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.
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.
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.
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.