My first post this semester posed the question about the connection between consulting and education. Change seemed to be the commonality, and while I do still think that facilitating change is an important part of the role of both the educator and the consultant, I now see other connections, too.
During my first class in this program, I came to the realization that it was not just the students who had the opportunity to learn — that as a teacher / facilitator, I had the chance to learn something from each class, too. I was reminded of this when I read Ward Mailliard’s story in Block’s book. Ward brought Block’s ideas about flawless consulting to the classroom in a way that gave his student more control over their own learning. In turn, he wondered, “What could I learn from my students that would allow me to be more effective in the learning environment?” I wondered the same thing when I was designing a volunteer training program and decided that I “have the opportunity to learn from each session in ways that I can use to rework the program for the next time around.”
Block writes that “our job [as consultants] is to be a learning architect. At our best, we design settings that lead to insight, resolution of differences, and change” (p. 300). This reminded me of what Maryellen Weimer wrote in her book Learner-Centered Teaching that faculty should be “instructional designers who put together challenging and complex learning experiences and then create environments that empower students to accomplish the goals” (p. 18). For me, though, it’s not just the shift from a teacher-centered environment to a learner-centered environment. I hope to take it one step further to create a learning-centered environment where we all have the opportunity to learn from each other.
So how does one create such a setting? It seems to come back to dialogue and asking the right question: why?
The questions that heal us and offer hope for authentic change are the ones we cannot easily answer… the why questions are designed for learning and change… It is in the dialogue about these questions that change occurs (Block, pp. 305-307).
The ‘why‘ question is a powerful intervention because it often forces the client to focus on something that he had taken entirely for granted and to examine it from a new perspective (Schein, p. 51).
Getting an honest answer to the Why? question… controls your responses to all the [instructional] design questions that follow…We ask the Why? question before determining appropriate content and learning objectives… Inattention to this step in design can result in inappropriate or irrelevant content (Vella, pp. 33-34).
So asking the right questions is the key to learning. Wait, I think I’ve written about this before. Yes, it was in a post about Action Learning. Great questions always lead to great reflection. Great reflection always leads to great learning. And great learning always leads to great action. So now, not only do I have a better understanding of how learning about consulting skills can enhance my role as an educator, I have also discovered ways in which being in the consultant role can provide me with learning opportunities, too.
Bring on the Capstone class!