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Generative Learning - Learner and….?, not Learner or…..?

We all carry role labels, every day of our lives. We are father, mother, parent, leader, manager, teacher, facilitator etc etc.
We move seamlessly between these labels: we leave the office where we have been a manager, to commute as passenger, to enter the store as customer, then to arrive home to adopt a whole range of entirely different labels. Some are transient or occupy certain spaces in our lives, some are with us more or less continuously, whether we acknowledge them or not. In this latter category is the label of learner.

Being a learner tends to be one of those labels that we only acknowledge in certain spaces, despite the fact that we all are in a continual state of learning, no matter how familiar the situation in which we find ourselves. We have the tendency to anticipate certain situations with the conscious or unconscious realisation “Now I need to be a learner”. These situations might be formal, such as Group Training Workshops, or individual e-learning sessions, or they might be completely informal where we encounter new material that is of interest or value to us, or try out our new tennis serve.

However, in my experience, many people turn off their other labels when they turn on their learner label, and in doing so reduce the value of the learning experience by divorcing the learning from the context in which the learning will be applied.
This means that we resign ourselves to being simply learners, not leader / learners, or teacher / learners, or coach / learners any other multiple labels. In doing so, we see learning a process in which we are recipients of new knowledge or skills, rater than active participants where we test and refine our current perceptions of who we are in the context of that new knowledge or skills.

As educators, we need to encourage our learners to enter formal learning spaces with an understanding that they are active agents in their own learning, challenging the new and the old with equal rigour. At RSVP Design we design & supply tools that can easily drop into learning processes at any stage, to bring learners back to this sense that they are Generative Learners, i.e. their past experience is valid and important in helping them to select and acquire new learning that is right for them.

We intend that tools such as Challenging Assumptions  and The Learning Game can directly address the question “How does learning work for you?”, making participants very conscious of their own approaches to learning.
Webmaster, Keypunch, Simmetrics and Sequencer all allow for multiple cycles of activity in a short period of time, encouraging participants to rapidly deploy learning that has been realised through previous cycles.
Voyage Mapping takes a longer view of learning, asking participants to review past experience to extract meaningful learning. This learning can then be included in a second phase of activity, still using the Voyage Mapping format, which looks at the potential futures and considers these in the light of current learning.

All of these tools offer the vital components of any process of development, demanding that participants go through a comprehensive learning cycle of reflect, select, process and apply. As part of a wholly experiential learning approach, or integrated into more conventional teaching, these are tools that challenge participants to retain their labels so that they are learning in an authentic context, not simply as passive consumers of learning.

Dr. Geoff Cox
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