One year ago, yesterday, I began my vegan journey.
I am currently enrolled in a graduate program on Adult Learning. Yes, 25 years after earning a master’s degree I decided to go back to school. (I tell ya, I’m a work in progress!) In my first course, Adult Learning Theory, I immediately recognized that I was in the midst of a learning experience myself — I was learning how to be vegan.
On this one year “veganniversary,” I thought that rather than share how to be vegan—you can check out my post Vegan for a Year on Veggie Buntch for that—I would share how I learned to go vegan by connecting the process to some Adult Learning Theory concepts with which I have connected.
Adults are self-directed learners
My take on Malcolm Knowles’ theory: The learner teaches herself, or, rather, she determines her goals and seeks the required information to achieve those goals. This can be formal (classroom) or informal (a knitting group, for example).
When I made the decision to transition from a vegetarian to vegan diet, I wanted information, and fast! First I met with Jill, my nutrition counselor to discuss it. She really wanted to understand my motivation, and my plan, and we both agreed that it was a natural progression for me after years of eating vegetarian.
Then I turned to the web. And how. I started subscribing to vegan food blogs and became active on Twitter. I had questions and went right to the source—to other people just like me, not “authorities,” to observe their experiences. I wanted to learn what to eat, how to prepare it and how to be healthy and thrive.
Adults learn by doing
David Kolb said
learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience
and one learning style that corresponds to the active experimentation stage in this learning theory is the
accommodator: those who learn better when provided with hands-on ”experiences.”
I mostly learned how to go vegan from reading books and blogs and then DOING it (stocking my pantry with vegan staples, trying out new recipes, etc.) Suddenly, after a lifetime of avoiding the kitchen, I was in it, big time, and loving it. Referring back to the notion of self-direction, it should come as no surprise that I then registered for a vegan cooking class.
I should add that a big part of the learning process was not only learning to eat and cook vegan but by blogging. After a few failed attempts at blogging a few years ago, I finally found my voice. See, I learned about going vegan—nutrition, vegan foods, methods of cooking (and not cooking…hello higher raw!)— by reading blogs. My natural inclination to “do” led me to blogging myself, this time with a clear intention. I suppose it became one more way to integrate the learning. Observe. Experiment. Share. Which leads to…
Adults learn in community
My two favorite readings on adult learning were from Women’s Ways of Knowing and bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. My take: the instructor and the student are equal participants in the learning process. Both the instructor and the student have the knowledge/experience. The dance is moving back and forth in the role of facilitating the learning process. Sometimes the educator is the facilitator and sometimes it is the student who is facilitating. Learning occurs within the context of community.
In addition to being an adult learner, my day job is to design adult learning programs and, on the side, I teach adult learners in a business program at a local university. I approach both design and instruction with community in mind. When I design programs I think in terms of the cohort. When I teach, I rely on the students to educate one another as much as I educate them. As a learner, I crave learning from others.
I learned to go vegan within a social media community — a community of bloggers, authors and people on Twitter and Facebook. I learned something from one of them and two weeks later I would hear that he/she learned something from me. I learn something every single day about being vegan on a blog or other forms of social media. At the same time, someone reading my blog is learning, too.
There are far too many people in this fabulous, vast, vegan community of learning to thank for the support, and education, that I have received over the past year. Instead, simply check out my blogroll and my two primary Twitter lists (vegan-ish and vegan-ish2) to meet my teachers. My community.
What fun is a “veganniversary” post on a food blog without pictures and recipes? I give you the top five most viewed recipes that I have created during my first year as a vegan:
Fun news: I am delighted to announce that a few of my favorite bloggers, my teachers, have agreed to contribute to this “Vegan 101” series on my blog, commemorating my one-year veganniversary. Stay tuned for some very exciting guest posts!
So, dear readers, how have you LEARNED to be vegan? I’d love to know.