Learning and Development – Educator

20151104_145237The last two posts have looked at the designer role in learning and development. As we have noted, this role is quite different from the typical designer role and would produce considerably different learning designs than what we see so much of now; content focused events.

This post will look at the Educator role played in learning and development and the ‘mantra’ associated with it. The following post will focus on the remaining roles of Consultant and Facilitator.

Role Mantra

Once you have ‘considerably different’ learning designs worked out the role is that of Educator. This is not the educator role of educating people IN a learning and development initiative. It is the role of educating people (most often people with power) that the ‘considerably different’ designs you have are viable, workable and more effective than content focused events.

This role is about building a new left loop in the way we understand learning and development for larger groups of people in organizations. Personally, of the four roles listed above I find this role the most challenging. The reason for this is the stability of the left loop regarding how we currently understand learning and development and the fact that more often than not I am playing this Educator role with people who have power. Power over the decisions about how learning and development will occur in their organizations.

The problem is not that these people are resistant or simply want to do things their way. The problem more often than not is that no other way is even seen as an option in the first place! The left loop has become such a powerful habit it is often not even recognized as a habit, it is simply the way things are!

This is why the mantra for the Educator role is Be Early. It is critically important to be as early into the conversations about learning and development as possible. If you are early into these discussions you have a much greater possibility of affecting change from a design perspective.  If you are not early there is a really good chance the learning design is already well down the road and you will be in the facilitator role and all the risks associated with that role when design has not been part the roles you play.

Just think how often you have been part of a learning initiative where the scenario plays out something like this:

You get a call from someone saying they are getting their group together and want you to help them with something (communication, change, decision making, relationships etc.). The date has been set, people have been invited and often they have even allocated a period of time in the agenda for you to work with.

From a design perspective you are now being pushed very significantly into the facilitator role and that role is asking you to do your best to facilitate a content focused event. The person who has contacted you has very little interest in talking about ‘considerably different’ designs and little interest in being educated by you why they should consider such designs.

Anyone who has a role in learning and development has experienced this. It is a very, very common pattern of interaction in organizations.

So, how do you Be Early?

  1. First you need some idea of design alternatives so you have something to Be Early with! Remember the mantra More Interaction!
  2. Second, you need to recognize once you have ideas for design alternatives you are playing the role of Educator so you need to be able to justify (make the business case) for these alternatives.
  3. Third, even if you aren’t early; try something that illustrates, even incrementally, an extended time frame design.

To the first point above, we will be looking at a design idea in future posts but there really is no ‘go to’ design. If you focus on more interactions you can invent what might work best for your organization.

One of the things OUCH! is attempting to do is provide logical, rational arguments to seriously question typical ways things are done in organizations. It is hoped that you can use some of these logical points to act on point 2 above.

As an example of that last point let’s look again at the scenario above. Quite often in scenarios like this what you are being asked to help with is an agenda item in a longer meeting. Perhaps three hours of a two day meeting has been allocated to focus on ‘communication’. Rather than simply saying ‘Yes, I can do that for you’ you could for example propose that you spend one hour on content dealing with communication and then do 10 minute debriefs or reflective learning about how that content was actually applied after other meeting topics were dealt with on the agenda.

It’s an incremental step perhaps but is illustrative of the four key aspects of extended learning design:

  • Extended time frame for numerous interactions
  • Performance pressure
  • Concepts to experiment with to change interactions
  • A process for learner reflection

It also gets you into a design discussion, at least a little, and you can use that to play the Educator role, at least a little and you will be seen in a different light, one that can Be Earlier the next time.

Playing the Educator role, while it can be very challenging is actually one of the best opportunities we have to personally experience an extended time frame learning design. A design for us in learning and developing our own role of Educator!

It is highly unlikely you are going to change the stable left loop of content focused event learning design in your organization with one magical interaction. One perfectly crafted argument delivered to those in power that changes the way learning and development is done!

So how would you design your own extended time frame learning initiative? One that helps you learn and develop the 4 roles noted above? A design that helps you build a new left loop regarding learning and development in your organization? How might you use the interaction model to think this through and make sense of your experiences as you move forward?

Interaction Model

The next post will look at the remaining 2 roles; Consultant and Facilitator.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Have or do you play the Educator role as defined above? Tell us your story…
  2. What advice might you have for someone playing this role?
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