Archive for October, 2008

Learning in construction

Last weekend I had the chance to conduct a workshop for a nonprofit group. It was a three day event for a small group new in a volunteer leadership role within the organization. They all started in their new roles last spring and the training program wasn’t able to happen until now due to schedules, summer, etc. I’m now actually glad that it didn’t take place earlier when they were all totally brand new in their jobs. Since they’ve been working with their new roles for 5-6 months, they brought some experience into the weekend which I found extremely valuable. It also seemed to me that everything was much more relevant for them as they could, for the most part, see how it immediately applies to there different duties.

I found it the workshop interesting for me as It was an opportunity to put some of the learning theories we’ve been studying into practice. From my perspective, it seemed that many of the assumptions of Andragogy applied, actually all of them, as far as I could see. The group was interested, involved to a large degree and self-directed to an extent for some topics, although for some things they really wanted expert advice. I could also see a mix in the degree the different learners were dependent or moving towards self-directedness. This even seemed to vary for different learning topics.

There was an interesting exchange that took place near the beginning of the workshop. After one or two activities that were intended to help the learners connect to each other and share their purpose for attending, one of the participants asked when we were going to get ‘into the material.’ He said he was concerned about the limited time and he wanted to be sure to cover the material. He thought the activities were nice but didn’t see their relevance. I had the sense he had attended many lectures as a part of his learning and this was how he expected to learn in this context.

So, I suggested that I could just put up slide after slide for 3 days, but I was afraid that although the group would see the content, they might not digest it and connect it with their work. It might just go through one ear and out the other. I suggested to him that my approach was one where the group would connect with the material through, relate it to their own experiences, and maybe in this way have a deeper learning, at least with some of the key concepts.

At the end of the workshop, the same person seemed quite happy with the approaches of connecting hisĀ  own experiences and prior knowledge with the topic at hand. He even seemed like he was going to take back some of the exercises that we did and do them with groups he was working with.

Although i was a bit anxious in the early part of the workshop because I was experimenting a bit with some new approaches and flying a bit by the seat of my pants…, I felt happy at the end because it seemed like the participants gained a deeper insight into their roles and it seemed that they appreciated the methods as they felt engaged with the material. I would say that much of my approach was constructivist in nature, although there were definitely times when the group wanted direction, but this seemed to be their choice at that time. I also could see that when they constructed their own knowledge, it seemed to have a deeper impact on them.

How much any of this will stay with them is another matter that only time will tell… I too had some learning being constructed throughout the weekend… and time will tell how much that sinks in too!

Win-Win and attitude

Win – Win ??

I was struck last week how quickly the team debate went towards one side trying to convince the other that their side side was in the ‘right’. I guess that’s what a debate is. It seemed to begin to become more competitive and, for me, I noticed my openness to learning started to shift. As long as we were exploring each others ideas, I found myself more open. But when I found myself moving towards convincing the other one with the purpose of winning the argument, I noticed that I started to become less open to what the other team was actually saying. It makes me think of how this could be done so there is a win-win attitude, where their is a genuine curiosity in each others interests.

Dependency and Self-Directedness

A bell went off when we were going over Tough’s chart of the learner moving from dependency to self-directness and the teacher moving from the authority to guide to facilitator and then delegator. When we talked about the teacher meeting the learner wherever they were, that clicked. I guess I have a bit of a resistance to the approach of the teacher being the authority and “pouring knowledge into the head” of the learner. I have felt that this doesn’t respect the potential for the learner to learn for themselves. Maybe because I’ve found that people who aren’t connected to the subject don’t seem to have such deep learning. I’ve seen the rote learning go in one ear and out the other.

Maybe more significant for me is the attitude of the teacher/facilitator, no matter the method. If the attitude is one of prizing, accepting and trusting, then even a role as more of an expert of authority on a subject may be effective for the learner, if that’s where they are. But then what about someone who doesn’t want to learn at all – who is just there because they have to be… That’s another subject… How to catch their interest, strike their curiosity to learn…??

So, here is that curiosity word again… how to cultivate that fine grape?

this is a test, i just wanted to try and insert an image into the blog and see if it works. I’m not sure how relevant the image is…

Balance

Regarding the question of gender, what I find interesting is that the feminine qualities that might have been ignored in the past by most of studies and theorists, often considered to be a weakness or lower value, have now a chance to get some airtime. I’m thinking mostly of care, connection, relationship, empathy, etc. And there are viewpoints that recognize more of these qualities can impact in a positive way the business world which has so often been framed through the masculine perspective.

I can’t help but think that if relationship and care were more of a priority, whether there would such a mess with the banking/credit world. Surely, there are many factors that have contributed the present situation. But I wonder if there were an attitude of genuine interest and care prevailing in the marketplace there may have been more mutual understanding that the ice was a bit too thin for all.

Not to say to swing the pendulum totally away from reason, but rather to find some balance. It seems things are out of balance and we are more disconnected. Perhaps connected aspects of women’s ways of knowing will find more respect and place in the consciousness at large. To me it seems like this is not an issue of male/female in the physical sense, because you can find female bodies with less of the caring and relationship attitude as well as male bodies with more of it. It might be more of harmonizing the masculine and feminine energies that each of us have within us.

hmmm…. that sounds like quite a task. where do we start? dialogue? meditation?