Being a Learner

Yesterday I attended a workshop on making jewelry from Precious Metal Clay (PMC). I had no experience using this material. I had not worked with jewelry design for years.  It was a full day and I left the workshop with two pendants and a lot of satisfaction.

As I reflected on the day, I thought about what I had experienced as a learner.  Based on my own thirty-five years of teaching art and working with K-12 learners I considered my list of characteristics of a good learner.

  1. Good learners are curious. Much like the students from my past classrooms, learning something I knew nothing about activated my curiosity and I enjoyed discovery.
  2. Good learners pursue understanding diligently. When my PMC was not forming into the shapes I wanted, not seeming to “work” I did not give up. I stayed persistent. I enjoyed the opportunity for problem solving alone or with other people in the class.
  3. Good learners recognize that a lot of learning isn’t fun. My first pendant design was in modeling clay for practice. I went through all the technical steps, played with proportion, refined shapes and textures. I restarted many times. It was a time of mind-numbing attention to detail and feeling not confident with a new set of skills, using unfamiliar tools and following a different process.
  4. Good learners are frightened by failure, but they know it’s beneficial. There were times when some part of my design was not working and the craftsmanship seemed shoddy. I was determined to find a path that would make my design doable.  I persevered through my failures. I knew I could learn from my mistakes and I kept moving through my failures.
  5. Good learners make knowledge their own. I fit new knowledge of working with PMC clay and jewelry design to what I already knew about visual elements and principles. It made sense for me to connect in meaningful ways what I already knew.
  6. Good learners never run out of questions. As I worked on my pendants I raised a lot of questions about how to use this material in different ways, how to attend to details better, what might be other designs I could use. My questions were endless.
  7. Good learners share what they’ve learned!

Now it’s your turn. What would you add to the list of characteristics of good learners?

By the way,  for those of you reading this and wondering, “What is Precious Metal Clay?” it is a crafting medium consisting of very small particles of metal such as silver, gold, bronze, or copper mixed with an organic binder and water for use in making jewelry, beads and small sculptures. After firing this material in a kiln, the organic binder and water is burned away leaving the object as a metal. Pretty cool!  The instructor’s website is