36. Learners’ Metaphors


Learners Metaphors

At the beginning of the year I took over teaching an advanced group of mixed nationality adults.  Some of the group were new and some were existing students at the school.  After some ‘getting to know you’ activities I set up a speaking task to discuss their views on learning and studying.  There were three main reasons that I had decided to do this task:

  • to gauge what they expected from the lessons and the teacher
  • to help them discover how they could become more effective and autonomous learners
  • to encourage critical thinking and give them an idea of how I would like them to be thinking
  • to help them start to feel part of a team and develop group cohesion

As part of the lesson I asked the learners to write metaphors for teaching and learning.  Here’s what they came up with.  Except for spelling or where grammar errors might impede understanding, I deliberately haven’t corrected their mistakes here – partly because I like the quality somehow of the ‘turn of phrase’ or the way they express themselves.


Learning is…

  • life stations. You won’t gain new information unless you pass a lot of stages of obtaining the information.
  • the door to the future because you will discover new things and open our eyes to the world next to you.
  • an endless stairway because it never ends, you can always learn more and it’s never too late.
  • space because there is no answer and no end
  • a sandcastle on the beach.  Not only be building the sandcastle not easy but also it vanish away easily unless you struggle to maintain it.
  • walking in a fog which prevents us seeing the destination because learners are not always sure if their learning is going well and their way of learning is right although they should carry on and decide a way to reach their goals on their own.
  • a treasure which will follow its owner everywhere. In my opinion, people’s most treasured possession is their learnings.
  • a light of life. Because the more you learn the more you know, then you could find it much easier to find the way how to live.


Teaching is…

  • exchange.  In teaching you learn as you teach.
  • showing that you care about the rest of the world because passing on knowledge to help other see the world from different perspectives.
  • a matter of love because whenever you do this you are sharing a piece of your experience with someone else.
  • persuasion because teachers keep teaching us until we understand
  • learning.  We can also learn something new by teaching students, sometimes from students, sometimes on your own.
  • signs in the road where learners are walking because teaching provides learners with some information about the roads like what this way is heading for and how long it might be, but learners have to make a decision about which one is the best to reach their goals.
  • sculpting because teaching shapes people’s mind and character.
  • a wave. Because when you start to teach it seems there’s no or just few improvement, however, after a while it will have a great improvement.  It’s like the wave breaks rocks, stones.

There are some very insightful and intelligent metaphors here, and they’re particularly interesting for me because I know the people who wrote them.  As ever, there are so many factors at play, but there are some parallels I can draw between the metaphors and learners’ personalities.  My favourites?  Learning is a treasure, teaching is signs in the road.

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