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The difference between learning and really learning

It wasn't long after I started teaching at The Art Institute of Phoenix, in 1996, that I came to understand the difference between my students who were learning and who were really learning. The vast majority, of course, were learning, but they were learning, as most people do, by just *hitting the high points*. They would memorize a few terms, do a few tricks with the software, and that was it. Many of these people did very well in school, as they focused on what they would be graded on, which was a very thin amount of memorization and software tricks.

The people who really learned were different, but not in a way that the college could measure. But I could recognize them, and I called them *superstars*. Their expertise showed in their work, not in their test scores. They didn't drop names like Paul Rand or David Carson, their artwork showed they they knew.

These students didn't need grades, or attendance charts. They really didn't even need me, beyond my introducing them to a concept, or an artist. These people didn't try to pass a class without buying the required reading, they had a dozen more books that they had found on the same subject. They never asked what the minimum that they could do and still pass, they were there in the computer labs until it was locked up for the night.

Of the literally thousands of faces that I have seen in my teaching career, I can remember just a handful of people like this. If it's not you, don't feel bad - superstars glow brightly, but they are rare. If it is you, don't worry about what other people are doing - I recognize you, and so will other superstars.