Archive for April, 2010

Hands on and Learning in Groups

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 10

Hands on Learning

The team presentations for this week were ‘Hands on Learning’ and our team’s presentation of ‘Effective Learning in Groups’. The hands on learning was interesting to look at from a learning strategy perspective. It seems clear that for certain types of learning, there is no substitute for just doing it. I can learn a certain amount about something without engaging in some direct or active way, but until I actually put it into practice somehow it’s all some kind of theory in the clouds – remaining an abstract concept. However, when I do something practically, I find I have a whole new level of understanding about and some kind of intimacy with the topic.

I’ve never had to use a Heimlich Maneuver on anyone, nor been in a situation where someone needed it. However, actually doing the maneuver and participating and observing others in my group do it, definitely brought up a sense within me that I could do this, if it were needed. It also helped to listen to my group tell about situations where they performed the Heimlich and for one team member they had it done on them when they were a child choking.

One thing I think could have helped to deepen the learning would have been to have a small group and then large group discussion about what we learned after practicing. As it was we practiced the maneuver and had an evaluation of our maneuver and also participated in observing and evaluating others, but then we just stopped.  I think there was some discussion as a whole group, but it seemed more cursory. But, perhaps that’s my bias or interest in meaningful learning which requires building connections with prior learning and reflecting, discussing and integrating new learning…


Effective Learning in Groups

It seemed like our team’s presentation went smoothly. After all the discussion, dialogue, sorting, and planning it mostly went off OK. I noticed that when I presented the slides about the different types of learning in groups, the roles of teachers, and aspects of meaningful learning, the class was mostly quite. I can’t say they weren’t engaged. They did seem quite attentive. However, it was just such a shift from the very engaged civilized ruckus that was occurred when the class shared in groups their prior experiences of learning in groups.

It was also a really good approach that the groups had to come up with one response for the whole group on the 2nd group activity. I know there were differing views on this subject and quite lively discussion took place and through that different perspectives were aired. And although each group picked one response, I’m not sure that this was the result of a changed perspective or viewpoint. I think in some cases it was simply a compromise that one or more members of the group made. However, I can see that the need for the group to pick one response did stimulate intense, genuine discussion as far as I could see. Maybe the new or alternate viewpoints on the subject will percolate for a while and result in a perspective transformation over time…


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Concept Maps and Clickers

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 9

The team presentations on concept mapping and clickers or the audience response system were both quite interesting for me. I have used concept mapping or mind mapping in the past and do use it for organizing my thoughts about a project or a paper. I’ve done it by hand writing on a blank sheet of paper and I also have a software program called MindManager http://mindmanager.com/ (it’s not free, but there are educational and nonprofit rates) that can be used to create mind maps in a graphical form. We also did concept mapping in the Org Learning and Culture class as group. This was done via a software application that we projected.


One of the interesting things for me about the concept map presentation was the idea of including images and drawings as a way to depict a concept. I really liked the video that showed the class working on a concept map on a whiteboard. This seemed to really engage the students and also give many people who may not even usually speak out a chance to participate. Personally, I liked this better than using software to create a class concept map. The software limits the actual input to one contribution at a time and only one person who actually can place a concept. And yet, creating an electronic version of a concept map allows the class to go back to it, revise it, and continue building on it. (This was a valuable experience in my Org Learning and Culture class.)

I also liked the idea of adding images or drawings when creating a map to represent ideas rather than only words. This seems to work more easily when doing a concept map by hand (although I know it can also be done electronically). It can be a help because an image immediately conveys a concept. Using images or drawings would be new for me since the recording of most of my thinking is usually done it words. I do think it would be interesting to explore this approach.

I think that a using a concept map for creating a shared vision and meaning of a relevant topic such as a reading, could really bring about dialogue and discussion. Through this learners share their meaning and also hear other perspectives. It also then gives the chance for the teacher or facilitator to add, correct, or expand on important points. I liked when we worked as a small group in the activity creating our concept map of summer vacation. I know there were things I hadn’t thought of that others in the group did think of and also I think some ideas sparked other ideas.

What most struck me about the clicker or ARS presentation was that I found myself more engaged than I thought I would be by participating using the ARS. I think if the presentation had been just a straight lecture, I would have drifted earlier if there were no other way to actively participate. And this was done without any dialogue or conversation with my neighbor learners or even the presenters! Interesting! I realize that I would have to rethink and really plan for how to use it and also think carefully about the questions, etc. I don’t see myself using this technology in the settings I presently find myself, but I could see it useful in certain situations.


Future Search Ebb & Flow

ADLT 625 Change Strategies – 3

It was fascinating to get a taste of facilitating a large group intervention using the Future Search process with our simulated mini conference. Preparing for and facilitating the conference was definitely a way to gain deeper insight into the concepts and process of Future Search as well as large group interventions, in general.

From just reading the book I wondered really how this would work. I did get an overview and the basic concepts/principles. However, I must admit I had some questions and about how the how everything would go and especially flow together. Despite the well written book Future Search with Wiesbord and Janoff sharing as much as possible of their experiences and discoveries, it was my first hand experience of just the parts that we chose that really has taken my understanding to deeper level.

One of the things that struck me about the process is how the participants really provide the content. The FS process is there to bring in the experience and perspectives of the participants and in such a way that very likely broadens the views of the whole group. Of course, it’s possible that some participants perspectives may not change, however, the way it is possible for each person to present their views with all of their reason as well as whatever emotion they have about it, seems to allow the possibility for others to at least consider things they may not have before. It’s not set up that one person or group pushes its own idea on others, but rather FS is a forum for dialogue and the focus on reaching common ground steers away from conflict.

I am looking forward to the Appreciative Inquiry mini conference too. It’s a great opportunity to have mini experiences of a sampling of large group interventions. With Open Space, Future Search, and this week AI, I feel like I have a hint of the flavor of what a full-scale version of one of these would be.

From what I’ve found so far, these processes seem to elicit a fresh energy in the participants. It is the different formats that basically allow participation and a variety of perspectives to be aired and listened to in a respectful way. One of the premises seems to be to trust the innate potential for people at large with varying views and experiences to be able to contribute meaningfully to an area of their interest if given an opportunity.

I hope to have the opportunity to take part in a real live experience of one of these approaches to getting ‘the whole system in the room’…


Barriers to a LC environment

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 8

Barriers to a LC environment

It’s clear there are many barriers to implementing a learner-centered learning environment including how much power to give to learners, learner readiness, cultural influences, the pressure to cover content, perceived effectiveness, resources, org support, politics, and simply time. So, where does one start?

I have experience with the perceived effectiveness perspective. ‘What about the content you’re covering?’ There often is a perception that one needs to know: ‘A, B, & C’. And yet, not so often in the real world do situations come up A, B, or C. There often is some variation from a set answer where some analysis, critical thinking, and integrative processes are needed to come up with a possible response or solution.

Divergence anyone?

I recall in my Org Change Strategies class where one thinker suggests that a key skill or ability needed in a turbulent environment is that of divergent thinking. That is being able to consider multiple options and hold opposing viewpoints in mind at the same time. This is really an area of interest for me. Perhaps because I came out of Kolb’s inventory with a divergent preference for learning. I think to promote divergent or creative thinking there the process needs to include critical reflection and critical self-reflection along with a healthy discourse.

Justin Summers in the 1994 photo shoot for Stanton Welch’s Divergence. http://www.behindballet.com/flashback-divergence-1994/

Satisfied, happy, or just open learners

One question that has come up frequently in our class discussion is student satisfaction vs student learning. Do learners need to be satisfied and happy to learn? I recall reading of Blake and Mouton’s idea that said something like: ‘we learn when we are emotionally open.’ I think I have seen evidence of this in my own learning as well as in learning events and situations I have facilitated. So, do we need to be happy to be emotionally open? Or satisfied? Maybe a environment where respect and trust is encouraged could better create an opportunity for being emotionally open. To me, emotionally open means curious, interested, engaged, attentive, open to new or alternative perspectives…