The Passion to Learn: An Inquiry into Autodidactism

The Passion to Learn: An Inquiry into Autodidactism

The Passion to Learn: An Inquiry into Autodidactism

The Passion to Learn: An Inquiry into Autodidactism


This is the first book to provide a detailed overview and analysis of autodidactism, or self-education. Autodidacts' strong preference for teaching themselves is likely to manifest itself, in childhood, as a pronounced resistance to formal schooling. However, in later life, an autodidact's passion for learning will emerge as they participate in open or distance learning or even take responsibility for devising, structuring and following their own programme of education. Beginning and ending with comprehensive and stimulating discussions of learning theories, The Passion to Learn includes fourteen case studies of autodidactism in informal learning situations, all written by authors with specialised knowledge. These wide-ranging case studies reflect the inherent diversity of autodidactism, yet four common themes emerge: emotional/cognitive balance; learning environment; life mission; and ownership of learning. The final chapter addresses the implications of autodidactism for educational theory, research, philosophy and psychology. This inquiry into autodidactism provides fresh insight into the motivation to learn. It shows how closely cognition, emotion and sensory perception act together in learning processes and draws upon memory studies, neurobiology, complexity theory and philosophy to illuminate the findings. At a time when such issues as participation in education, lifelong learning and alternative, non-formal modes of teaching and learning are in the forefront of international educational discourse, this fascinating, inspiring and timely book will be of great interest to anyone involved in the practice or policy of teaching and learning.


Joan Solomon

As the title suggests, this book is an inquiry into an area which is little charted. There are fifteen central chapters written by those who know something valuable about autodidacts. Their contributions are first-hand stories about children or adults in different but autonomous learning circumstances. To collate these chapters and relate them to what is known about learning, the book needed an opening chapter to present an overview of the learning theories that might be applicable, so that was added. A handyman attempt was made to compress the multitude of words written on the subject into one readable and useful chunk.

Then it needed at least two more chapters at the end to pursue and round off the investigation, however incomplete. One was to collect and draw attention to any common features which were emerging under the very different circumstances of the fifteen central chapters. These were drawn out from the process of reading and rereading the contributions of my colleagues, who had little or no communication with each other. Then what was thought to be a final chapter was written from the different perspective of some important and controversial contemporary social theories. Like most finalities this one also lost its place and was shunted backwards when the publisher and reviewers suggested that yet another chapter was needed. This became an epilogue where I started the process of finding out how insights into the nature of autodidactism might be used within the many worlds of education. It could only be very incomplete at this stage.

This study and book forms a part of the programme of The Epistemology Group. All their work has addressed the theme of the evolution of knowledge and invention-with publications on Technological Invention as an Evolutionary Process (ed. Ziman 2000) and The Evolution of Cultural Entities (ed. Wheeler, Ziman and Boden in press). They funded the original seminar for the present project, 'Autodidactism and Creativity' which was held jointly by the Royal Society of Arts and the Open University, and from which this book drew for many of its contributors. For all of this it is a pleasure to express my gratitude to the Epistemology Group,

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