Despite how we are educated in school, with a formal class structure and assessment criteria, most learning happens casually. Just-in-time learning is a concept in adult education that explains how our motivation to understand something derives from its relevance to us. A good way to think about this concretely is how we learn a foreign language. Conventional classroom instruction can only give us so much understanding of language. We really learn to communicate in another tongue because we are immersed in another culture where we read, speak, and write to meet our needs.
In agroecology, we deal with messy, complex systems where the breadth of knowledge and skills needed is too much for any one person to handle. It is our job to identify what skills and knowledge we need to tackle a situation, whether it is social justice, seed sovereignty, or carbon sequestration. As autonomous learners, agroecologists mold their learning landscape to appropriately address the situation at hand, breaking old habits of thought. This style of learning is very different from the traditional classroom experience, where we are taught to think about the world through frameworks and models, but this is exactly the approach we must take when we ultimately leave university for a career. Critically, when we develop our own autonomy, we become more able to lead change at the fast pace, and with the flexible creativity, needed to approach urgent or even crisis situations. Autonomy of our own purpose, mixed with cooperation with other empowered people, can be an unstoppable combination.