A Manifesto for Learning

In more traditional educational circles this is called a Teaching Philosophy Statement. I am not a traditional thinker. This is my Manifesto for Learning.

In more traditional educational circles this is called a Teaching Philosophy Statement. But given my INTP personality, I am not a traditional thinker, and I love to learn things. Therefore, I believe my role in education is a learning experience designer. Not a professor. Not a teacher. So this is not a teaching philosophy statement. This is my Manifesto for Learning.

We want to learn–not be taught

Highly effective teachers design better learning experiences for their students in part because they conceive of teaching as fostering learning. Everything they do stems from their strong concern for and understanding of the development of their students. They follow a few traditions blindly and recognize when a change in the conventional course is both necessary and possible.

Ken Bain @ author of What the Best College Teachers Do

I couldn’t have written this statement from Ken Bain better myself. It is 100% intentional that I choose to focus on the word learn, not teach. Teaching implies a one-way relationship where students are placed in a passive, receiving role to be taught. However, learning implies a more active and balanced relationship, where the student (or the “learner”) must take ownership of their learning journey.

“Everything starts with design”

Says Paul Rand. This “everything” includes learning. At its core, design is a humanist approach to solving problems. Or flipped to the positive, design is about uncovering new opportunities to create something or make something better for people.

Design thinking is all about learning by doing.

David Kelley @ IDEO

I believe the best chance at sustained success in a human-centered industry like education that operates in a fast-moving world is to approach as a designer. This starts with a design thinking mindset. Design thinking–and the associated process to apply it, which is also known as structured creativity–is an approach to deliver more meaningful, sustainable innovation in business. According to David Kelley, founder of design firm IDEO and professor at Stanford University, there are four pillars of design thinking:

  1. Design is human-centred
  2. Design is collaborative
  3. Design is optimistic
  4. Design is experimental

Authentic learning = active learning

These approaches are two sides of the same coin when it comes to instructional practices.

In education, a facilitator most often means supporting students in learning their course material by providing an environment for engagement; a set of resources, such as questions, relevant articles, current research, real-life problems and/or industry cases to engage with; and using assessment tools that provide the learner with meaningful feedback.

Terry Doyle @ author of Learner-Centered Teaching: Putting the Research on Learning into Practice

My Beliefs and Biases

As a learning experience designer, I am focused on enabling the learning outcomes my learners need to demonstrate. I deeply believe the following things when it comes to authentic learning:

  • Multiple brains are better than one brain–I am confident to share control of the learning environment with you
  • You are a sponge, not a bucket–I am not supposed to neatly summarize all the information on a topic to fill your heads with
  • Guide on the side, not the sage on the stage–I do not have to be the single expert source of a topic, lecturing about it to you
  • A curator and a creator of content–I happily use 3rd party learning content, but I’ll fill any gaps or add unique perspective when required
  • You can tell me what’s what–I want your feedback to tweak and adjust lessons, activities, and assignments
  • You start at 0%–I don’t take away grades from you…you are in control of earning as many grades as you want based on your effort
  • We are in it together–I am learning along with you

The journey of authentic learning is not linear. It is messy. It is hard as fuck. And frankly, it’s bigger than a grade–so try to worry less about this.

Learning is messy

I work in post-secondary education and professional development which means that my learner is an adult who has made a decision to continue their education because they want to learn.

Learning happens in the minds and souls, not in the databases of multiple-choice tests.

Sir Ken Robinson @ author of The Element

With this in mind, I respect that you come to me with different aptitudes, expectations, and motivations based on your background. I work hard to provide opportunities for you to learn through engaging in the inquiry of your interests, problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-reflection in a real-world context. Five (5) examples of authentic learning activities and assessment I use most often include:

  1. Reading–watching–listening to relevant, industry-standard content to learn fundamental definitions, processes, and practices (when applicable)…the best place to learn about paid advertising using Facebook isn’t for me to lecture you on it, but for you to go to Facebook for Business to explore it yourself
  2. Discussing questions and doing online challenges to spark inquiry and to encourage conversation on different aspects of marketing…I love talking about marketing
  3. Analyzing case studies, playing simulations…which sparks more talking about marketing
  4. Practicing actual digital marketing things: conducting a social media marketing audit, building a content marketing strategy and plan, creating online content for your portfolio, doing social media management using software like Hootsuite etc.
  5. Doing qualitative self-reflection and quantitative analysis of applied practice

By doing more of these applied practices, I absolutely believe it will ultimately deliver a better learning outcome.

We need to trust each other

For all of this to happen you need to trust me, I need to trust you, and you need to trust your fellow learners. A big part of my role as a learning experience designer is to create the conditions for a healthy learning ecosystem to thrive; which is based on these principles:

  • To encourage curiousity and critical thinking
  • To support open communication and different perspectives
  • To provide constructive feedback
  • To have fun doing learning
  • To build the confidence to try…and maybe fail, but so it is not an epic fail

Each of us is a human who has a unique youness to offer the world based on a combination of personality traits, abilities, and interests.

The ultimate measure of my success as a learning experience designer is not how many of you earn an A grade; it is how many of you confidently use your youness to help take the next step in your career–whatever it might be.

There’s a wealth of talent that lies in all of us. All of us, including those who work in schools, must nurture creativity systematically and not kill it unwittingly.

Sir Ken Robinson @ author of The Element

So, are you ready to take the journey with me? 😀