Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Big Question Before the Learning Starts

Last week I was planning for teacher professional development and something like the picture below came to mind. I sent it out on Twitter asking if it had value. There was no response at first, but I sent it again a few days later and it received a lot of attention. Now I want to elaborate on the underlying idea and consider how to develop it. 

First, I see this being used before a learning activity for adults on down to younger teens. I know the wording and presentation can be improved, but I believe it captures the most important question regardless of the topic and technique that awaits the learner. 

I think the main point of the question is clear, that the desire to learn is a perquisite for learning. The scale from 1 - 10 implies we rarely will find ourselves 100% at one extreme or the other. 

My problem with this is that the question has value when I answer it for myself, but when I have to answer it to someone else or because someone else raised it, I'm not likely to think about it in a meaningful way. The "right" answer will be quickly given or maybe in resentment or defense, I won't think deeply about where my attitude toward learning actually falls. 

But can the question be answered in a useful way only in self-reflection?  Is discussion necessary, at least in some settings or with some topics? If so, how can that be done without making this come off as accusatory?

I'm drawn to this activity because it requires the teacher and learner to narrow the focus on the purpose of the learning to come. It draws the learner to consider that purpose and his or her relation to it. 

And to me, the beauty of this is an honest answer of 1 or 2 on the scale is of great value. Teacher and learner can gain so much from admitting it or realizing that's how the learner feels. It's like we can all start on level ground, open to each other and the reality of the job we face together. 

Teachers, or administrators running professional development, need to encourage the learners to express this honestly and in appropriate ways. How much real learning is prevented because we all forge ahead without meeting here first? Is it because we assume everyone wants to learn or we don't know how to respond if they don't?

There is a reality that in every learning situation the learner must give something in order to learn. For those of us teaching teens or older, how often have we said, "You will only get out as much as you put into it"? Certainly the teacher must carry some of the weight, probably most of it for any planned learning situation, but as learners mature they need to recognize their own responsibility in the matter. This attitude check reminds everyone of this.

Some questions that I still have as I consider using this:
  • What should I do as a learner if my honest answer to the question is a low number? Do I leave? Do I just do the bare minimum required? What would it take to make real learning more important to me?
  • Should learners discuss their answers among themselves? Or is this a reflective writing warm-up activity? 
  • Should I as the teacher see the responses of the learners?
  • As the teacher or leader in this activity, what is a good response when I find some learners in the group are honestly saying they just want to get it over with? Do I try to move them further up the scale by convincing them of the importance, or do I give less myself?
  • What research exists that relates to this?
  • How can I improve the wording or presentation? What changes will be necessary for specific learning situations?

1 comment:

  1. My question is how do we get our learners who are in the low numbers to the high numbers? Our job as facilitators is often to excite learners into the higher numbers. Reminds me of how we often times have to be sales people.