LdL as pattern breaker

one focal point of both my coaching and my teaching is the conservation of energy. at both frontiers, i encourage my client/student to refocus their attention to realise where energy (= attention, time, ressource, people, hope etc) is lost – and consequently how he or she can save this energy and invest it more wisely where it’s needed.

whats wrong?
behavioural patterns that are applied for a long time are internalised. patterns that once served a good purpose may become counterproductive later, or cause suffering. the problem is how to best break these patterns once you have decided to do so.

a recent coaching example: team leader notices team is not very motivated, and she is not the reason for it. she works hard, she walks the talk, she is supportive. but telling and living a different practice doesnt seem to be enough. old patterns of wasting energy (fighting between team members, withholding information etc) prevail. now, this is also a systemic problem: the surrounding culture does not encourage a pattern change, but still this is no reason to be complacent and inactive. my client itches to do something different. but what? how can she activate her team to learn?

an example from teaching: students these days have to cope with a broad set of topics all at once. most of them don’t just study, they have to work, too. there is not enough time for any deep studying, and just when they begin to engage with a subject because they spent enough time on it, both in and out of class, exam time beckons and forces them to disengage. as a result, the student becomes very efficient – not at learning but at coping instead. how can a teacher activate these students who have adopted patterns of learning behavior since school that are focused on “getting by” rather than “getting into it”? the average lecturer sees the problem and itches to do something different with the students. but what? how can he activate his students to learn?

in both cases, there is no drama here, and that’s a problem: the team functions well enough. the students learn something. but there is no meeting of minds and souls that accompanies great learning experiences. both business and school provide, in principle, ample opportunities for such a meeting – for an experience of seeing and of being seen, but the implementation is sub-optimal. if the meeting in mutuality cannot happen, there can be no flow whatsoever.

positive learning examples often only happen by chance and not by method: recently, some of my students created a “teamwork” mini-learning module in the form of a short (<5 min) movie. the main messages (“team efficiency and roles of members are deeply linked”; “become aware of your role in the team”; “be prepared to change this role”) were transported almost exclusively by images and gestures, without ever saying it (which is what i would have done). very effective – and also entertaining.

what to do?
as i see it today, LdL (German for “Lernen durch Lehren” = “learning through teaching”), already mentioned enthusiastically both in my november posting and on our school’s eLearning blog, could be a way out of the dilemma: preserve precious energy and direct it towards a common purpose in a pattern-breaking way. where i use this method already (albeit in a rudimentary hapharzard fashion), the results are astonishing – it is clear that students sit on “jewels” as Jean-Pol Martin (blog), the creator of LdL, writes.

why is this so?
(1) content is not dispensed by the leader/teacher but when it hits the audience, it is already expressed in the language of the learner. saves time needed to translate it into the language spoken by the audience.

(2) learners better know what the other learners need and where the main difficulties lie (namely, they simply think of their own difficulties). not so the leader/teacher who was a learner once but had to alter its entire position relative to the learning problem in order to become a leader/teacher.

(3) large parts of the raw knowledge and the time required to acquire enough knowledge to follow and keep learning more about a subject-matter, can be moved outside class. the class becomes a place where students feel seen and where they learn to see, gently guided by the teacher, but motivated and accompanied by their fellow students.

(4) at the lowest level, LdL means seeking a more participative, more empowering approach – at the highest level, it allows the leader/teacher to restrict himself more if not all of the time to a moderating, mediating, encouraging, coaching role. this is what i would call a paragon of leaderhip, a pattern of excellence.

what’s really going on?
as a method, LdL can be traced back to a rich landscape of theories – including complexity theory (self organisation, emergence), and neuroscience (mirror neurons). similar to other methods that i use successfully (e.g. constellations), i am less concerned with the “why” than with the “how” (an attitude that is unjustly labelled “pragmatic” rather than “scientific”).

where can i find out more?
there is a detailed description of LdL (in german) complete with a couple of case studies of introducing LdL at universities of applied sciences in technical disciplines.

there is also a video interviews with LdL developer joachim grzega (in English) on implementing LdL (part I, part II, part III) worth watching.

currently, the maschendraht community of teachers organises a blogparade on LdL. (requiring registration).

an entire LdL session at a school (in German) was filmed recently by Lutz Berger and can be viewed in its entirety (45 Min.) – this is with pupils of the 11th grade (in Germany this means the pupils are 16-17 yrs of age on average).

what about e-learning and LdL?
that’s a question for another blog. in short, i believe that current e-learning tools (or the larger set of web 2.0 tools) – like blogs and twitter – are very well suited to be used for blended learning with LdL: students are often more skilled and experienced in these tools than lecturers. and these tools will not be developed further for and by teachers, but for and largely by students.

what about business?
for the business reader who came to the end of this article: i did speak about your world early on and then i only talked about teaching and students. however, from the few discussions that i had with business clients, it is obvious that parts of LdL could be applied in a context like business, which relies on learning but which also deals with other issues (like: getting the job done).

to begin with, try this simple experiment: reframe by naming one day “learner day”. on this day, every employee (or team) must identify one subject that he could teach other employees (or teams). in the following week, you pair employees (or teams) and they set time aside to actually teach each other.

what’s next?
beginning next semester (april 2009) i will turn a course on business information systems (2nd sem) into an LdL-inspired course – will keep you posted how that goes! beyond that, i think that LdL and similar empowering approaches pick up on the zeitgeist and that we will see a lot of changes in the next few years – both in business and in schools.

13 thoughts on “LdL as pattern breaker”

  1. What you should be keeping in mind, too: Nowadays students are forced to present different topics all the time. So there is another pattern that has to be broken. It’s more than just present results for the teacher or lecturer but for the classmates / the fellow students.

    I’m happy to hear that you have such great results in your course. But from my perspective I can tell that after 6 (or more) semesters students have developed a very fixed pattern of how they do presentations. And it’s mostly about minimizing effort and getting good marks and not about teaching others, I’m afraid.

    So what I think is (one of) the most important part of what you described here: the motivation by the fellow students. If you can find a way to motivate not by marks (extrinsic) but by the wish to help the others to learn (intrinsic) – huge difference to teaching them! -, I think this is an absolutely great way of doing lectures.

  2. @tads i recognise the pattern that you mention – this is a beautiful example because i am all for minimising effort (=energy) and getting good marks. even my own motivation isn’t purely intrinsic: i also like to minimise my effort and get good marks (from the students)! i like to work less and get paid more for it! this is perfectly honorable, i think.

    the difference between me and the students may be that i found out that going for minimal energy and good marks DIRECTLY is not the most efficient way to get this result. you have better chances to achieve your long term goal if you allow for more work in the short term.

    it’s perhaps a little like finding love and lasting relationship: you dont get very far with the message: “listen, i want you as a partner because then i dont have to work so hard all the time, i want to be loved for who i am.” though this is exactly what we want (at least i do), relationships last if both partners signalise at the outset “i am willing to put a lot of work into this” (and follow up on that promise).

    so, i suppose i dont think too much of the distinction “extrinsic” vs. “intrinsic” motivation. all true motivation is intrinsic and dies in the absence of external stimulus and validation. you always need both. but people are intrinsically curious, and they want love, work and entertainment. in LdL as in other empowering methods, you only give more space to these wants.

    you end up not really “giving lectures” anymore. and in a fulfilling relationship, you end up not feeling the work to make it last as “work”. in business, fulfilling jobs become something you care about rather than something you were made to do.

    and to my students, i say: this is the place to get great grades with minimal effort – but a different kind of effort, more collective than individual. this gap collective vs. individual is a topic for another blog, i suppose!

  3. Thanks for the post!

    It really made me think about me – coping instead of learning.

    Not intentionally letting it to become a pattern, however, is a choice I fear, I (and most probably many other students) can not afford to make.

    The stagnating teaching system – the inflexible curricular, the (on an average) unappealing courses structures, in addition to the antique grading criteria force students to adapt, thus to cope.

    Considering, mainly a standardized single and mostly final output, instead of the whole process, with all the spillover learning effects, real personal involvement (time spent, ideas implemented, knowledge created and etc.) have, sadly, extremely strong influence on the learner.

    Providing certain standardized solutions, not taking into consideration neither the understanding of the problem, nor the answer itself and concentrating on the naked output, without considering the process involved, is valued more than actual learning.

    Additionally, the above mentioned motivation through fellow students, has in the same context actually a demotivating effect. When people succeed getting great marks, for concentrating on time-efficient remembering, one starts to wonder, if it is really worthy to spend more time and get the same or less in return. At the end no one can be sure, how much of the gained knowledge will be useful in the future.

    A fresh example from Thursday:

    The most of the students from my class, were angry at a professor, for not managing to prepare a questionaire with decent answers (many of which – multiple choice) as a preparation for the exam.

    As he tried to explain the idea behind the questions, many had no interest in listening – just wanting the sample solutions on which to concentrate.

  4. hmmm, warum nicht auch mal ganz anders das problem betrachten:

    “a recent coaching example: team leader notices team is (!) very motivated, and she is not (!) the reason for it.”

    und nu? das ist auch ein problem und zwar ein durchaus realistisches. es gibt viel unterricht, wo man nicht weiß, warum die ergebnisse gut sind, es aber nicht am lehrer bzw. team leader liegt. und dann? dann wird schnell ein zusammenhang konstruiert, weil der erfolg ja einen vater oder eine mutter braucht. ich persönlich glaube, dass sich viel mehr zufällig ereignet als man/frau annimmt und man das einfach akzeptieren sollte. der mensch lernt/lebt zufällig, ohne sinn, ohne bedeutung. was wäre eigentlich, wenn man darüber weiter nachdenken würde …

  5. @itari du hast das zitat falsch wiedergegeben: die mitarbeiter sind NICHT sehr motiviert.

    abgesehen davon: sicherlich ist es am besten, wenn die teamleiterin die verantwortung für den “zickenkrieg” (um den es sich hier handelte) an die mitarbeiterinnen zurückgäbe. das wäre auch schon ein schritt richtung ermächtigung/empowering, sogar vielleicht der einzig notwendige.

    wie sie ihrer (realen) führungsrolle gerecht wird ohne zur team-mutter zu werden, ist genau der punkt. mir ist es in der praxis meistens völlig egal, wo das muster unterbrochen wird – am besten ist sogar, es dort zu tun, wo es am einfachsten ist (zb. einfach durch zurückgeben der verantwortung an das team). ich bin keinesfalls der meinung, dass eine teamleiterin die übermutter spielen soll, aber sie muss in der lage sein, eigene und team-verhaltensmuster zu erkennen und ggflls. zu durchbrechen.

    im vorliegenden fall ist schon viel wasser unter der brücke durchgeflossen und beide seiten leiden unter dem status quo. also höchste eisenbahn für CHANGE.

  6. @vanbak thanks for this example and the comments! you wrote, in my view, a veritable anti-manifesto, a complete account of how NOT to do it in teaching …

    behavioral patterns are more often than not unintentionally (ie unconsciously) chosen. some of the issues you describe are a consequence of educational process standards. this is not necessary – kaosPilots are an example (check it out – http://www.kaospilot.dk/). grading is a horrible distortion of the need for validation, in my view. as a teacher, i have to play along to some extent, but (as you know 😉 i try to undermine this nonsense wherever i can …

    that coping and surviving become core behavioral strategies is one possible choice only, however. to stress the relationship example once more: you either change a stressful relationship or you leave it. the opportunities for change are, in my experience, generally underestimated by students. many teachers dont set good examples here either, i am afraid.

    consider society at large: there are extremely rigid standards of social behavior enforced by law and (more effectively) by peer pressure: does this stop you from enjoying life? from getting involved? from finding love, satisfaction, teachers you like and subjects that absorb you? your emphasis on the WHOLE process instead of a single event, grade, course etc. is spot on!

    the road to “actual learning” as you call it, goes, like the true creative process, through all the ups and downs you identified so ably.

    as for your case example: have some mercy on the poor professor – at least he “tried to explain”, ie he was seeking dialogue albeit not successfully.

    you wrote: “At the end no one can be sure, how much of the gained knowledge will be useful in the future.”

    in the words of the poet:

    “What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your while development; you couldn’t disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to question that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.”

    (R M Rilke, letters to a young poet, transl. by stephen mitchell – http://tinyurl.com/59o5v)

    hope this helps!

  7. @itari … verstehe erst beim 2. lesen, dass du den text ja absichtlich verändert hast! und du hast einfach recht, das ist auch häufig ein problem.

    im systemischen coaching besteht die kunst gerade darin, auf kosten des ego, sich zurückzuziehen, so dass der klient gar nichts von einer intervention merkt. paradox – aber gut.

  8. @msb,
    oh da hab ich mit dem benutzten der verkehrung des zitats nicht deutlich genug gemacht, dass ich es anders herum meinte (ich hatte gedacht, dass die verkehrung deiner aussage verstanden wird): ich wollte deine aussage umdrehen, in dem sinne, dass die leut motiviert sind ohne support. weshalb? weil wir uns immer um die probleme kümmern, aber nie fatalistisch annehmen, dass mal was funktioniert, ohne erklären zu können, warum es funktioniert. dies ist ein problem unseres denkens: wir wollen immer eine ursache und einen begründungszusammenhang … wir sagen so selten: es war das schicksal. zurück zu deinem beispiel: warum schreibst du über probleme und nicht darüber, wie unerklärlich dinge gut laufen? das wäre lehrreich in dem sinne, dass man nichts, aber auch gar nichts darüber lernen kann, da es purer zufall ist. ist meine botschaft nun angekommen? in der welt gibt es mehr unerklärliches als man denkt. warum es nicht einfach unerklärlich lassen?

  9. @itari nu ha ick dir verstanden! botschaft auf der erde angekommen 😉

    persönlich habe ich auch gar kein problem damit, unerklärliches (im grunde betrifft das alles!) auch unerklärt zu lassen. wenn ich mal meine positivistische ausbildung usw. hinter mir lasse.

    zu deiner frage: ich schreibe über probleme, weil die leute (coaching klienten in diesem fall) mit diesem mindset (“ich habe ein problem”) zu mir kommen. in einem prozess des “gentle reframing” führt das dann häufiger als nicht zu dem von dir skizzierten ergebnis.

    dieses reframing ist aber gerade auch ein prozess des muster-brechens (pattern breaking). wenn wir die studenten daran gewöhnen können, sind sie zwar minimal an die berufswelt angepasst, aber maximal gut auf all das unerwartet-unerklärliche vorbereitet, das sie dort erwartet!

    also d’accord! dein “Lernen ohne Lehrer” ist ganz genau so gut wie “Lernen durch Lehren”, wenns funzt. aber man kann auch “Lernen ohne Lehrer” zum Gegenstand von “Lernen durch Lehren” machen. oder krieche ich jetzt rückwärts in mein eigenes argument hinein? du verwirrst mich – very witchy!

  10. @msb


    kaosPilots – fascinated me. After 10 min. on the site I started dreaming… I am going to apply there!

    R M Rilke – so emotional, so honest, so real! I found an answer for myself – at least for now (:

    Both – incredibly motivating – a perfect combination!

    behavioral patterns are more often than not unintentionally (ie unconsciously) chosen.

    I think you are right – psychology is great!

  11. Hi, ich bin beim Surfen auf deine Blog gestossen. Da ich mich auch mit Coachen und Unterichten beschäftige, finde ich dein Beispiel mit der Teamleiterin sehr interessant. Kann es sein, dass sie durch ihre sehr starke Präsenz in Gruppe evt. auch div. Reibereien verusacht, weil einege Teammitglieder gerne bei ihr an 1. Stelle stehen möchten? Was wäre, wenn sie sich etwas rausnehmen würde und darauf vertrauen würde, dass ihr Team gute Arbeit leistet? Hat sie möglicher Weise Angst, dass ihr Team nicht gut genug ist, oder Fehler machen könnte für die sie zur Verantwortung gezogen wird. Vielleicht wäre es gut, wenn ihr Vorgesetzter ihr klarmachen könnte, dass es mit der Leistung ihres Teams zufrieden ist, so dass sie weniger Kontrollzwänge in ihr Team projeziert und ihm so mehr Freiraum lässt für seine Arbeit. Ich glaube schon, dass sie ständig versucht ihr Team zu motivieren, aber das kann auch sehr erstickend sein, wenn man sich bei jedem Gedanken begleitet und kontrolliert fühlt, dies nimmt eine auch das Gefühl der Eigenverantwortung und somit auch ein Stück Motivation. Ist es möglich, dass sie mit Versagensängsten zu tun hat, die sie dazu bringen ihr Team ständig zu beaufsichtigen? Es würde doch reichen, wenn sie da ist, wenn sie um Hilfe gebeten wird, wenn das Team nicht weiterkommt. Wie beim LdL sie sollte ihr Team planen und arbeiten lassen und nur eingreifen, wenn es ins Stocken gerät und ihre Hilfe wirklich benötigt. Vertauen soll ja manchmal Wunder wirken!

  12. hallo maria! schön, dass du hierher gefunden hast. deine analyse der situation ist sehr nahe an meinen vermutungen! mit der mangelnden wertschätzung des vorgesetzten hat es, glaube ich weniger zu tun – aber die “versagensängste” (ich würde es etwas abschwächen: perfektionismus od angst vor kontrollverlust) sind “spot on”. paradoxerweise besteht durchaus ein vertrauensverhältnis mit der teamleiterin, allerdings geht das möglicherweise so weit, dass man von einem “mutterproblem” sprechen kann, d.h. in der sprache der analytiker, von einer transferenz (mutterprojektion) von seiten der teammitglieder und einer gegentransferenz (annahme der projektion) durch die leiterin… dieses muster zu durchbrechen geht nach offizieller lesung durch bewusstbarmachen von dem, was unterschwellig vorgeht. in der realität reicht diese meta-behandlung leider häufig nicht, weil wir (du, ich, und auch die leiterin) in unsere muster verliebt sind – wir leben schon so lange mit ihnen, sie haben uns genützt – wir fühlen uns “eins” mit unseren mustern… aber auf der praktischen ebene hast du sicher recht, und “loslassen” ist kein schlechter rat!

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