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2 Thinking about someone else’s ideas

Peter Jarvis
Figure 4 Peter Jarvis

If a topic is interesting it will usually attract people to think and write about it. This certainly applies to the topic of learning. This course will introduce you to some of the theories about the ways in which we learn.

When you are studying, it is generally a good idea to read about what other people have already thought about the subject, to help you develop your own opinion in an informed way.

If you are not used to reading about theories, this may feel a bit tricky at first. So just have a go, and then read the comment below each activity – this might stimulate more thoughts.

The first theory to think about was written by Peter Jarvis (Figure 4). Peter Jarvis is an academic who has spent many years writing about why he thinks learning is so important. In the opening to one book, he writes:

Learning is like food, ingest it and it will enrich the whole human being: unlike food, it is difficult to have too much … the processes of learning are a fundamental stimulus to life itself.

(Jarvis, 2006, p. 3)

Jarvis compares learning with food. Do you think that this is a fair comparison? Do you think that if people do not learn, they will die?

At first, this seems a rather unbelievable thing to say. However, when you consider that if people fail to learn about things that are dangerous, like hot objects or speeding cars, they may put themselves at considerable risk.

Activity 3 What do you think?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

When you have read about someone’s ideas, it is a good idea to step back for a while and have a think about what they might be really saying and whether you agree with them. So read the next sentence and jot down your thoughts.

What do you think Jarvis means when he says that learning is a ‘fundamental stimulus to life’?

Note down your thoughts in your learning journal.


Here, Jarvis seems to say that learning can make life stimulating – more satisfying and interesting. It is what keeps us going forward in our lives, perhaps encouraging us to seek new experiences.

Do you agree?