Valuing Collaborative Learning for Leading Change

You teach who you are and what you value. Who you are—your own unique spirit, personality traits, energy—shines through every word you say, everything you do, every decision you make. What you value about life and learning will also shine through and give a message, consciously or not, about what’s OK and what’s not OK.

This observation by Sharon Bowman, author of The Ten Minute Trainer, jumped out at me while skimming for some fresh ideas to make an upcoming workshop on creating a results-oriented culture more interactive. What I value most is collaborative learning.

Adults prefer to learn by building on their knowledge and experiences and want to move quickly from theory to practical application. With the advent of collaborative learning technologies, we can create and share knowledge with teams and communities of people inside and outside our organizations with increasing ease.

I see myself as a facilitator of collaborative learning. I am too intellectually honest to step into this role of learning facilitator without doing my own research and learning. To do less than this would dishonor the trust the group is extending to me. I only make one demand. I hold learners accountable to a vision that they should strive to learn to be the best they can be. My job is helping them discover the ideas, insights and actions that hold the greatest potential for them.

The learning processes I use in a workshop are the same processes any effective learning community has to cycle through whether they are in a meeting room together or meeting online. Any learning community has to discover the relevance and significance of the knowledge for their own situations while at the same time building a sense of camaraderie and trust. You do this best through designs that balance discovery with dialogue. Everyone has some knowledge or experience to offer to the group. Everyone has the ability through dialogue and reflection to transform new thinking into relevant changes for their world. Effective learning experiences connect these new ideas and practices to everyday actions. Learning is discovering how to lead change in your life, organization or situation.

What I value about life and learning is that they are inseparable and essential to each other. Our lives feed our learning and our learning feeds our lives. Our lives are lived most deeply in community with others. In collaborative learning, we prepare a feast of possibilities for each other.