I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how adults learn best. We are all aware of the trends and changes in how we teach and how we facilitate learning opportunities for students, and I think these are all very positive changes. I love the different ways innovators are providing for students to think, create, collaborate, hypothesize, invent, experiment, and play.
But educators, I have to ask. What opportunities are you given to play, invent, create, collaborate and think?
Thinking and learning is not just for kids, but often how we approach professional development is with a checklist of things that we say we shouldn’t be focusing on with students. Limited/no choice, “sit ‘n get” lectures, responsibility on the individual to apply and reflect their new knowledge on their own (which, we all know, is difficult to get to, even if we are motivated). I’ve participated in these types of learning opportunities for many years. Heck, I’ve planned and facilitated more than my share of these too. There are times, I think, when this is the most efficient way to deliver information. There are fewer times, I think, when it is the most effective way to change practice.
It got me thinking about the different learning opportunities that I’ve experienced in the last few weeks. I’ve had lots of varied opportunities to learn. What learning worked for me? Where have I applied my learning? My reflection surprised me.
Where I’ve learned the most was not in the lectures, workshops, professional readings or official collaborations. Nope. Not by a long shot. My greatest learning this month came from a series of quiet, impromptu conversations I had with several colleagues. Many were with people who have been educators and administrators for longer than I have, or have experienced different variables in their roles than I have. Some of them I share many leadership qualities with while others had me wishing that I could do and be what they are as leaders and educators.
One by one, my quiet teachers sat with me and we just talked. We chatted about how things were going in our schools: our current struggles and recent successes, where we wanted to go next in our work, what we still needed to work on. There was no agenda, no protocol of conversation; just professionals talking with one another freely. It was so simple, but I took away new nuggets to apply from each of them.
I would love to see more opportunities for educators to play, experiment, collaborate, inquire, make and learn. But I think we also have to value the unscripted, quiet conversations – in person, on line – that happen between professionals. Those conversations might give us the push we need to try something, the encouragement we need when we are running very low, or the helpful hints to apply new learning we have but don’t know what to do with.
This was just a snapshot, from a very small cohort of one, but I know it works for me. I will be sure to seek out more of these quiet conversations. What works for you?