The most valuable thing I learned in grad school, student edition

Posted: March 12, 2011 in Food for thought
Tags: , , ,

I wrote this post over on PR Connections about the most valuable thing I learned in grad school. I’m cross-posting it below for you. I ended that post with the question: What’s the most valuable thing you learned in grad school? I’d like to modify that question for you, because I’m really interested in your perspective:

  • what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned in grad school so far?
  • what specifically has helped you learn how to read, think, learn? Can you give me some examples of what works for you?
The most valuable thing I learned in grad school

All the knowledge you could possibly want is out there. You’re a smart person. You can teach yourself anything you want. Then, why go to grad school?

What can grad school do for you that you can’t do for yourself?

In other words, why do you need a teacher?

I remember a time when I looked at an academic research paper, understood almost every word on the page, yet the meaning of the article as a whole was a mystery to me. Then a teacher came along, asked some good questions, and all of a sudden, the meaning of the reading appeared, as if a secret code had been deciphered.

The most valuable thing I learned in grad school has nothing to do with content. I learned how to read. How to think. I learned how to learn.

It’s this process of thinking, inquiring, and understanding that I hope to teach to my students. Beyond content, this is the skill that changes who you are forever. It changes how you see the world.

I asked my husband what’s the most valuable thing he learned in grad school. His answer was:

To know how to look for something when I’m not sure, and to know when I found it.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in grad school?

  1. Jackie Riley says:

    This being only my 10th week in school, I am sure I still have a lot more to learn and things are still in progress. Right now, as of this very second, skimming and actually getting the purpose out of the reading. I am still working on it, but I have been in the habit to read everything, I mean everything. I think the art of skimming and the value of how to read effectively. Effectively being the keyword. I’ll update in a few years. Maybe things will change 🙂

  2. Sergio Flores says:

    Being in a graduate course has definitely shifted somethings around for me in terms of HOW I think and WHAT I am thinking about as I read all of these articles.

    After reading this blog post I had one of those “A HA!” moments. Before I was so concerned with learning material and the main reason I decided to take a graduate course as an undergrad was so I could tell employers “Hey I know more about “X” than the rest of my peers” and it seems like that has been completely changed.

    It all makes sense now. We DO have access to so much information and knowledge through the internet. So, accumulating knowledge is not so much the goal anymore. Its more so learning how to find it…and know when I’ve found it.

    So what have I learned so far? I’ve learned that learning is a process that I have yet to learn. I’m used to having someone “spoon feeding” me information from books, lectures, and then giving me an exam and done. The process was done, I was assigned a grade and on to the next thing. But thats not the case anymore.

    I’m learning that its up to me to look through the information in front of me and pick out what I need for my research and build upon that. I am learning that not all the information I seek will be there and its up to me to find it or create it.

    In the end, its the creation of new knowledge that gives research its meaning and purpose.

    I’ve learned that….I’m starting to learn and I wont be done for along time.

  3. Mihaela says:

    Very nicely said, Sergio! Thank you for your comment.

  4. tech621np says:

    In the grad school I’ve learned the most how much more is there to learn. I remember that after an undergraduate degree I had a strong feeling of achievement and an idea that I’ve learned enough already to do anything I want. This feeling quickly dissipated once I’ve started my master program and actually realized how much interesting information and knowledge is out there and that it is pretty important to keep learning.

    • Mihaela says:

      Very true. With every research project I do and class I teach, I am scared, humbled and in awe at the amount of things I still need to learn.