Learning together – what it needs and what it means

August 26, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |


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Nadia von HolzenBringing together 95 learning practitioners does not provide a guarantee to joint learning nor community forming. Learning together needs space for joint inquiry and deliberation. Learning together needs true and deep conversations. Conversations are connecting and connections are the condition for deep conversations.

 Nadia von Holzen, SDC

Hosting 95 professional facilitators, hosts, networkers, community leaders and learning advisers is a challenging task. Being hosted as professional hosting specialist is not easy either. And that’s exactly what I did. I joined the 3-days Art of Hosting workshop. I was one of the 95, learning practitioners from 35 countries.

conversationFrom a learning perspective, this experience to sit ‘on the other side’ was interesting. On the last morning our hosts asked the question: What are we learning together? This question triggered a whole train of thoughts: Are we learning together? How are we learning together?

Invest in connecting people

During the 3-days workshop I got to know many inspiring people. Yet it could have been more. I got the impression our hosts somehow thought people would connect anyway and the community would grow. We didn’t, at least not deep and fast enough.

The quality of relationships has an impact on the quality of results we achieve.
Tim Merry

With the change of perspective from host to the hosted one, I am more than ever convinced that relationship building needs an invitation and space, especially in large groups. Connecting is work. Also professional facilitators, hosts, networkers, community organizers and learning advisers can be shy people and feel alone.

Questions to think about:

  • How well do people know each other? How connected are they?
  • Are there people new to the community or the network? How can we assist them to integrate?
  • What do they need to connect?

Invite people into the ‘teaching’

At the workshop we had many experts in the room. Actually 95. Many of us are busy with designing learning processes; we think about leadership issues; we are involved in network development and community building; and many are confronted with complexity and how to deal with that. But there were our hosts teaching us and we, the hosted ones, were listening and asking questions. In my view our harvest would have been broader and deeper would we have shared the teaching and moved faster to joint deliberation

In the teacher trance, we all become attached to explanation and answers, and the surprise of discovery becomes a threat. But discovery is what really imprints learning.
Johnnie Moore

Questions to think about:

  • How can we reach out to the participants before the workshop to inquire their needs and questions and to include their experiences and expertise?

Learning needs conversations

On day one we longed for conversations in smaller and larger groups. The Open Space sessions on day two tasted good. Challenges came on the table. Questions were explored. Stories were shared. The feedback round showed clearly people need and want conversations to give a meaning to what they hear.

It is through conversation that knowledge flows directly from person to person, learning takes place, insights are gleaned, connections are made and relationships are built.
David Gurteen

Questions to think about:

  • Are we giving enough space to conversation; also for self-organized conversations framed by the participants?

Daily reporting teams make feedbacks travel fast

Hosting large groups differs from small groups when it comes to feedbacks and sensing the atmosphere in the room. Large groups need appointed “sensors”, people from within the circle of participants that carry the feedback to the hosts. I have good experience with ‘reporting teams’ coming together for 15′ after the day is finished. Early feedbacks allow the organizers to act fast. Already minor programme changes can make a big difference.

The change of perspective was an inspiring source of learning. Thank you to all the 95, the hosts and the hosted ones.

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