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"What we have in common is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree." David Weinberger

Adlt 606 #2: Serendipity Happens…

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Conversation regarding my program of study in Adult Learning is often met with a puzzled expression.  I’ve memorized a canned statement or two that describes the program.  Two weeks ago I gave away the new glossy flyer published by the department. The flyer is attractive, of professional quality, and one that I would willingly distribute.  The recipient was pleased to have it, signalling that the door for further conversation had opened.  After all, who considers the learning needs of adults? Unfortunately, relatively few, as my experience tells me. “Design and Delivery of Adult Programs” provides greater opportunity for extended conversation. How often does one find that learning events and real life coincide?   Two opportunities to observe and participate in training would occur this semester giving me a wealth of opportunity to consider the material discussed in class.  Rather serendipitous, yes?

Leadership development occurs in a myriad of ways in the volunteer organizations where I am a member.  Leadership training is the result of an invitation rather than a request on my part. In both instances, a member of the executive committee asked me to attend an event for the organization. The ability to meet with others in my region for one organization occurred in September.  The next event begins tomorrow with a different organization. Stationed in both camps at one time or another, as attendee and organizer, I find each role to be equally satisfying as well as overwhelming.  I’ve attended enough conferences and events to spot the professional attendee, the person who navigates a ballroom with finesse. She is able to select the booth with the best corporate giveaways. He is the participant who chooses the most engaging break-out session with the most prestigious speakers.  The consummate organizer strides a hotel foyer, bearing a name tag full of ribbons signifying his or her importance to everyone.  These people live and breathe events!

I watched the leadership conference develop with a new lens, program developer, as I consider the components necessary for adult learning.  Many components of organization unfold along the lines of instruction proposed by both Rosemary Caffarella and Jane Vella, providing a concrete example for me the D&D learner.  Assessment of learning needs and readiness to learn prepared attendees and trainers with information necessary to offer exceptional training.  The self-talk that I needed to engage, to stay focused and positive, is not one developed in a graduate course, but one learned informally.

Our focus of study asks me to consider how models of transfer and learning enhance to apply or inhibit learning.  While careful time and consideration is devoted to crafting a learning task, I wonder how much time and thought is given to the physical needs of learners?

Will these conditions enhance or inhibit a participants overall experience? 

Parking-I arrive to a conference to find that parking is limited.  An additional ten minutes is necessary to locate parking outside of the complex, in a steep area without sidewalks.    I have no idea if I am allowed to part in the lone spot that I discover, and worry if my car will be towed.  Will I leave the conference and find a ticket on my windshield?   Sigh…I didn’t wear walking shoes. I’m glad that my arthritis isn’t bothering me today.

  Will this situation enhance or inhibit my overall experience? 

Temperature-The weather is unseasonably warm, the building is stuffy and crowded.  The central air conditioning unit has broken. Sigh….am I really giving 7 hours of my time to sit and roast?  Will this situation enhance or inhibit my overall experience? 

Layout-The conference room is small, individuals are seated close to each other, many hugging the wall.  The room is configured for lecture .  Sigh…am I really going to sit on a chair and juggle my drink and writing materials for 7 hours?  I like collaboration and group discussion and I am wondering if this is going to happen. Vella says that tables allow people to face each other and do the “hard work of learning.”  I am one of those learners that she says  feels physically protected by a table in front of me.

Will this situation enhance or inhibit my overall experience? 

Amenities-The walls of the room are covered with information that is could be either highly distracting to some attendees or racially insensitive to others.  There is one restroom for women, yet half of the attendees are female.  Sigh…I will need to wait for the restroom.  I will force myself to avoid the work on the walls.

Will this situation enhance or inhibit my overall experience? 

Self-talk was on order for the success of the day.  I reminded myself, repeatedly, to focus on the content and to consider the work and effort of those who presented the learning experience.  Overall, the event was a positive and one that was worth my time,  The information that I learned about the organization, coupled with the two presentations provided information in a new and interesting way. Because I am already a stakeholder in the organization, I was able to refocus when necessary.  Professional reading is a blessing and a curse.  I carry Carol Dweck’s theories about mindsets in my head like two opposing characters.    When the warmth of the room and the hour of the day began to nag at me, I  remember to use a  “growth mindset.”

I can not assume that every adult who participates in my event will approach it with the same skills.   With all things being equal, time spent considering the physical comfort and needs of the participants, in my opinion, is worth as much time as the other components.  In a national convention, a state or local conference participants leave workshops, or cut out of presentations to explore the town and savor the local scene. No one notices, particularly if your supervisor hits the town with you.  Participants commiserate over a glass of wine while roasting an inept presenter.   Attendants wail about the poor content and the time wasted.

It is my responsibility to consider the learning needs of those who will attend my program.  Preparation involves considering the physical as well as the affective and cognitive needs of the participants. Here’s hoping that no one walks out on me!

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4 thoughts on “Adlt 606 #2: Serendipity Happens…

  1. Laurie,
    My serendipity happens at night. Especially step two. I think this is what keeps me awake at night. All of those thoughts and ideas bouncing around smashing into each other. I actually have to keep a pen and paper on my night stand so I can write ideas down that I usually forget by the morning. I find that I worry that I am not teaching my nurses what they need to know to success and stay engaged. My role as a formal educator is new and while I excelled and being an informal leader/teacher, to have this as my formal job has left me a bit unnerved. I am hoping that this class will help me in the future.
    I look forward to your classroom learning task exercise. I am not afraid of worms. :-)

    • When I was a teaching in the public setting, I was always a bundle of nerves in May. The idea that the future of your job as well as the placement of students would lie with you and the completion of a test is overwhelming. I have found Vella’s ideas about accountability and learning quite refreshing. I must admit, though, that they wouldn’t work with children as we have conditioned both them and their parents to believe in the baby bird syndrome. If you can handle surgery, than worms are a piece of cake!

  2. “It is my responsibility to consider the learning needs of those who will attend my program. Preparation involves considering the physical as well as the affective and cognitive needs of the participants. Here’s hoping that no one walks out on me!” This finally sentiment I think says it all Laurie! I found myself truly enjoying your breakdown of your conference from a differing perspective. It caused me to pause considerably and reflect on previous events that I have attended before becoming an adult educator and how different I take in the day’s events now. Am I more considerate now than I was before as I take in my surroundings and the speakers? Or, am I using a lens that perhaps proves a bit more critical when they don’t consider our needs as I think perhaps they should? Regardless, I loved the way you drilled it down to such an important point, because consideration of our learners, their needs, their experiences….should be our first step if we aim to provide a successful program. It is, after all, only successful if they walk away with something gained.

    • It’s nice to know that someone appreciated the fact that I zeroed in on the small details. Unfortunately, I am wondering if it all becomes more of a curse than a blessing. I’ve always analyzed the content of workshops, training and conferences that I’ve attended. Now that I am wearing the D&D lens, I am focusing on those details. I rarely, if ever, am asked to identify my prior knowledge or expectations prior to a training session. I noticed this last week when I attended some training. I quickly glanced at the evaluation that I was given and wondered what Vella would say? Hum…sounds like the title for another blog all about my adventures in the land of bad evaluations. As my son would say, as he concluded a conversation, “LOL #donotinvitelaure! Brhahah

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