This post is the fourth one (and the last in this specific series!) on taking my specific teaching/training experience through the stages Experiential Learning Cycle. It is written in response to John Pfordresher’s Reflective Challenge 6. This post also sends you to the previous challenges from earlier this year, and invites you to reflect together with the reflective group of bloggers and teachers or trainers. It has been an amazing experience to me so far!
If you are interested in reading more about the ELC, please go here (my post earlier this year).
A very brief background before I get started: the action plan, or action points, are based on the beliefs shared in the Generalization stage of the cycle, and those come from the Description and Analysis stages of the ELC:
One more note before I really start: I have been thinking lately about the difference between setting an action plan or an action point for myself as a result of reflecting through the ELC. I realized that to me personally an action point could be just one thing I decide to do, whereas action plan is more than one thing, and is usually a set of decisions as to what to do.
My list of beliefs (in the order they appeared in the post, with color coding added later and described below):
- Staying as polite and friendly as possible while listening to the others’ point of view, no matter what feelings or thoughts are interfering, is important to me (and even more so, is a sign of being professional)
- Decisions do not always depend on the people I am in direct communication with (and therefore my communication or sharing feelings does not always impact the decisions)
- Speaking in L2 (especially with different L1s) might bring an extra level of communication challenge.
- Learning (about) the training course participants as early before a course as possible ensures increased learning opportunities.
- Rules and codes of conduct on a training course need to be clear, transparent and fair to all its participants to maximize learning.
- Caring for successful educational projects means being aware of what a training course involves and facilitating all the communication channels to ensure that learning has time and space to happen.
- As a trainer, I need to be clear about the decision-making policy and agents and about my limits to have impact (especially in a different culture)
- Informing all the parties involved about what is important for the efficient course flow and result is needed at any stage and with any staff member (better to ‘double check’ than ignore or forget something)
- Learning and self-educating about the culture where the training is held is never underestimated, and requires patience and openness, and readiness to experience something unexpected.
First of all, looking at these beliefs I can’t say I am intended to bring each of them into the conscious level of action. Also, I see that this list is quite long, so I would like to categorize them somehow:
in colors other than black, I put the beliefs about communication and culture; as mentioned in the comments section, this seems to be my ‘theme’ for reflection this time.
I noticed that 4, 5 and 9 are inter-connected: you can’t decide what is ‘fair’ in one specific culture** before learning about the culture, its values and beliefs. (apologies for stating something obvious, I think I am writing this to clarify things for myself!)
**A note needs to be made that I am talking about a ‘mono’- culture group, where all the participants come from the same cultural and educational context. Things will be different on an international course where there are at least two culture groups represented.
7 is also culture-related but is more about learning the business context of the place the training is held. It is probably a part of the brown set above, but I am not sure now and putting it separately.
6 and 8 are both about clarity in communication (which I think is possible based on learning about culture, as written above)
Based on this grouping (and thinking aloud!) I am brainstorming these action points for myself. [Warning: some may read really obvious]
- before a course begins, I am planning to collect as much information as possible about the following: attendance policy, teachers’ reasons to join the course, their goals for the course, certification policy, etc. This can be done by contacting the site staff, asking questions via e-mail and/or Skype, etc.
- before a course begins, communicate my own beliefs and views on a successful training process to the site staff, and the rationale behind those. In both 1 and 2, written communication seems to be the best way to go
- at the very beginning of the training time, discuss the course standards, goals, requirements and assessment criteria with the participants, and together agree on specific course code of conduct, or class norms, values, etc. It is not important what those will be called, the most important idea is the clarity of communication. Make sure that this Code (Set) of norms is available and visible to everyone in the group, and that the site staff are aware of it as well
- during the course, use the written communication reference and the agreed Code (Set) of norms to solve any incoming ‘change requests’, especially based on the circumstances from the life outside the course (family, schools, etc.)
Having re-read what I wrote above, I started to wonder if those 4 steps are the things I am already doing (in less systematic way, probably). In this case, what is the point of having this plan? The other thing I am thinking about is how this realistic this plan is, i.e. is it possible to have everyone in the group agree on something, and then be absolutely consistent with various situations that are outside of the course context? (and to be objective and ‘fair’, etc.)? And finally, is it possible at all (on any professional development course) to have adult learners to focus on the course and leave the other aspects of life ‘on hold’ for the time of the course? In the recent MOOC there was a chance to submit an assignment one hour later (a so-called ‘grace period’, or something like that) and there was also a ‘late submission coupon’ which I think we could use once only and score fewer points, but still catch up)
I think I started to digress and even outlined a possible new area of my research and experiment. Well, in this case, I think this ELC experience helped me a lot. After all, no matter how long you keep taking the experiences through the cycle, the ELC can offer a new lens, a new twist, or a new question.
Thanks you for reading up to this point! I would love to hear what you think about the action points (or a plan?) and what you discover with the ELC’s help. As I said, this is my final post about this specific experience, but definitely not the last one about the Learning Cycle.