Archive for February, 2010

Significant Learning

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 3

It was fascinating to see the diagram of The Learning Pyramid put out by the National Training Laboratories. Average retention rate of a straight lecture = 5%, reading = 10%, A/V = 20%, demos = 30% — woa! These are the passive approaches using the methods of pouring knowledge into an empty container. And yet, these approaches are sooo prevalent in most of my formal learning experience and also still quite highly regarded today in most settings – from formal to informal education. The approaches used in the Adult Learning program at VCU do definitely seem to differ from most higher ed classes from what I gather. And from my experience in the nonprofit world, passive methods are seen to still be the way to ‘ensure people get the content’!! ‘If we tell them, they will get it’! or at least the material will be ‘covered’ that the learner should get. And yet the learning pyramid suggests that using passive methods to learning most of the content flies across the screen comprehension and out the window into the ether somewhere…

And yet it is the participatory methods such as group discussion, practice and actually teaching others where research shows the most retention is found. So, why don’t teaching methods change? It seems it’s that perennial issue of those with more knowledge addressing/sharing with those with less – they/we/I want to transfer/give/dump everything we have learned instantly into/onto the learner. And, can they take it all in – connecting it with their existing knowledge and experience? I guess the thing here seems to me about integrating the knew knowledge coming in with preexisting knowledge…

I like the perspective of Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning. It really brings in more to the learning equation than just getting the content in the brain. Clearly that’s a part, but Application such as skills (maybe even soft ones such as listening and empathy — oh, that word that culture at large seems to be so afraid of recently), critical thinking and creative thinking too! Awesome! How do we think creatively? I don’t know the process, but I do like to do it! And then Integration where we connect people, ideas, and different realms of life. How about Caring and the Human Dimension? What do I know about myself and how about others? And then there’s Learning about Learning. I don’t think I began considering how I actually learn until a friend put a model of an experiential learning cycle up on a slide and began talking to me about experience, reflection, patterns, principles, and application.

I see much of the taxonomy of significant learning to be important as far as my intuition goes. I would love to find some research based evidence that supports the proposal.

Responsibilities in learning

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 2

What is the role/responsibility of the teacher in meeting individual student learning styles?

I think the it is important for the teacher to attempt to vary their teaching style so that students with different learning styles can have more access to the subject. One of the things that struck me from last week’s discussion was the idea that we usually teach in our preferred learning style. I had to think about this a bit. I think that I learn better when I’m engaged with the material, often through socially mediated dialogue. For me, it helps to integrate what I have read or heard in a lecture or presentation to my prior knowledge.  I appreciate challenging questions and opportunities to express my views. I think these kind of situations help me connect more with the material and subject matter. It also helps me to hear other peoples views. In this way I can check my own views and consider other perspectives.

I admit that I often try to create learning events in a similar way that I think I learn best – with the idea of engaging learners and having them connect with their prior knowledge or experience. I have tended to shy away from pure lecture because I feel like I don’t learn so well this way.  If there is lecture intersperse with questions and dialogue, this helps me. However, I find that when there is a large group, only a few people get to share their views. In a smaller groups it’s possible to share my perspective and also hear others.

However, now I think I need to re-examine my approach and try to become more aware of the different ways/styles that people may learn. The learning inventory and the reading about ‘good’ teaching were interesting. I haven’t thought of myself as a teacher in the way of bringing about societal change, yet, I have conducted learning events around spirituality and self-development. I think these are probably views that could also be considered to have a societal impact.

I’m thinking more about different perspectives on teaching now and would like to have a deeper understanding of different styles and perspectives so I could be more aware of trying to meet the needs of different learners.

The many sizes of good teaching

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 1

It was interesting to read about the ideas of teaching for long-term retention and transfer as well as the different perspectives on ‘good’ teaching.

I was struck me by the concept of how when and what on is assessed on impacts transfer and that repeated assessment helps retention. It makes sense – that when the brain has to repeatedly establish connections to a concept/idea/relationship, it will more easily go back there. Also interesting that the more different ways of getting to that same point also develops a better connection and thus retention. Again, the idea we talked about in class last week of planning assessment before actual activities was a new concept for me (and that the assessment directly links with the goals/purposes/objectives of the learning activity). It makes more sense now after reading this article. I can see how important it is to have well thought out assessment approaches so they do connect with goals/objectives.

One of the other things that struck me from this week’s reading was the different perspectives on ‘good’ teaching.

Changing stone ??

Change Strategies – ADLT 625 – Post 1

It was interesting to have our guest, Tom,  in class who has had an OD role in an organization making a conscious effort to make a cultural change. It sounds like a huge effort and process to move from a production oriented culture to one based on values. What strikes me about the conversation we had with him??? Hmm… a few things. One is the role of leadership in bringing about change. It’s clear that without the vision and interest of CL4 the cultural change would not have happened, at least to the same degree. His vision clearly has brought about transformational change.

It seems like a large part of the transformation within the organization has occurred and now the effort is more on transactional aspects of change. Maybe even they are at an iterative stage where they have gone through Burke and Litwin’s model once and now they are cycling back through feedback and analysis. I would wonder if they have used some kind of survey instruments to assess the impact and effect of the change as they’ve gone along.

It was also interesting to hear the reaction of the exec team when the OD department introduced the concept of a planned organizational change when they saw the effect of the economic contraction 2 years ago. Even with an organization that had focused on leadership development they balked at implementing a planned that included such open communication about the big process coming down the pike. It seems that it was much more difficult at that point to stay with the principles/values that they espoused.

I can imagine it would have been a scary concept because they could not really foresee when bottom would be reached. Instead there seemed to be some denial and that unwillingness to have an open conversation about the changes coming. I guess that would have taken some extraordinary efforts and trust in the values espoused. Maybe their choice was the only option, I don’t know. However, despite the execs unwillingness to have an open dialogue about the cutbacks/changes, T said that the effects on the human side of the transition/change still were very real even though the organization did not address them in a planned way.

Another thing that struck me about the conversation with Tom was the org was trying to create a culture of personal development where learning and feedback are encouraged (it was one of the four means/goals/core values:  1- making business decisions using values, 2 – have effective relationships, 3 – working on self, 4 – integrity, those are the ones I caught). Even just the feedback piece seems significant to me. I know my own experience of learning how to give effective feedback that is constructive, supportive, and also creates an opportunity for dialogue has been a real learning process.

The values seem to indicate an organization aspiring to become a learning organization. It struck me that Tom did not consider his org a learning org. Just from what he told us and what I learned last semester in Org Learning and Culture, I would have thought that this could be considered a learning org. Maybe there is still a big gap between the espoused values and underlying assumptions that actually are at play from day-to-day.

So, I would say though working with such an inert commodity such as stone, an organization can make significant changes with a clear vision and continued and concerted effort from leadership.