What have you learned in the last week?
This is the question our professor asks us each week. It’s a legitimate question, and one you might expect in a classroom environment, but surprisingly, it’s not always an easy question to answer. Not because we haven’t learned anything, but because sometimes it’s hard to put your learning into words.
If you learn a new skill — how to drive a stick-shift car — that’s easy to articulate. But what does it mean that you can now drive a stick-shift car? Does it mean you can buy the sports car you always wanted? Does it mean you can drive a friend’s car and get her home safely when she’s had a few drinks and shouldn’t be behind the wheel? Or does it mean you have a better understanding and appreciation for how an automobile works? Is it enough to ask what you’ve learned, or is the real question how does what you’ve learned change the way you look at or think about things?
It’s this second layer of what we’ve learned that’s hard to articulate. For example, during my recent interviews with the staff at UMFS, I learned about all the different roles the teachers take with their students. In addition to the not-so-small task of providing effective instruction, they must also be counselors, therapists, disciplinarians, and negotiators. But how does this knowledge help me assess the overall learning culture and needs at UMFS, which is the task our class is charged with this semester?
First, it illustrates to me that in addition to standard teacher certification requirements, these teachers are also required to learn and implement Collaborative Problem Solving techniques and the MANDT system for de-escalating volatile situations. They need to learn how to employ Plan B scenarios with students in order to keep the class on an even keel. They need to be ready to assist a fellow teacher by coaching him through the appropriate steps to restrain a child and keep her from hurting herself or others. It means that these teachers really need their down time to re-energize, but does it also mean that they need or desire more or different professional development opportunities?
We are still wrestling with these questions (and others) as we sort through all of our interview data. We’ve learned a lot, but what does it mean? How do we use that learning to provide ideas and recommendations?
We trust the process of Action Learning: Great questions always lead to great reflection. Great reflection always leads to great learning. And great learning always leads to great action.
I believe we have asked some great questions — both in our interviews with people at UMFS and of each other in class. I think we were all struck by the power of the question Melissa wrote on the board Thursday night — are we trying to shape the learning culture or to shape culture through learning? As I look back through the notes I took in class, I see a lot of great questions. Time now to reflect on these questions to discover what we’ve learned and how to turn that learning into action for our client.
“The questions that heal us and offer hope for authentic change are the ones we cannot easily answer…”
~ Peter Block