A Manifesto for Learning

Traditional education terminology calls this a Teaching Philosophy Statement. Given my INTP tendencies, I’m not a traditional thinker. My role in education is as a learning experience designer. Not a professor (in spite of what my formal title says). Not a teacher. So this isn’t a teaching philosophy statement. This is my Manifesto for Learning.

We want to learn, not be taught

It is 100% intentional that I focus on the word learn vs. teachTeaching implies more of 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 I prefer the learner) has more control over–and must take ownership of–their own learning journey.

The following words from Ken Bain in the book What the Best College Teachers Do support my beliefs:

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.

Everything starts with design

Said 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.

I believe the best chance at sustained success in a human-centred industry like education that operates in a fast-moving world is to approach it as a designer. This starts with a design thinking mindset. Design thinking principles–and the associated practices to apply it (a.k.a. “structured creativity”)–is an approach to deliver more meaningful, sustainable innovation in business.

According to David Kelley, founder of global design company 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

Design thinking is all about learning by doing.

David Kelley

Active, authentic learning for the win

Call it “active learning” or call it “authentic learning”. Either way, these approaches are two sides of the same coin when it comes to learning experience design practice.

The following words from Terry Doyle in the book Learner-Centred Teaching: Putting the Research on Learning into Practice influence my practice:

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.

Blair’s beliefs and biases

As a learning experience designer, I’m focused on enabling the learning outcomes my learners need to demonstrate. My goal is to empower you to discover and construct your own knowledge.These are my fundamental beliefs and biases when it comes to authentic learning:

  • You start at 0%: I don’t take grades away from you–I don’t have that kind of power. You control how many grades you want to earn based on the effort you put into your learning.
  • Your brain is a sponge, not a bucket: I’m not going to neatly summarize the content on a topic to fill your head with. You need to read, listen or watch content, make notes on your own to think about information in different ways to absorb it.
  • Your guide on the side, not the sage on the stage: I’m perfectly comfortable not being the single source of knowledge who has to lecture to you. 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 and Facebook Blueprint and explore it yourself. I curate learning content and create when necessary to fill any gaps or add a unique perspective when required.

I’m on my own learning journey along with you. And I’m confident to share control of the learning environment with you, which means I expect more of you. Doing active, authentic learning isn’t easy or linear. It’s messy…but we’re all in it together!

Multiple brains learn more together than one brain does alone.

Blair Smith

Learning by thinking and doing

My work in post-secondary education and professional development means that you’re an adult who has made a conscious decision to invest in their learning journey because you want to learn about modern marketing.

With this in mind, I respect that you come to me with different aptitudes, expectations, and motivations based on your background. I design opportunities for you to learn through exploring themes and topics in marketing that are interesting for you; demonstrating relevant critical thinking and problem-solving for marketing; and, reflecting on the specific marketing principle, process and/or practice you’ve done. These are three general examples of the most authentic learning activities and assessments I use:

  1. Use industry-standard content and tools: Build course curriculum around Hootsuite Academy courseware, Hootsuite Enterprise social media management software, Facebook Blueprint, Google Analytics Academy courseware, Google Analytics website analytics software, Slidedocs for reporting.
  2. Content creation and publishing: Build your personal portfolio by publishing core/evergreen content such as blog articles, infographics, podcast and/or video to a website. And using social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram with social posts that link to your content to share it with the world!
  3. Digital marketing practice: Do marketing and media math calculations. Conduct a social marketing audit. Develop a content marketing program. Do social media management for your personal brand. Analyze digital marketing programs using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Communicate through data storytelling using Slidedoc format.

Fundamental marketing principles and processes are important foundations to establish; which provide a more stable base for practice. I always try to balance thinking and doing in pursuit of relevant learning outcomes for modern marketing based on the needs of my employer partners who want to hire people like you.

Trust in each other

For all of this learning to happen you need to trust yourself and your fellow learners, you need to trust me, and I need to trust you. An important part of learning experience design is to nurture the conditions for a thriving learning ecosystem, which is based on these five principles:

  1. Encourage curiousity, critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Support open communication and different perspectives
  3. Provide constructive feedback
  4. Develop a growth mindset…which means to maybe fail, but so it is not an epic fail
  5. Have fun doing learning

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

The following words from Sir Ken Robinson in the book The Element sum it up beautifully:

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.

The ultimate measure of my success as a learning experience designer isn’t how many of you earn an A grade. It’s how many of you demonstrate youness with confidence that enables you to take the next step in your career–whatever it might be.

Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.

William Butler Yeats

Thank you for reading my Manifesto for Learning. So, are you ready to spark your fire? 🔥