Posts Tagged ‘education’

Adding Up

January 16th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

The last ‘Slow Down Sunday’ post had a strong numerical theme; ‘tis nobler thought numbers could feature in this post to explore some fundamental themes in experiential learning and behavioural change.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.

That’s arithmetic – in experiential learning and behavioural change, you’ll use much more sophisticated mathematics without really being aware of it.  And you’ll do this even if you think you’re no good at maths.  In the artificial world of the classroom, you might struggle with maths but, in the real world of learning and changing, you’re a maths wizard!

10 > 1 +2 +3 +4.

That’s synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Life and learning are not additive pursuits.  When you devote effort to the 1s, 2s 3s and 4s (etc), this experience produces something that is greater, more elegant, more effective and more efficient.  Mindlessly following a recipe is a recipe for ‘disaster’.  Transcend the mechanical.

2 + 2 = 4, NOT 5, 6, 3.5 or any other number suggested by someone else to satisfy specific circumstances.

That’s a reflection of values.  While mathematics is the one absolute and universal discipline, undisciplined or expedient behaviour can be applied to mathematics and, more broadly, the scientific method, to distort the truth.  Thinking, saying or doing ‘calculations’ in which 2 + 2 = 5 is the slipperiest of all slippery slopes.  Stay true and stay truthful, for numbers don’t lie:

Finally, remember that any number (and the distance between any two numbers) equals infinity.  Apparently straightforward tasks possess depth and complex tasks have great depth.  It just doesn’t make sense to think that you can skate over the surface and cope with all the challenges.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  But there are infinite ways to get to 10. 

The best way is your way. Find it



May I Make A Suggestion?

September 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion?  In addition to the explicit request, this simple question could conceal a range of subtexts and pretexts – you need my help, you need my help because you’re not very good, you need my help as I am better than you or you need my help all the time.

But at least permission is sought and, if approved, a suggestion clearly follows.  To mangle some metaphors, as soon as you appear to be out of your depth, others can’t resist sticking their oar in.  Occasionally, a row develops.  Advice is always appealing to the giver and therefore freely given; it is less appealing to the receiver and, more importantly, ultimately more costly.  Advice can complement yet never replace finding your own way.

For every explicit request, though, there are many more instances in which suggestions are imposed on an unknowing receiver.  Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote about the ways in which we’ve been framed?  As a consequence of external framing strategies, sometimes provided by the very people we thought were giving objective advice, we become internally primed to see what we expect to see, we hear what we expect to hear and we can also taste what we expect to taste.  The power of suggestion is beautifully demonstrated in this video:

As an experiential learner or behavioural changer, you can be pushed and pulled in many directions.  Unlike that other road, the road to confusion is paved with the intentions of others and these intentions are not always in your best interests.  While there is serious and continuing debate on the validity of free will – the latest evidence suggests the brain forms intentions before we are consciously aware of them -, others will always try to determine large chunks of every learning journey.  It’s neat, tidy, and inherently, fundamentally ineffective.

If you receive what you expect to receive, what do you actually expect to receive?  As importantly, where do these expectations really come from?

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion? Find your own way.

Hacking The Usual

September 30th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Once, hacking was confined to breaching the security of computer systems, often for malicious purposes.  Now, hacking has a much more general and constructive meaning – it’s all about positive disruption.  Many ‘systems’ are content with the status quo as it’s comfortable, satisfactory and reasonable.  Change, should it occur at all, is modest and incremental.  This form of ‘change’ may not affect the substance of activities; rather, it may just tinker with the appearance.  Welcome to the world of branding and re-branding!

Hackers look at the way things are and imagine very different, much better ways of doing things.  They aren’t interested in marginal improvements; they are interested in significant enhancement, a different way.  People may look at a ‘hack’ and then wonder why things weren’t always done that way.  Hackers aren’t interested in ‘business as usual’ :

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In one sense, hacking starts in the gap between the empirical and the experiential, between what the evidence suggests and what the actual experience is.  A great example is education, which can have a large gap between theory and practice.  The difference between educational rhetoric and educational realities can be of Grand Canyon proportions.  If there was one system that would have an overriding interest in learning and aligning itself with best practice, surely it would the education system.  But this is often not the case.

There are many examples, perhaps the best of which is the empirical debunking of the learning styles approach.  There is a chasm between its popularity and lack of empirical support.  Nevertheless, poor recipes for learning and study are continually reinforced.  Once you leave the ‘controlled’ educational environment and enter the world of experiential learning, the relevance and value of these recipes diminishes greatly.  A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work in the classroom so how can a ‘one size fits you’ approach work outside the classroom? 

Your experiential learning and behavioural change needs can never be business as usual.  It’s a question of ‘your size fits you’ and you get to define ‘your size’ on an ongoing basis, for ‘your size’ and your needs will change over time.  This approach remains unusual, so it is up to you to transform it to the usual.  Find your own way, usually by hacking the usual.

It’s Your TOSS

September 29th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a natural order in experiential learning and behavioural change with which you should comply.  There is a system by which you should abide.  There is a structure to which you should adhere.

But the order, system and structure are not what you might be expecting in a world that values the regular, the methodical and the incremental.  The order, system (and) structure – TOSS – traditional arrangement is something that you need not give a toss about.  Toss it if you like.  Unless you decide to keep it, that is, for it is, after all, your journey to shape and sustain.

Still, TOSS traditions – the usual recipes and formulas – make as much sense to ‘tis nobler as Julie Fader saying goodbye before hello:

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You can toss tradition whilst retaining a TOSS.  Think of your TOSS as before, during and after rather than this before that or any version of walk before you run.  Think of your TOSS as a daily frame rather than a global framework.  Before, during and after and then repeat; before, during and after.  It is possible for ‘after’ to be intermittent rather than contained and, as such, any ‘after’ might bump into the next before.  This is why it’s a journey and not a series of classes!

Your own TOSS puts you in control and dispenses with recipes that may be set out by others.  Your own TOSS aligns your short term interests with your longer term objectives.  Your own TOSS provides the flexibility and variety needed to sustain an extended journey.  Your own TOSS allows you to jump off the deep end if that’s what you want to do, doing so while managing the experience to offset your inexperience.

There are many studies and meta-analyses of studies that present ideas for making learning activities as useful as possible and there’s one idea that’s always at or near the top of the list – goal orientation.  Before, during and after, your learning TOSS should reinforce the ‘why’ of your effort – it’s not to finish quickly, it’s not to get more money, it’s not to show off to friends, it’s not about passing a test and it’s not to move on to something else.

It’s about learning, before, during and after your doing.  Aim for that and do that.  It’s your TOSS.

Go That Way

September 22nd, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Here’s a simple guide to heart transplantation:

Open up the chest, take out heart and replace with new heart.  Close the chest.

Here’s a simple guide to driving a car:

Not too fast, not too close, concentrate.

Here’s a simple guide to downhill skiing:

Not one of these guides is wrong; they are all just woefully and totally inadequate.  ‘tis nobler wonders how different these guides are to the support, or perhaps direction, you receive from those around you.

Teachers, trainers, instructors, coaches, supervisors, parents and peers can all make important contributions to your learning journey.  But they cannot take this journey for you; you can never delegate your learning needs to them.  Retaining the integrity of finding your own way at all times while incorporating the wisdom of others, once you have thought through what has been said and made your own decisions on what it means for you, is a critical and ongoing balancing act.

It can be difficult and frustrating but finding your own way is the only true way.  If you think that it is possible to learn by being a passive recipient rather than an active participant, ‘tis nobler can only provide the following sage advice:

“Go that way, really fast.  If something gets in your way,…….. turn.”

And now you can answer the obvious question – “Did this help or not?”


September 16th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Happy was one of the Seven Dwarfs in the tale of Snow White.  Can you name the other six?  This question introduces the issue of the magical number 7 (plus or minus 2); that’s a story for another day although, just quickly, one way to overcome these ‘magical’ constraints is through the chunking of information.  And chunking is a way to move away from the bits and move towards the patterns.  It allows you to find your own way, all at once.

Happy was happy and Grumpy was grumpy, but I’m not sure whether Doc was a qualified medical practitioner.  Happiness and grumpiness are affective states.  We are all affected by affect – the experience of emotion – in everything that we do and on each occasion that we do it.  We’re not automatons that are programmed to go through the (limited) motions in order to achieve success on a small and repetitive set of tasks.

We want our experiential learning and behavioural change to be effective; we know that our experiential learning and behavioural change will always be affective.

Can you be effective when affective?  Obviously, it is a matter of degree (in a similar way to arousal) – too much or too little and performance suffers.  But being happy could be viewed as a desirable precondition for learning.  Experiential learning can have a social dimension – learning with others – and research has shown that learners who are happy extract more value from their situation than those who are annoyed or frustrated.  Interestingly, being on the ‘same affective page’ – either all happy or all annoyed – can enhance the learning experience (defined as information transfer).  Still, as a general learning rule, it is better to be content than congruent!

So, I hope you can answer ‘Yes’ to the question Wendy Matthews poses – Are you happy, really happy?

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One way, of many ways, to increase your happiness is to imagine the absence rather than presence of a positive event in your life.  Thinking of things that you may have missed out on (but didn’t) makes people happier than just thinking about the things themselves.  This focus on ‘loss’ is an approach that most people do not associate with increased positive feelings.

As the first line of the song says, “I hope that you listen to the voices inside.”  Learn to be happy and be happy to learn.


September 9th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

As you know, ‘tis nobler takes its name from Hamlet’s soliloquy – whether ‘tis nobler in the mind … – that addresses the value of effort.  The very first ‘tis nobler post  put this question in perspective by, if you know the soliloquy, supporting the latter course of action.  Hamlet may be one of the best known characters in literature but this post takes its direction from two other minor characters in Hamlet who are the central characters in the Tom Stoppard play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  And direction is the operative word.

This play deals very cleverly with several philosophical issues – meaning, knowledge, destiny, free will – and, at one point, Guildenstern announces:

“We have not been …picked out…simply to be abandoned …set loose to find our own way…We are entitled to some direction… I would have thought”

We are entitled to some direction.  What does this mean for experiential learning and behavioural change?  This simple sentence raises three issues that each learner must resolve for themselves, entitlement, direction and balance.  While the first two are explicit, balance is embedded in the word ‘some’.  Some learners think that all you need to do is consult the instruction manual, all is revealed and mastery is immediately bestowed; others think that the instruction manual is not worth the paper it’s printed on:

In experiential learning and behavioural change, others can help but only you can do.  Even though there is much going on between your ears, think of experiential learning as ‘manual’ labour rather than something you extract from a manual.  Without the doing, experiential learning is a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, futile movement rather than purposeful effort. 

Even if you have built the best deckchair ever by following the instructions, this approach won’t assist you in acquiring life skills that you can only gain through comprehensive experience.  Tuition, training, instruction, guidance and facilitation are all subordinate to your effort and engagement; they may make the process more efficient but only if your own efforts are making the process effective in the first place.

Principles versus rules

July 10th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

There is a huge industry built on the premise that everybody within it holds the (different) key to educational excellence, personal happiness and untold riches.  The only requirement for outsiders is to do what they say, usually by reading their book.  It couldn’t be any easier, primarily because ease and convenience are significant selling points.  And, therefore, it is as easy as, um, buying a book.


Rules, habits, tips, strategies and recipes all fail because they can’t be any simpler.  In fact, they are so simple, they are simplistic.  Einstein said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”; the education, training and self-help industries weren’t listening.

The ‘tis nobler learning model is not based on rules; ‘tis nobler doesn’t appreciate the limited effect (or misguided affect) of rules-based experiential learning.  Rather, the ‘tis nobler model is based on principles.  The advantages of principles over rules are:

Principles define orientations, rules define positions.

Principles enable flexibility, rules impose constraints.

Principles allow creativity, rules require rigidity.

Principles nurture agility, rules demand inertia.

Principles acknowledge that only your size fits you, rules prescribe one size fits all.

Find Your Own Way is not a catchcry, it is the only sensible interpretation of the experiential learning process.  The principles underpinning FYOW are enabling, not limiting because imposing limits, however well-intentioned, is to dilute learning.  To realise FYOW’s potential, there can be no half measures, no tokenism and no lingering attachment to the traditional didactic model.

Within and beyond experiential learning and behavioural change principles are two core values, passion and compassion.  This is a statement of profound purpose:

Experiential learning will affect every aspect of your life.  Everybody is capable of doing all of the ‘ordinary things’ extraordinarily well and the things that are of especial importance to them just as successfully.  Persistent effort and authentic engagement are the keys and they are available to all.  Experiential learning can also be a profound purpose, if you so choose.

Dropping By

July 8th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

‘Dropping By’ can serve as one point of departure between current education and training programs and ‘tis nobler’s learning and change model.  Let’s explore this a bit.

Current programs drop by; they often pay a brief visit before leaving again.  While visiting, all the usual niceties are observed – the greetings are cordial, the right sorts of things are said, the normal rituals of social interaction are played out and everybody agrees that the encounter was very pleasant.  Arrangements may be made to do it all again but, as is often the way, this rarely happens and the visit is quickly forgotten.  Everybody departs, except the learning that never arrived in the first place.  Expectation of its arrival is apparently sufficient evidence for its (alleged) presence.

By the way, dropping by is supposed to work by a narrow focus on presumed critical problems.  Dropping by improves you by improving your attitude to something (whatever that might mean) or by improving your ability to cope with something (whatever that might mean) or by improving your decision making (whatever that might mean).  By doing this, it ensures that dropping by is largely a waste of time.

The ‘tis nobler model never drops by in the sense of paying a visit to learners; rather, it just drops ‘by’.  Neither the concept of a visit, the limited aims, or the desired outcome of the visit have places in the ‘tis nobler approach.  All of the hallmarks of the ‘dropping by’ approach – narrowness, linearity, superficiality etc – have been shown the door and asked not to return.  No more dropping by, no more ‘by’.  Can you imagine how the ‘tis nobler model looks?  This inspirational music video by The Cinematic Orchestra contains several clues:

Can you imagine a system in which everything you can think of has a place yet nothing has a location?  Can you imagine a system that reflects true learner needs and truly needs learners to reflect, engage and explore?

Can you imagine a learning system that is much better than those around today?


June 10th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Have you read “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas?  Even if you haven’t, you probably know their famous catchcry:

All for one and one for all

Perhaps you even know their names: Athos, Porthos and Aftershave.  Sorry, it’s not Aftershave at all; the name of the third Musketeer is Aramis.  A simple mistake to make, don’t you think?  Or do you think that mistakes aren’t simple?  I hope I haven’t thrown you off the scent as there is meaning to be tracked down and insights to be gained.

This is what I’ve been meaning to say.  Alexandre Dumas once said:

How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid?

It must be education that does it.

What do you think of the education you’ve experienced?  How much of it was necessary?  Was any of it sufficient?  There are many school mission statements that talk about equipping young people with the necessary academic and social skills to enable them to make valuable contributions to society.  How much of this rings true to you?  Is there a gap between the words and the reality?  Perhaps there will always be a gap until education stops being treated as a commodity and marketers are re-assigned to the promotion of soap powder.

Given these shortcomings, it is hard to explain why so many instances of experiential learning are handled in the same way.  Teaching has an important role but it should never be at the expense of learning!  Experiential learning has that name for a reason – it is not called experiential education.

So, most importantly, what are you doing to overcome this gap between education and learning and how will you set out to learn the many life skills you can only learn outside of school?

If you just rely on others, if you remain a passive recipient rather than become an active participant, if you always seek out spoon-feeding and if you’re content to complain rather than solve, this is just one of the things that will happen:

The music will never come to life!

Find your own way and make your own ‘music’.  Creating anything, from works of art to safer alcohol use to your entire life, by making the effort yourself (while also using the help that is available) is much better than allowing others to define who you are and what you should do.

Over to you, Maestro!