious and eager to learn, the following challenge is for you! If you recognize yourself in the description of fixed mindset individuals, the activity below could help you begin to cultivate a mindset for growth. The following is a 14-Day Learn Harder Challenge to jump-start your growth mindset and help you develop practices for lifelong learning. Each daily activity is different, but common themes in this challenge include trying new things regularly, setting goals, and seeking answers from people in the know.

14-Day Learn Harder Challenge

Day 1
Identify one learning goal for this month, and write it somewhere you will see it. Want to learn how to play chess? Cook? Draw cartoons? It’s totally up to you, but be specific for optimal chance of success.

Day 2
Watch a documentary on a topic of interest to you. In addition to the DVDs in our collection, HPU Libraries has streaming documentaries available through the database AVON, Kanopy, and Films for the Humanities.

Day 3
Read, listen to, or watch the news today. There are many ways to keep up with what’s happening in the world, so explore methods that work for you. Below are a few suggestions:
*Turn off automatic news updates on your social media so you have some control over when you take in information
*Apps like Yahoo News Digest and the (free) New York Times Daily Briefing can deliver curated news to your phone or email.
*Check the 6:30pm news broadcasts on television
*National Public Radio provides shout-free news coverage in your car while you commute or run

Day 4
Check out JSTOR Daily, a free online digest with commentary, research, and current events, all drawing from JSTOR academic journal articles.

Day 5
Help a friend study. When you are able to explain something to someone else, it helps lock the information in place. The Wanek Center Learning Commons is one of the best study spots on campus!

Day 6
It’s a small world; High Point University campus boasts students, faculty and staff from all over the globe. Today, ask 10 people where their hometown is, and how they got to High Point—their answers may surprise you!

Day 7
Try a new podcast today. Most are freely available on a range of topics, and they download easily onto your phone. Here are some popular suggestions:
*This American Life
*TED Radio Hour
*Stuff You Should Know

Day 8
Always have an answer to the question “What are you reading?” It can be a short story collection, a novel, an op-ed, anything. Today, make a point to stop by Wanek Learning Commons or Smith Library to browse their leisure and new book collections. You can also suggest a title for the collection!

Day 9
Do you have a public library card? If not, consider adding this to your to-do list this week. Your public library will likely be your best resource after your graduate. HPU students are eligible for a High Point Public Library Card, which will give you access to even more resources HPU Libraries may not have.

Day 10
Do you know how to find scholarly sources for your assignments? Or how to cite them correctly? The librarians do! Make a point today to ask a librarian to explain something about research that you’re not sure about. You can’t learn without asking questions, and the librarians at Wanek Learning Commons and the Smith Library Reference Desk are waiting to help with this.

Day 11
Remember your learning goal this month? Do or create something that allows you to apply what you have learned so far.

Day 12
Games have been shown to improve memory. Today, find a puzzle or a game you enjoy. Consider grabbing some friends and making it a game night! Smith Library provides board games for checkout.

Day 13
How do different rock or soil types influence your environment? Can you ID different rock types used in the construction of your campus? (Statues, memorials, buildings, etc). –Andrew Fair

Day 14
Reflection helps you take new information and lock it in long-term memory. Think back on your 14-day challenge and write down what you have learned. Take today to celebrate your learning accomplishments, and plan your next learning goal!

-Blog post by Jenny Erdmann, Head of Reference & Instruction