“Learning to Do, Doing to Learn…”

By Cody McClain



This is a phrase that thousands of FFA members recite every year as they begin their journey in agricultural education. The FFA motto provides students studying agriculture the opportunity to live by a few short words that guide their experiences and goals. Being a lifelong learner is one of the most valuable skills that every individual has the potential to utilize. Regardless of who, what, how, when, or where you are, you can take advantage of the opportunities to learn from the experiences that exist in your environment.


I have bundles of passion and energy for teaching and learning, and I, personally, enjoy spending much of my time learning. There are many times that we are learning but don’t realize it, which is the beauty of life. How do we define learning? According to the Oxford dictionary, “learn” is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught.  As the FFA motto says, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn”, we need to learn how to master the skill of performance and at the time, learning from our performances. Why is learning so important? Learning provides us with the opportunity to endure experience in life and broaden our perspective on the world around us. Learning is the foundation to our personal and professional success.


As I define my definition of learning, I break it into five attributes. Here the ones that are important to me as a lifelong learner:


  1. Investigation. Engaging in your learning process and experience. Whether this would be a subject that you are passionate about or question you want to be answered, being an active investigator involves taking the opportunity to learn more about something. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself questions and then exploring those answers. Digging deeper into something allows you to have your own unique understanding of the world and add value to your knowledge bank. As you investigate information, you creating an independent mindset, which makes you your own unique person.
  2. Communication. Eliminating your communication with others will lead to failure in your learning experiences. Many of times we learn from others. Just by shaking someone’s hand, and having a conversation with them, you are able to expand your network and connections with others. Thus, you are creating lifelong opportunities to learn from others who have had other life experiences. Sharing life experiences with one another allows us to build relationships and expand our understanding of the world. We are able to increase our performance of learning when we increase our interaction with others.
  3. Critical thinking. Take the opportunity to expand your mind. The ability to reflect and independently think opens up many doors for you to problem solve in everyday life situations and begin building your lifelong knowledge bank. When you take time to think about thinking, you are able to broaden your mindset. Critical thinking allows you to explore new options, which leads you on your road to success. Always take time to reflect on your experiences, thoughts, values, and skills because it is only coming to make you a better person.
  4. Perseverance. Have grit and never give up. The only person that can control your learning is yourself. Learning is a joyful and challenging experience. As long as you are determined to learn, you will learn. If you think you can do it, then you can; but if you tell yourself that you can’t, then you can’t. You should never give up on your learning processes and experiences. Your life will begin to develop many different perspectives and you will also become prepared for an adventurous future. So many opportunities will become available.
  5. Creativity. Never ask the question IF. Instead, ask the question HOW. HOW do I define success? HOW do I reach my goals? HOW can I be a lifelong learner? As you ask the questions using the terminology how you are more likely to start thinking outside the box and enriching your learning experiences. Creativity helps you open your eyes and mind to new possibilities. Being creative allows you to be innovative and explore new ways of learning. You are able to make learning fun when you are using your imagination and creativity.