What if?

Posted by jlubans on September 09, 2014

I like to mix up my teaching – no, I am not alluding to confusing my students. Rather, it is about how I teach: some lecture; some guided discussion of readings by small groups; some game-like activities that get everyone involved in doing the theory; and, some small group tasks that emphasize, in imaginative ways, lecture points. For me, lecture is not very effective. Why? It could be me, it could be the powerpoints, it could be the topic, and it could be the students. If I could get rid of lecture, I would. But, lecture seems necessary for setting forth basic concepts and content, for laying a foundation. What I say in my lecture helps with the intellectual framing of specific terms and concepts. Or, does it?
A “What if” lingers. What if we took away lecture and used readings and guided activities and discussion exclusively? Would learning happen? Less or more?
(If I take this on, and I just might, I’ll report back.)
I’ve written about using children’s books to underscore, indeed to teach, particular concepts covered in lectures and in readings. My most recent application of this technique was at a 3.5-day seminar about leading change. Participants were divided randomly into small groups, assigned an illustrated book and told to respond to a question: “What most important part of change do you derive from this story? Agree on and DRAW IT (emphasis added) to share with the large group including a summary of the story so others understand.”
Each of four groups went off with a book, crayons, and a blank sheet of flip-chart size paper.
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Caption: One of the four titles used in conceptualizing change or not.

I’d selected four titles: “Changes, Changes”, “Let’s Do Nothing”, “Mon. Saguette and His Baguette” and, “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed”.
Each tells a story about change and how people (mole rats, too) encounter and respond to change. Prior to the seminar, the students had read about a dozen articles on change, its theories and its application in organizations, including libraries.

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Caption: Re-telling the story, Changes, Changes.

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Caption: One group’s summary of key points in Mon. Saguette.

From a teacher’s perspective, I’d like to know if this activity could influence how a person responds to her next instance of change. Will this little exercise, among peers, suggest new ways, new approaches to dealing with the next real-life change occurrence? Or, is that too much to hope for? Perhaps not.
I look at the above drawing and am impressed with what the students
took away from this little book, the rays emanating from the sun of creativity:
Substituting
Using for another action
Adapting to the situation
Looking for added value
Going back to the previous situation
Combining

Now, I could have listed out the same points, in a whiz-bang powerpoint keyed to disco music and flashing lights. Somehow, I doubt if my lecture or media would have been anywhere near as effective as this group’s displaying the relevance of this story to our topic.

For the record: I am happy and honored to announce that I have been awarded a Fulbright Specialist Program Grant to teach at the University of Latvia in Riga from September 15 – October 20, 2014. These six weeks will give me an opportunity to test some of the ideas presented in this latest blog entry as well as to impart the concepts of freedom at work, the democratic workplace - among other organizational theories – and the process and challenge of leading from the middle.

@ Copyright John Lubans 2014
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