Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Association Members Need to Learn About Learning



"The Eagle Hill School is Harvard, MA believes that every student can learn, that learning differently requires teaching differently, and that we must educate our students to learn about learning in order to form new beliefs in the search for intellectual autonomy."  Stephen Tonti

What a wonderful TEDTalk.  Even more important, is what associations can take away from it.  As learning institutions ourselves, we have got to step our game up if we want to accommodate the new learners who are coming our way.  Here are some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control on ADHD from August 2012.  I loved the fact that Mr. Tonti positions ADHD as "learning differently" as opposed to labeling it a "learning disorder."  I believe we do tend to classify people we don't know how to teach as if it is THEIR "problem," and not admit to ourselves that some of our struggles might be due to our own deficiencies as educators as well.

However, this isn't just about adjusting our instructional methods to reach an adult population who suffers from ADHD or other spectrum issues.  What Stephen is saying is broadly applicable to ALL learners we inherit in the association system.  We must teach our members what they need to know to be successful in their careers, but we also need to layer our learning programs with information on "learning how to learn," and leading by example.  Your volunteer instructors need training on learning techniques in order to help those individuals who have not been fortunate enough to benefit from an education that has taught them "how to learn" because they have been so busy "teaching to the test" for so long.

We are inheriting an adult learner population that needs additional help. What "we have always provided" in terms of education, might not be enough any more.  If associations want to be the hotbeds of innovation we like to think they are, then unleashing a wave of talented members who have learned how to learn, as well as being at the top of their field, could lead to all manner of breakthroughs that we haven't even thought of yet.  Ideas that we can capitalize on and share, and maybe even monetize.  At the very least, ideas to make the world a better place.

We need to also stop thinking about educational opportunities just in context of the professional development programs we offer.  We have all manner of opportunities to introduce people to experiences that will help them learn.  We should look on strategic planning, program creation, introduction to new technologies,etc., as (at the heart of it) learning opportunities.  Experimentation and innovation is just learning in practice.  If we want to create self-directed learners, we need to spend more time amplifying the opportunities we offer for people to practice mastery of their subject matter (guest blogging, video creation, research, program creation, etc.) and less time trying to control their output.

The good news is, we have more tools than ever before to accomplish this monumental task.  Now all we need is the will.

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