The Hard Work of Collaborative Learning

Let’s be honest about collaborative learning for a moment.  People who just want an answer—fast—would rather listen to experts or click their way to a solution.

And those experts—well—they just barely have time to spew forth some of what they know before racing to their next great achievement.

And too many association executives are forced to crank out educational opportunities, because they are programming too many sessions, meetings and workshops to have enough time to inspect their products for learning outcomes and quality experiences.

Is this assessment too harsh? It takes time and effort on everyone’s part to create a culture for collaborative learning. This post expands on my article, The Power of Collaborative Learning, appearing in the June issue of Associations Now and is cross-posted to the ASAE blog, Acronym.

For this culture to happen, association members will have to stop acting like consumers and accept their responsibility as co-creators of the knowledge and competencies in their field.

Content experts will have to learn new skills as learning facilitators and give up some control and ego gratification to put learners first.

Professional development leaders will have to take more risks and work harder than ever to create the formats and practices to support collaborative learning.

But that’s a big chunk of change for any association. What are some first steps any association can take to lead a change toward collaborative learning? Let me nominate two simple steps here and then share two additional resources from our own community of shared learning. I’ll offer more tips for your content experts in my next post.

  1. At the outset of a learning experience, presenters/facilitators can set expectations by planning for and explaining the role learning participants will have in creating new understanding, ideas or tools. 
  2. At the conclusion, instead of only evaluating how the presenter/facilitators did, associations can ask learning participants to evaluate how well the group collaborated in achieving learning outcomes.
  3. Use these tips to overcome resistance to active participation.
  4. Experiment with new meeting formats that increase participation.

If you’ve got a success story to share or resources you have used, please share. We’re in this transition together.

Collaborative learning does require much more from everyone at the outset. What we gain is a capacity to learn together that should prove immeasurable in creating knowledge, overcoming challenges and innovating for the future.