Metanoia: Super-Learning

Remember the study by Brown and Atkins (1988) in the last page? They talked about the "understanding seeker" as the one with the best study strategy. Recall that the understanding seeker tries to relate information or the task to their own experience. They make links to other bodies of knowledge. They restructure for personal meaning. They synthesize. They like to work from the "whole" picture.

Understanding seeking is what super-learning is about. And there is a word for this sort of learning that results in seeing everything in a different light: metanoia.

Metanoia is an awakening, a fundamental shift or change of the mind, a transcendence, an epiphany.


"The word is "metanoia" and it means a shift in mind. The word has a rich history. For the Greeks, it meant a fundamental shift or change, or more literally transcendence ("meta" --above or beyond, as in "metaphysics") of mind ("noia," from the root "nous," of mind). In the early (Gnostic) Christian tradition, it took on a special meaning of awakening shared intuition and direct knowing of the highest, of God. "Metanoia" was probably the key term of such early Christians as John the Baptist. In the Catholic corpus the word metanoia was eventually translated as "repent"" (Senge 13).


"To grasp the meaning of "metanoia" is to grasp the deeper meaning of "learning," for learning also involves a fundamental shift or movement of the mind" (Senge 13).


"The problem [is that] "learning" has lost its central meaning in contemporary usage. Most people's eyes glaze over if you talk to them about "learning".. Little wonder -- for, in everyday use, learning has come to be synonymous with "taking in information."

""Yes, I learned all about that at the course yesterday." Yet, taking in information is only distantly related to real learning. It would be nonsensical to say, "I just read a great book about bicycle riding--I've now learned that"" (Senge 13).

"Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create..." (Senge 14). The basic meaning of the "learning person" or the "educated person" is that they are continually expanding their capacity to create their future.


"To create NEW answers, you must ask NEW questionns" (KnCell Technologies slogan).


Take a look at the KnCell Technologies pages. On the "Projects" page, notice the definition of "MetaDo." Does it sound familiar? Here it is again:

Metado is a process of consciously or deliberately choosing transformation rather than simply repeating and passing on the beliefs and values learned from others. It works for both individuals, and organizations.

Also, notice the three step process to this lifestyle:

  1. Awareness - Becoming aware of our unconscious values, beliefs, assumptions, preferences, habits, and unspoken or unwritten policies
  2. Choice - Developing Alternatives and Consciously Choosing new values, beliefs and behaviors using both reason and emotion
  3. Mastery - Turning the new, consciously chosen, behaviors back into automatic habits

This is an excellent summary of a path to a more fulfilling life based on critical thinking.



METANOIA… "…only those who can "think" through content truly learn it. Content "dies" when one tries to mechanically learn it. Content has to take root in the thinking of students and, when properly learned, transform the way they think.

"Hence, when students study a subject in a "critical" way they take possession of a new mode of thinking which, so internalized, generates new thoughts, understandings, and beliefs. Their thinking, now driven by a set of new questions, becomes an instrument of insight and a new point of view.

"History texts become, in the minds of students thinking critically, a stimulus to historical thinking. Geography texts are internalized as geographical thinking. Mathematical content is transformed into mathematical thinking. As a result of being taught to think critically, students study biology and become biological thinkers.

"They study sociology and begin to notice the permissions, injunctions, and taboos of the groups in which they participate. They study literature and begin to notice the way in which all humans tend to define their lives in the stories they tell. They study economics and begin to notice how much of their behavior is intertwined with economic forces and needs" (Center for Critical Thinking, 1996).



""Letters are the beginning of wisdom." So one Greek maxim had it, with "letters" standing for knowledge of language, the ability to convey the complexity and subtlety of thought and sense with words. The Hellenistic age strengthened the consensus that mastery of language defined the highest reaches of cultivation. As Marrou has reminded us, when we speak of "classical education" today, we really mean "Hellenistic education." For it was during the Hellenistic age, roughly from the death of Alexander in 322 to the first century BC, that curricula throughout the Mediterranean congealed. The Word was in the ascendant. The cultivated man was, in a real sense, the literary man, the man of words. It was during this period too that the "conscious ideal of human perfection" made itself felt more widely as a culturally shaped force. One was moved, Marrou wrote, to recreate one's self from unmolded clay and "to produce from the childish material ... the man who is fully man, whose ideal proportions one can just perceive: such [became] every man's lifework, the one task worthy of a lifetime's devotion"" (Simmons, 63).

NEXT: Requirements for Effective Learning

Works Cited

Senge, Peter M. THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. NY: Doubleday, 1990. ISBN 0-385-26094-6.

Simmons, Tracy Lee. Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. Wilmington, Delaware, ISI Books, 2012.

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Colby Glass, MLIS