Learning design for the questioning mind

Tonight over dinner with two very talented and successful organizational psychology peers, I realized the level of my own hypocrisy. If this is yet to sound intriguing, pretend the rest of the blog post is narrated by Matt Damon. There, all better?!

It is an interesting experience to go through a Graduate level program as a training professional. As I learn, I’m not only thinking about the material, but how the material is presented. I am often very active in these discussions.

I left a Grad school class extremely frustrated tonight. I was given the “what” and the “why” without the “how”. Some days it’s just the “what”. I constantly seek practical application for what I am learning, specific answers and grounded, real-world comparisons. I am your typical adult learner, someone who wants relevance, application, and clarity. It’s not that I want to pump out the ambiguity – I am intensely interested in the material and just not clear on how to ground the learning. If it’s too high in the sky I get frustrated.

Tonight at dinner, my friend recounted an experiential learning experience where the facilitator told the students the answer (the ah-ha they should experience) AND how they should be feeling. “No no, they shouldn’t be told the answer”, I said. To me, experiential learning succeeds when the students uncover their own answers. I felt discomfort in another workshop I attended where we were told there was only one correct answer for a given exercise. It seemed to de-personalize the experience, I remembered. In workshops and training sessions that I lead, I hardly provide the answers…the students do.

So, why the discrepancy?

I recognize the differences between a graduate level seminar and a professional development workshop but the question still remains… how do you reconcile expectations with reality in a learning experience? How do you balance real-world application with self-discovery?

How do you weigh what the participant needs in the room (short-term) versus long-term?

The solution (remember, I want answers) perhaps, is to find a happy place between student expectations and reality and to recognize the different needs in the room. Maybe it’s to go one step further and uncover why these specific expectations exist.

As with any tough question, perhaps there isn’t a single answer. But when the costs of learning are high, I sure am looking for one.

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