Friday 4 September 2015

Powerful Learning Experiences

"So what is the practical application of your research findings?"

This is a fair enough challenge to any researcher.

My own research into Powerful Learning Experiences means I would now present experiential learning courses differently.

This speech below would need adapting to context, purpose, age of participants etc. so without any more researcherly ifs and buts, reservations or limitations, here is my research-informed welcome speech near* the start of an experiential learning programme.

[* I say "near the start" so that you can have a welcoming activity before a welcoming speech.]

"Welcome! I'd like to tell you something about the way this programme is designed so that you can make the most of this opportunity for your learning and development...

  1. This is one of the very few occasions where you will be expected to sit and listen. This is because the most significant learning for you does not come from what we say – it comes from what you experience.

  2. We do not give you experiences or make you experience anything. What you choose to do, how you choose to do things and the attitudes you choose to take are key factors that will influence what you experience. And the attitudes you choose to take are influenced by many factors including your previous experiences and any expectations you already have about this programme.

  3. The nature of your learning group matters a lot. You are likely to get more value from this programme if your immediate social climate is supportive, encouraging and a source of honest feedback. But the greater the individual differences within your learning group, the more you stand to learn about others and about yourself – even if that makes for a rougher ride at times compared to being with your best friends all the time.

  4. For each of you, your journey through this programme will have a unique starting point and a unique finishing point. Your journey will also be unique. At times it may feel as if it is a shared journey. At times you may feel alone. In fact you will often be asked to take time out to reflect on your own – to allow you to take time away from the group and think for yourself.

  5. Although your journey will be unique to you, it is likely to follow one of these four patterns: 

    1. The whole course fires you up and brings out the best in you and you want life and work to be more like this in future. But everything is mixed together and you need time to work out what to do for the best.

    2. You experience some personal low points during the course. You choose to keep these to yourself and find your own way through. You choose to have a more private learning journey and you are selective about what you share in the group. 

    3. You find connections between experiences in the sense that similar insights and learning keep happening for you. This learning helps you to continually make adjustments as you face different situations.

    4. At some point you sense a breakthrough or turning point. It feels as if you are "changing up a gear" rather than making small adjustments. It might be a decision you make to relax more, or try harder, or to change a "no" to a "yes" (or even to change a "yes" to a "no").

  6. I have mentioned "the programme" a few times. This is a bit misleading because there are still lots of details to fill in and decisions to make. We couldn't do this in advance because the details come from you and the decisions are made with you or by you. The programme is a structure which you bring to life and within which you will be taking increasing responsibility. You are responsible for your own learning within and after the course.

  7. And finally we want to help you remove anything that might get in the way of your learning. We hope to achieve this during a contracting session in your learning group where you will be encouraged to talk about (a) experiences you don't want (b) experiences you do want and (c) goals you want to achieve (which can be revised or refined later). We then try to create a customised agreement between everyone in the group including the facilitators. Try to include something in your agreement that encourages your facilitators not to talk too much – unless you ask them to do so.

That is the end of my welcome talk. Enjoy your unique experience and your unique learning journey and remember that by supporting each other's learning goals everyone get's more value."

This welcome speech is a creative intepretation of my research findings about Powerful Learning Experiences. If you want to check the original source you can find it summarised here.

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