What Are Your Learners Doing?

WAIT-As interesting as most people think their lectures and presentations are, most folks remember very little of what they hear, especially if there is no immediate need to apply the information. Even with stories, metaphors, analogies and humour, listening isn’t learning.

Quiz: What Are Your Learners Doing?

Estimate the rough % of time spent:

__ Reading the text, handouts, slides, manual
__ Listening to you
__ Watching visuals on slides, TV, or computer screens
__ Discussing concepts or practicing skills
__ Teaching, and learning, from each other
100% of total
Learning dramatically increases with discussion of concepts and practice, and the single most powerful way for adults to learn is to teach others/learn socially. Research has shown that adult learners already know almost 70% of the information they will learn in a program; yet almost 67% of the time, they are being told rather than engaged to discover/remember existing knowledge.
So, the next time you or somebody in your facilitated session is considering the option to lecture or present, remember to WAIT (stands for Why Am “I” Talking?), and challenge yourself to design a more engaging and interactive piece.

Facilitator? Instructor? Presenter? Coach?

Is facilitation really so distinct from other fields and disciplines?

Many points of intersection exist between facilitation and other fields such as education, adult education, organization development, coaching and presentation. There are, however, some very important differences in the outcomes being sought, and therefore the mindset, tools, and frameworks adopted to achieve desired results. Continue reading “Facilitator? Instructor? Presenter? Coach?”

Best Practices for Facilitative Instructors

Quiz: What Are Your Learners Doing? Estimate the rough % of time spent:

__ Reading the text, handouts, slides, manual
__ Listening to you
__ Watching visuals on slides, TV, or computer screens
__ Discussing concepts or practicing skills
__ Teaching, and learning, from each other
100% of total
As interesting as most people think their lectures and presentations are, most folks remember very little of what they hear, especially if there is no immediate need to apply the information. Even with stories, metaphors, analogies and humour, listening isn’t learning. Learning dramatically increases with discussion of concepts and practice, and the single most powerful way for adults to learn is to teach others/learn socially. Research has shown that adult learners already know almost 70% of the information they will learn in a program; yet almost 67% of the time, they are being told rather than engaged to discover/remember existing knowledge.
So, the next time you or somebody in your facilitated session is considering the option to lecture or present, remember to WAIT (stands for Why Am “I” Talking?), and challenge yourself to design a more engaging and interactive piece.

Learning Community

Just finished co-leading an intense, transformative, and profoundly satisfying 3-day program for advanced practitioners (The Inspired Facilitator: Achieving Mastery Engaging Organizations and Communities) at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver. We came together initially a group of strangers willing to be vulnerable and learn together in public, and quickly gelled into a powerful learning community. This poem by StarHawk describes some of the energy of that circle.

Somewhere, there are people
to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us,
eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us
whenever we come into our power.
Community means strength that joins our strength
to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing. A circle of friends.
Someplace where
we can be free.”

–StarHawk, Dreaming in the Dark

Collective Learning & Co-Creative Engagement

“None of us is as smart as all of us. …the problems we face are too complex to be solved by any one person or any one discipline. Our only chance is to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines who can refract a problem through the prism of complementary minds allied in common purpose.”

Whether our quest is to solve complex social issues and wicked environmental problems, or our need is to create sustainable value in partnership with the entire value chain of suppliers, employees and customers, Collective Learning is an essential process for integrating and aligning diverse perspectives and knowledge. Over the past 25-30 years, our collective grasp of the interconnectedness of economic, environmental and social systems has risen greatly. We increasingly recognize that more synergistic, innovative and sustainable solutions can ultimately be developed when the collective intelligence and multiple perspective of many minds is focused together.

Collective Learning occurs though group conversations around questions that matter. Such conversations can take place either through one-time, multiple or ongoing activities involving in-person meetings or workshops, online- or tele- conferencing, or multiple engagement processes involving a combination of all of these. The goal of Collective Learning in an organizational or community group is to increase the collective knowledge, understanding, and capacity of members around the issue, such that independent individual action and decisions, as well as any collective action, can be aligned with the system’s interests.

Collective learning involves thinking and reflecting together about complex issues in order to generate new insights and possibilities. Such thinking must rise above the lowest common denominator of understanding often associated with debate to tap the full potential of collective intelligence and wisdom in the group.

Read the full paper I wrote in 2006 about Collective Learning and Co-Creative Engagement including such topics as:

  • Collective Learning Antecedants
  • The Art and Practice of Collective Learning
  • Collective Learning Questions & Practices
  • Co-Creative Engagement Methods

More on Hosting and Facilitating (cont’d)

I received an email from my friend Chris Corrigan in response to my previous blog as he was having trouble posting a comment. Hopefully I’ve fixed that problem and Chris can weigh back in directly as I truly value his contributions and how he stimulates my thinking. One of the questions Chris asked me is “.. what are the conversations that are alive and edgy in the communities of practice you are in? What is the living edge for C2D2 and IAF at the moment? I wonder how those of us around the world in these conversations can reach across our bounded communities and into, what, I wonder?”

There is a sense of discovery and newness in the AoH community – Chris refers to it as ‘wow…shiny!”, as for the first time people experience the power of co-creative engagement space. They contrast this to what they have known before and want to make distinctions, and ‘better than’, or ‘different than’, or ‘more than’, or ‘not that’ is often the result. Beyond my own personal experience, when I ‘listen in’ to the AoH Flickr photos and other retreat AoH Harvests, and tap into the energy of the videos, I get a sense of how profound it is for people to connect in their humanity with others in natural, conversational space around deep questions. This is all new to them, potent, juicy, ‘real’, and I do understand it and am glad for it. Simultaneously I am wary that it not lead to division and hair splitting. To feel comfortable calling myself a member of the AoH community, I need what we do to be about strengthening the ranks of people who understand the importance, necessity and power of co-creative engagement, rather than contributing to distinctions amongst practitioners about whether a ‘host’ is different and superior to a ‘facilitator”.

Chris asks where is the ‘living edge’ of this similar excitement in other communities of practice, and I’m glad to have a chance to provide some context here. For the International Association of Facilitators, it showed up a long time ago – well over 13 years ago for me anyway at the 1995 Denver conference, when Billie Alban and Barbara Bunker featured their research findings about the power and potential of large group, whole system interactive methods. There was a palpable sense of discovery, amazement, and possibility at that conference, when I first learned about and subsequently began to attend training programs in all these methods – taking Harrison Owen’s 6-day training on Open Space with Dell Spencer, the Dannemiller Tyson training on Real Time Strategic Change, later rebranded as Whole Scale Change, Future Search and The Conference Model from the Axelrods and Sandra Janoff, Appreciative Inquiry from Gervase Bushe, Dialogue from Glenna Gerard, and so on. The excitement for these methods also showed up at the same time in the OD Network field.

For the Dialogue and Deliberation community, an explosion of interest and excitement in these methods took place in 2002 with their first conference of the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD). A visit to the NCDD website is well worth it for the wealth of resources, materials, links, and connections to a huge community of communities – probably the largest intersecting gathering place of community and organizational interest from all avenues – practitioners, researchers, academics, community leaders, activitists. The Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation (C2D2) is part of this phenomenal rise in interest, learning, application.

The Nexus for Change is another field where practitioners and the original founders of these methods are exploring what we know about whole systems and participative change and what were are learning so that each of us and all of us are more competent to act in these times.

Action Learning

– Co-authored by Peggy Jessome and Myriam Laberge

Premise: An action learning approach can be adopted by an internal facilitator pool, or community of practice, to enhance individual and collective facilitation confidence, skill and success over time.

Background: For organizations as diverse as Motorola, British Airways, General Motors and Marriott, a new approach to training and problem solving has emerged as a way to stay ahead of the pack. This approach, Action Learning, moves learning from a separate activity that occurs in the classroom to one that is fully integrated into the work that is carried out by the organization.

The power of this approach lies in its ability to increase the organization’s capacity to respond to change. It does this by creating a framework that enables individuals and groups within the organization to systematically learn from their experiences within the workplace. The Marquand Model identifies six components of an Action Learning system that build upon and reinforce one another. These are described below, followed (in italics) by how each would be applied to build the competencies and capability of an internal facilitation pool and/or facilitation community of practice.

Elements of Action Learning (Applied to Facilitation):

1. Team
The team is composed of four to eight individuals, preferably with a diversity of background and experience, which has responsibility for dealing with the problem or project. (This would be the internal facilitator pool or facilitation community of practice.)

2. Focus
For Action Learning to be effective it must start with an important outcome, need, problem, or project not previously encountered, attempted or solved and that is both urgent and important to the team or organization. (Choose an upcoming, important to high stakes, complex meeting, session or workshop.)

3. Process (Meeting Scoping & Design)
The Action Learning process is focused on insightful questioning and reflective listening. Questions are at the heart of Action Learning and are used both to solve the problem and to reflect on the solution after it has been implemented.

(The process begins in the Meeting Scoping by asking Scoping questions to clarify the nature of the outcome/need/problem before determining the meeting/session purpose, goals, deliverables, objectives, or generating a possible meeting design. Focusing on questions enables the team to identify what it doesn’t know as well as what it does know, and opens up the possibility for innovative and systems thinking. Once the team is on the same page regarding the focus, the team moves into Meeting Design and co-designs the detailed meeting process/agenda, including facilitation methods/processes, etc.)

4. Action
It is essential that the team commit to, and be able to take action on the outcome/need/problem it is working on. Action grounds the learning in reality. (Consistent with the detailed Meeting Design, one or more members of the team then facilitate the session.)

5. Commitment to Learning
Action Learning places equal importance on learning and the achievement of the outcome. It is the learning gained by members and the team, and more importantly, their application on a system-wide basis throughout the organization that significantly increases the organization’s capacity and to respond to change.

(After the meeting/session has been facilitated, the team convenes again and engages in the critical learning dimension of after-action reflection, by asking and answering three broad questions:

  • What? What did we set out to do? What did we actually do? What were the results and experience? 
  • So What? What have we learned that can enhance our future facilitation skill, confidence and performance? 
  • Now What? What will we do differently in the future? What do we need/want to learn now?

6. Action Learning Coach
Coaching is essential to ensure that the team focuses on learning as well as solving the problem. It is the coach’s role to ask the questions that move the team through the action learning cycle. This role may be rotated through the group, or assigned to a specific person.

(As the facilitation pool/facilitation community of practice starts off, it is often helpful to call upon the knowledge, experience and insight of a professional facilitator, to act as a subject matter expert, and provide further just-in-time learning, coaching and mentoring.)

Call to Action:

Facilitation skills are key to bolstering productivity, innovation and morale. As a result, businesses and organizations are making facilitation a core competency in their leadership development and corporate effectiveness programs. Read more about how we can deliver virtual and -in-person courses at your workplace and help you to apply Action Learning as part of our In-House Delivery and Follow Up.

 

Advancing Human Capacity to Work Together

Recently I clarified my work purpose with the help of a wonderful coach. It summarizes down to this: To help advance human capacity to work together and co-create a desirable future. My specific contribution is primarily to design, facilitate, and teach about – effective, empowering, and inspiring processes where groups, organizations and communities can discover and take positive action towards wholeness, deeper purpose and possibility.

There are many others in the world with a similar focus and intent. The Collective Wisdom Initiative is just such a virtual community. Their Declaration of Intent states: “We know that people in groups can consciously generate collective wisdom and that individuals can cultivate their capacity to receive, to hear and to amplify wisdom in the communities they are called to serve. By coming together in groups to consciously generate collective wisdom, we believe we have the potential to heal conflicts that seem impossible to heal; embrace with compassion polarities and paradoxes that tear the fabric of our psyches and communities; and cultivate our capacities to love and forgive in groups splintered and polarized. We come together as artists, educators, mystics, practical idealists, scholars, activists, and especially pragmatists, bringing forward some of our own light and seeking to do together what is not possible alone.”

The growing list of dedicated world servers on this site is uplifting, and I am honoured to have my co-authored piece on their website: Co-Creative Power: Engaging Stakeholder Networks for Learning and Innovation.