Stepping Forward and Stepping Back

In the book, “A New Culture of Learning,” by Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown (highly recommend this book), they state the following:

For most of the twentieth century our educational system has been built on the assumption that teaching is necessary for learning to occur. Accordingly, education has been seen as a process of transferring information from a higher authority (the teacher) down to the student. This model, however, just can’t keep up with the rapid rate of change in the twenty-first century. It’s time to shift our thinking from the old model of teaching to a new model of learning.

In my workshops, I do everything I can to tailor the content to the questions of the participants, not the aspirations of myself.  This creates an environment that can be unpredictable for me but hopefully, leads to deeper learning for the participants. I jokingly say that “if this is boring it is your fault because it is based on what you want to know.”  The learner drives the learning.

There are times I show some use of technology.  I was once guilty of going at a snail’s pace to do my best to people understood the step-by-step directions of any given software or website.  The problem with that approach is for the majority of participants, I am going too slow, while a large portion of the group it seems to be too fast, while some don’t care.  It would also have people check out mentally from the session because no matter what technology I would show, many would think “Why?” which is a legitimate question. Tapping into my inner Simon Sinek, if people don’t understand “why” the “how” and “what” doesn’t matter.

Now, I zip through things for a few reasons:

  1. To show how quickly things can be done.
  2. To show “value” to participants.
  3. To put participants in a situation where they know they will have to figure things out on their own.

The first two often make sense to people but many struggle with the third.

If I go through every step, people learn dependency.  But what happens when the “teacher” is gone? People that are determined will find a way so if you can show value in both the process and product of learning.

All of this doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t focus on delivering content or walking through a process with their students.  It is more about finding those times where we free our students to figure things out on their own.  A challenge of teaching in our world today is knowing when NOT to help understanding that this will lead to something much more powerful in the future.

From “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

As educators, we sometimes need to deliver content and transfer skills, but other times, we need to inspire our students to figure out their own way.  Sometimes we step forward, and sometimes we step back, but both steps are part of the artistry of a great teacher.

Source: George Couros