Bookmark: Living In A World Of Motion

There were three notable chapters in my book this week, and I placed a bookmark on the page with the paragraph that wove them all together in a lovely way.

Chapter One: Last night I returned from an accreditation team training, and the theme of most of our discussion in the meeting (as well as the discussion on the airport shuttle bus) was “change in higher education.”  We watched this video to provoke our thinking:

Chapter Two: I have been collaborating with a new wonderful set of colleagues — Lisa Blaschke, Stewart Hase, and Chris Kenyon — to design and launch an international Community of Practice focusing on advancing the theory and practice of heutagogy. And if there’s one thing heutagogy is about, it’s about learning and change. (An aside: we’ve not launched yet, but when we do, here’s our Twitter handle: @HeutagogyCoP)

Chapter Three: I am teaching our PLA Seminar: From Experience to Learning this term. I’ve connected with wonderful, amazingly smart and caring adult learners, many of whom are starting to write about their own learning experiences and challenges with change in their PLA essays. (Have I mentioned that I really love teaching this course? I wish I could do so more often!)

book3dBookmark: I just finished devouring Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

These three chapters of my week converged when I read this paragraph from the book’s chapter titled, “Embracing Change:”

Change motivates and challenges. It makes clear when things are obsolete or have outlined their usefulness. Bot most of all, change forces us to learn differently. If the twentieth century was about creating a sense of stability to buttress again change and then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it. Embracing change means looking forward to what will come next. It means viewing the future as a new set of possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust. It means making the most of living in a world of motion.

The book reflects a lot about learning in online community-based gaming – which I know next-to-nothing about. But now I think I’d better learn. (GULP! I never thought I’d say that!)

(Unless, of course, Pinterest provides the same experience, by any chance? Because I’m getting really good at learning with Pinterest!)

A Business Plan For Life’s Work

Me, facilitating a week-long faculty development workshop about adult learning and Prior Learning Assessment at Tangaza College in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2012. A major piece of my life’s work …

During a day-long “priorities conference” for fundraising at my university today, the idea came about that we should help our students develop a business plan for enacting their life’s work. The idea is that income, vis-a-vis a job (presumably) is actually pretty important, but equally if not more important is ensuring that students can tap into work that has meaning, that they do well, and that energizes them.* This discussion was in part prompted by the news today that a University of Florida task force is recommending differential tuition for humanities courses, meaning that humanities courses would cost students more. (Side editorial comment: Worst Idea Ever.)

A second theme of the day seemed to be affordability — higher educational institutions are going to have to (correction: HAVE TO) find more affordable ways to deliver high quality learning experiences. And you know why? Because all of us are inadvertently (or in some cases, intentionally, I suppose) limiting access to people who could most use higher education. And why are we doing this?  Because it costs so darn much!

So how can we:

  • lower the costs of higher education while
  • increasing really good learning experiences while
  • offering these really good learning experiences to more people while
  • allowing for meaningful personalization while
  • connecting it all to employability?

(Hint: Though MOOCs are cool and interesting and are indicators of major change, they are probably not the answer to this question.)

I think stating this conundrum in this way has just helped me clarify the need to develop a business plan for my life’s work.

*An aside – this also reminded me of The Good Work Project.

No Ivory Tower There

UC Berkeley campanile – aka, the Ivory Tower. Thanks lobotomy42 on Flickr for making this image available.

Lately I have been engaging in a thought experiment (sadly, mostly by myself), imagining what an institution of higher education focused on heutagogy might look like. Heutatogy is a learning theory, originally developed by Stewart Chase and Chris Kenyon, that places emphasis on learning-to-learn, on developing the capacities of mind for self-determined learning. A heutagogical approach focuses on developing not only competencies, but more significantly, on developing capabilities to learn deeply in an ongoing way. As Blaschke (2012, p. 59) summarizes, capable learners demonstrate:

• self-efficacy, in knowing how to learn and continuously reflect on the learning process;
• communication and teamwork skills, working well with others and being openly communicative;
• creativity, particularly in applying competencies to new and unfamiliar situations and by being adaptable and flexible in approach;
• positive values (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gardner et al., 2007).

This deep learning process involves a double loop, accordingly:

Image borrowed from Reply – Online Magazine for Organizational Change Practitioners

I look at double-loop learning as a a meta-assessment cycle that results in transformative learning; critical self-reflection and awareness are key features that allow the process to work (for individuals, and also for organizations).

I wonder, if an institution of higher education were focused on a heutagogical approach,

  • Would there be majors or programs of study that are content and discipline oriented? Or would it be truly interdisciplinary?
  • Would we focus on pre-determined learning outcomes, or would they be emergent?
  • Would knowledge be provided to or constructed by participants?
  • Would we measure learning by tests, or add up learning by seat time and credits? (ACK – please say no!)
  • Would there be courses? Or would learners and instructors get together differently? Or would they get together at all?
  • Would we even have professors or instructors? How might their roles and responsibilities be different than now?
  • Heck — would we have “students” as we know them?

I’d like to think that such a “place” (which might likely be less of a place and more of an experience) would be very different from higher education now, because its values, principles, and practices would be totally different.  I like to think that such a place/experience might:

  • Be grounded in experiential learning in nature and in focus so that the double loop can really have meaning;
  • Strive to provide an integrated experience for its participants — where work, life, and education are not kept separate, but inform and shape each other;
  • Nurture the development of personal and communal learning networks and processes (as Blashke points out, Web 2.0 technologies can support these practices nicely);
  • Develop in participants an ongoing practice of critical self-reflection and, ultimately, the capabilities that Blashke describes;
  • Support exploration and adventure as a way of learning;
  • Be open — to new ideas and to new ways of doing learning work, so that it’s always evolving; and to all people, at low or no cost, so that everyone can participate, somehow.

This is the kind of place or experience I’d like to create; this is the kind of place I’d like to be, and experience I’d like to participate in! For one thing, there’s no ivory tower there.

MORE ABOUT HEUTAGOGY

Blaschke, L.M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2113

Bhoyrub, J., Hurley, J., Neilson, G.R., Ramsay, M., & Smith, M. (2010). Heutagogy: An alternative practice based learning approachNurse Education in Practice19(6), 322-326.

Canning, N. &  Callan, S. (2010). Heutagogy: Spirals of reflection to empower learners in higher education. Reflective Practice, 11(1), pp. 71–82.

Canning, N. (2010). Playing with heutagogy: Exploring strategies to empower mature learners in higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34(1), pp. 59–71.

Chapnick, S. & Meloy, J. (2005).  Renaissance eLearning: creating dramatic and unconventional learning experiences. Essential resources for training and HR professionals. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA. (See “From Andragogy to Heutagogy,” pp. 36–39.)

Hase, S, and Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIThttp://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2007). Heutagogy: a child of complexity theory. Complicity: an International Journal of Complexity and Education, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 111-118. “Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory”

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2001). Moving from Andragogy to Heutagogy in Vocational Education. Retrieved from: http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts_and_papers_2001/Hase-Kenyon_full.pdf

Sabbatical: My Doing-By-Learning Bucket List

Week after next I begin a mini-sabbatical…almost 7 weeks of time to focus on projects that I want to focus on. I have a giant bucket list of projects I want to work on that I haven’t had time to do in the hustle and bustle of my faculty/dean/mom/spouse/dog-walker/cat box-cleaner life. I see this time as a great gift from my university, and I am grateful for it.

Many of you have asked what I will be doing, and I’ve had a hard time, in the moment of your question, articulating everything on that list in a coherent way. I also am trying to pose this time less as “what I will do” and more like “what I will learn” (as in: doing-by-learning. Natch!).  So how’s this for an idea? Let me write it all down and share it with the world:

PROFESSIONAL LEARNING PROJECTS

1) In October, I will be joining a grant-funded team from DePaul University’s School for New Learning in facilitating learning sessions for faculty and staff at Tangaza College (in Nairobi, Kenya) about adult, competency-based learning programs and Prior Learning Assessment.  I’ll also be helping develop a PLA course … a chunk of my sabbatical time will be working on these projects.

2) I ‘ll be writing an article about the ways that indirect assessment and direct assessment collide and how that collision might support deep, meaningful student learning (hint: reflection).

3) I’ll be updating and pitching my literature review of assessment in academic libraries.

4) I have an idea that I can create some drafts of rubrics to support the process of peer-review in my university’s accreditation region. We’ll see …

5) A colleague and I are soon to launch a “multi-faceted open educational project dedicated to making a life-changing education available to any serious adult learner who would like to participate.” Think that sounds ambitious? It is … and now more than ever, a learning-based model for education is critical. Personally (I can’t speak for my colleague), I am getting sick and tired of the conversations about disrupting higher education and higher education innovations that seem to have forgotten LEARNING (Randy Bass says it all way better than I – read it here).  My colleague and I only partially joke that our uber-goal of this project is world peace (hey – there’s nothing wrong with being an optimist). We also think that a person’s ongoing ability to learn is their biggest, most important asset — substantially more important than their retirement investments, house, car, diplomas adorning their walls, or resume of past experience — and that if we all can learn how to develop and manage our learning assets and help others do the same, we’ll be better off.  So – I’ll be dedicating a chunk of my sabbatical time to moving this project forward. (Stay tuned – you’ll hear about it here.)

6) Heutagogy. It’s cool. Scratch that. It’s AWESOME!!! And if you’re an adult who is a learner (and, well, why wouldn’t you be?), it should change your life. I’m totally compelled to write a something-or-other about how so. (Indeed, this relates to the “multi-faceted open educational project dedicated to making a life-changing education” discussed previously … these projects are all pretty interrelated.) If you can’t wait for what I have to say about it (and why would you?), you can read these excellent overviews:

Blaschke, , L. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076

Hase, S, and Kenyon, C (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIT. http://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm

PERSONAL LEARNING PROJECTS

  • I am going to try to use all the free online resources out there to re-develop my Spanish-speaking skills. 30 minutes a day … we’ll see how it goes.
  • I am going to do a lot of yoga; thus, I am going to learn how to practice yoga (versus how to fit it into a busy schedule, which is what I usually am focused on).
  • I will be learning how to run at Foot Traffic University – my friend and I enrolled for their training for the Holiday Half Marathon. (If you know me well, you know that this is hilarious…HILARIOUS! But I might as well try even though I doubt that right now I could run a block even if a bear were chasing me.  And I like to hang out with my friend a lot and we don’t get to do it very often, so this is one way we can. And maybe I will learn that I can run a block if a bear were chasing me … for a free pair of cool socks, which is what FTU gives us, I am going to try!)
  • I am going to learn how to  play ukulele  … eventually …  like this guy (but maybe not by September 6th):

OTHER STUFF

  • I hope to paint the bathroom (if I actually do paint the bathroom, then I will learn how to remove wallpaper and fix some major holes in the wall).
  • I’d like to learn how to make a good Prezi.
  • I’d like to remodel this here blog. It needs a new look and feel … feedback welcome!
  • If the right homeless mutt makes herself present to us, I will likely work on integrating her into our lives.

P.S. 

Sabbatical technically means a rest from work.  HA!

Imagine This: Doing-By-Learning

Thanks to Mark Brannan on Flickr for making this image available.

Traditionally, higher education has been in place to prepare us to do. And it still seems to be in place for that purpose. First you learn; then you can do. First this; then that. And if you do that first, you will either regret not doing this first and come back to it, or you will continue to do that, but not be happy or find meaning in your life.

Higher ed seems to operate from this idea; its entire structure is focused on it:

  • Learn first; then do. This here piece of paper that says you learned makes you qualified to do, so go forth and do! (Oh – and you can stop learning now. That part is over, unless you want to keep learning, in which case you can go to grad school.)

Thankfully, engaging adult learners in higher education seems to have helped us think a little bit differently:

  • Ah – you went and did first. That’s cool! You’ve done all this stuff; now reflect on it and learn what it means (and by the way you can get credit for that through Prior Learning Assessment while you’re at it), and then learn some more. You think differently about it – about you – now? Great! Icing on the diploma cake! But now that you’ve done all that, and learned more, and now that you have our paper in hand that certifies your learning, you can go do, again. Because our piece of paper here says that you’re qualified to do more, or do different, in a better job for higher pay and a better life. (Oh – and if you want to keep learning, go to grad school. Doing is not for learning.)

I want to turn this upside down, make it do cartwheels, get all dizzy and mixed up. I have no doubt about the power of learning-to-do, or in learning-by-doing. But I have a hunch that there could be more power — more energy, more possibility, more long-term outcomes — in doing-by-learning.

Doing-by-learning is a phrase that I apparently blurted out in a recent meeting, according to a colleague, and I asked her, “Did I say that?” and she said I did, and then I thought, “Of course I did. That’s what I believe.” And since she pointed out to me that I said that, I’ve been thinking about what I meant.

Here’s what I think I meant:

  • Doing-by-learning means that deep, meaningful, significant learning is our partner — it’s not an outcome, but it is; it’s not a prerequisite, but it is. In doing-by-learning, learning doesn’t come after we do, and isn’t in place in order to do. We do/learn, learn/do: together, hand-in-hand.
  • Doing-by-learning means we engage in reflective practice all. the. time.
  • Doing-by-learning means we get to approach our work, our lives, with inquiry and curiosity and freedom to f*8k up. It means we can experiment, try, fail, try again differently.

WAIT! FAIL? (Gulp!) (You mean failure might be learning too? No way!)

  • Doing-by-learning means we can innovate! It means we can change our lives, our circumstances, our ideas.
  • It means we can change our minds.

WAIT! Change our minds? Doesn’t that make us a “flip-flopper?” Huh? You mean it makes us learners? How ’bout that?

  • It means that when we have a problem to solve, we can frame questions through which we can approach that problem. How should we work together in this situation? What do we need to know to move forward through the problem? What are the options? How will we know it worked? What if it doesn’t work? What will we try next? What new problems might we create in solving this one? Wait – are these even problems???
  • Doing-by-learning means there isn’t likely one correct answer to find, one set of “best practices,” or one right process.

Yah yah yah – maybe this idea isn’t new or original (it isn’t). But imagine this: What might higher education look like if we claimed it as an institution that facilitated doing-by-learning instead of learning to do, or doing and then learning, or even (in the case of internships and other experiential programs) learning-by-doing? That’s what I am going to imagine. I’ll keep you posted with what I come up with.

Learning Through Commitment

Thanks to eschipul on Flickr for making this photo available for use.

In this recent article written to new college graduates, Caty Borum Chattoo provides six pretty nice pieces of advice. The first seems most significant to me – it’s about the great potential of personal commitment. Though this certainly applies to new grads, even more so I think it applies to all of us engaged in learning, creating, discovering, and growing. Here it is (bold and color added for emphasis):

 (1) At the moment of commitment, the entire world conspires to assure your success.
(This was paraphrased by Norman [Lear], but originally thought to have originated from the philosopher Goethe.)
With a surface-level read, this may seem obvious and potentially overused — as in, work hard and it will all work out for you. But to me, understanding this bit of philosophy in a deep, internalized way only came with age and experience. When Norman first said this to me, I remember thinking that the key to this mantra was the “world conspiring” part of it — the thought that the world owed me success. But not only is this not the key idea, it misses the entire point. What I came to learn, through the messiness that comes from large and small professional decisions, is that the key is the commitment piece, which has everything to do with your own active engagement in your own life, pursuits and passions. At the moment in which you truly commit to a project, an idea, a version of yourself, you may find the world lining up in ways that allows the success to happen — you meet people who make connections, you have a conversation with someone who tells you the exact thing you needed to hear, you find a partner with whom to collaborate, and on and on. In my own still-evolving professional life, I have encountered the most amazing moments of a world conspiring — but only when I was fully, honestly engaged, with the kind of commitment that is felt deeply when no one else is around to see or validate.

I have experienced this same phenomena. When I fully commit to something, everything seems to line up. But it’s not “everything” doing that — it’s me doing that. There is an inexplicable energy that comes with such a commitment.

Right now I am exploring a new project, a potentially big and risky one. When I am ready to commit — and if I am, I must fully commit — I believe I will make it so. It might fail, and it might fail gloriously, but in that I will have committed to it, I will have also committed to learning with, through, and from it, regardless of the outcome.  It’s a refreshing perspective because it can eliminate some of the apprehension and fear that sometimes act as back-seat drivers.

I also wonder if this is where the construct of faith comes from — there is a leap of faith that is involved with such commitments. Because really – are we ever 100% certain something will work out? My quotient of certainty increases as my commitment increases.

PS: The Goethe Society of North America has more about this original quote, HERE. It’s a good read.

Random Learning – The Empathic Civilization

This is actually my random learning, not my kid’s.  My colleagues and I, in our monthly “assessment geek out,” accidentally stumbled across this video today. I am still processing it all, but I am interested in how we embody and enact empathy, why, and under what conditions. I try to be an empathic person, to consider and try to experience the perspectives of others. But, especially in my work with adult learners (though really in everything I do, including parenting my 4-year old, supporting my colleagues, and being with friends), I always wonder where the line is between being empathic and being too empathic (if there is such a thing). When does an empathic approach get in the way of what might be best for my students or my kid?

So – my random learning: The Empathic Civilization, by RSA Animate.

Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.

I also am left wondering:  can we really evolve as a civilization – a species – to be more empathic? Seemingly so (according to Rifkin). But ARE we doing so? Sometimes, on days when the glass is half-empty and the national and international news continually presents stories of violence, incivility, intolerance, prejudice, and environmental damage, I am not so sure we are evolving to be more empathic . . .  But it seems good to know that we can.