Who’s Passion Do We Seek to Explore? Are We Sharing Our Own or Building on Theirs?

As I read the assigned chapters in our Vella text, I was struck by the idea of structureless teaching.  Not so much from the standpoint of walking into a classroom with no agenda or framework for your session, but perhaps structured – yet, without involvement.  While the examples she gave on pages 13 and 14 were relatable, it also brought me to realize that at times perhaps the structure I create is based on what I think I want or should tell them.  But do I always consider what they may be bringing to the table already?  What drove them to come in the first place?  And how does that feel to those students that have been lead by their passions or situations to attend, but yet the structure does not speak to what it is that they were hoping to come to know?

I consider a conversation I had just today as a fellow instructor set up for a class; an all day course that includes difficult conversation and multiple opportunities for students to begin to change (or decide to change) their behavior.  Learning opportunities perhaps that could be even more so enhanced simply with a little pre-knowledge of your audience.  A fact that was recognized as we discussed two of the attendees and what we knew of them as she considered the best group assignment for them, and perhaps ensuring that they did not end up together.  While this speaks perhaps more to knowing their personalities, we also considered their knowledge, experience and individual needs in hopefully ensuring the best learning environment for them and those around them…..And yet, how often do we truly get to know our participants like this?  But how beneficial can it be when we do?

And I’m not saying that we should begin to host a spaghetti dinner at our house before each class, but even a simple email to reach out when we send out our reminders?  Or when they call to sign up, ask them a few questions to really see what they are bringing to the table and what they are hoping for.  As I contemplate these thoughts, I find myself more eager to discover what these “seven design steps” are as I turn the page to chapter three.  How often am I truly living up to the structured design that Vella speaks of, or am I instead structuring it more based on myself  and what I think they need instead of simply…asking?  After all, asking does not form the course – as Vella points out- it really only informs (and perhaps enhances:) it.

“Designing means preparing a flexible structure for inviting and enhancing learning by explicitly naming who is present, what the situation is that calls for this learning, the time frame and the site for the event, the comprehensive content and learning objectives (…) and finally, the learning tasks and necessary materials.” (Vella, pg 31)


About hdjackson

Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying the theoretical world of Adult Learning along with its relation to Human Resources Developement. View all posts by hdjackson

2 responses to “Who’s Passion Do We Seek to Explore? Are We Sharing Our Own or Building on Theirs?

  • Shelley

    Holly, I enjoyed reading this post. I had to teach a class just before starting our semester. It was a class that I was told that I needed to have for 3 of my new nurses because “that is what (we) have always done” for new hires. I was given the topics and the time limit for the class. So being a good new clinician (educator) I complied by putting together a program based on the parameters that I was given. I crammed in way to more content than I could possibly cover with the knowledge that could take the content home with them and use the packet as a resource. But, I really did hope to get through most of it. I started the class with a basic, “so let’s go gather the supplies that would be needed to set-up “X”. I never was able to get any further into my content because they didn’t have this basic step down. The point is, I did not take the time to ask my nurses What specifically THEY wanted to learn. That was eye opening, and while I was sad that I did not cover the information that I wanted, I did deliver something that they needed.

    There are some classes that asking the What is not feasible as you are teaching because you were told the “what for”. This is where I struggle and want to concentrate on making it as pertinent as possible. I enjoy listening to your project in class and would love to see your class. It is such a needed topic and lesson for all adults!

  • hdjackson

    Loved hearing about this experience Shelley as I think so many of us have been there, more than once! The awesome thing though is that you recognized in the moment what your learners really needed and focused on that. Good for you!!

    I’m eager to share the rest of my class ideas with all of you so I’m excited that you are interested! I was telling a few folks the other day that were expressing interest in the topic about the hybrid approach and they were so excited about trying it out. I will definitely appreciate the help that you all are willing to give me as I work through the changes; as they say the product of several minds is often much better than the product of one:)

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