In preparing my recent session at Lean Agile Scotland (on “Theory of Change“) I decided to try a different format from the usual conference thirty-minute “push stuff at the audience” presentation. I generally prefer to encourage interaction and help improve learning amongst all present. In fact, my key aim is always to help more learning happen. On this, I very much share Russell Ackoff’s viewpoint:
“You see, everybody recognizes immediately that teachers are the ones who learn the most. School is absolutely upside down. Students ought to be teaching. The faculty ought to be learning.”
~ Russell L. Ackoff
I believe conferences are as much upside down as our schools. My Lean Agile Scotland session was conceived within this frame.
So I chose a topic of which I have little direct experience myself, but with much relevance to my work at present. This afforded me an opportunity to learn about it through preparing to teach something about it.
And I also chose to include a significant block of time – ten minutes – for the audience to discuss issues pertinent to their own situations. I.E. The Theory of Change prevailing in their own workplace, and the assumptions underpinning their current or planned change initiatives. This, with the belief this would afford the audience a better learning opportunity through some aspects of teaching each other what they knew.
In a nutshell, I chose to hold the space so that some mutual exploration of the topic could happen. This was, admittedly, something of an experiment.
The session turned out much like Marmite. Some loved it. Some hated it. (Some 100 attendees; 14 green feedback cards, 20 orange, 9 red). The haters shared one thing in common, as far as I could tell. The session did not match their expectations. In particular, some shared their frustration that there had been little “content” pushed at them.
As this had been my deliberate choice – to eschew pushing content at folks – I was not too surprised. But I did feel some sympathy for their reaction, given that they had little chance to know in advance that this would be the format. And thus little opportunity to make an informed choice whether to attend, or go to another, parallel, session.
I’ll be writing a companion post to this one in the near future, with suggestions for improving the information available to attendees prior to a session, and with the aim of reducing the chance of disappointment through mismatched expectations.
Now might be a good time to help me with those suggestions. Would you be willing to?
The Purpose of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching ~ pp. Russell L. Ackoff & Daniel Greenberg
Students should be teaching. Schools should be learning. ~ Educamp blog