Byron's Babbles

Excited About Learning!

img_2534Last week when I was in Germany and Switzerland, I made the comment a few times that adults want to learn in the same way that kids do. What prompted this was some of the learning we were doing while at some of the vocational and apprenticeship centers. As we were touring, there were a few times that I asked our guide (usually an apprenticeship student) if I could try the equipment. At one point I was able to run the robotic welder. This was important to me because I am a very hands on learner. I needed to experience what the students experience.

This is really an extension of Howard Gardner’s Theory Of Multiple Intellienges. That theory does cross over into adult learning as well. One thing I have learned from the Harvard research is that adults really want to learn the same way kids do. And, when I got involved in a hands on way (engaged) I got very excited. Then, when others got involved, they got excited too. I already blogged about building a model truck in the Benteler Industry 4.0 Learning Factory. Click here to read Learning 4.0.

It was important for me to do this post because we need to be reminded occasionally what are important elements to remember when facilitating learning, whether for kids or adults. The big difference for adults is making sure we know our audience and what they are there to learn. Here are five things that need to happen. We must make the learning:

  1. Immediately transferable to their everyday life
  2. Relevant to the learners current context
  3. Welcoming – safe place to ask questions
  4. Engaging – consider the way each person learns
  5. Respectful – understanding every person comes from a different context or knowledge level

Think about it, if all five of those items happen, there will be a good chance that learning will occur. At least a much better chance than if I come in and listen to you talk and point at a PowerPoint.

In other words, the material presented should have immediate usefulness to the learners. Therefore it should have a real world context for the learners and the material should be relevant to adult learners’ lives right now. The material learned should also be able to be used right now as well.

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Two Very Excited Learners!

Furthermore, the learning environment should be welcoming so that all learners feel safe to participate. How the space is arranged is very important in adult learning and engagement. The learning needs to be facilitated in a way that engages the learners. Representative Bob Behning and I became partners and very engaged when we were allowed to build our own truck. We became curious and active participants in the learning. Really, an opportunity for learning was lost when all participants did not have the opportunity to be paired up and go through the whole 4.0 process. We were fortunate that one of the students realized how interested my partner and I were and bought in to us building a truck. The instructors also realized this and bought in. Fortunately, training for this Industry 4.0 training was presented in a respectful and safe manner, where learners have an opportunity to share their experiences. The learning environment needs to also be a place where it is ok to not have a great deal of knowledge about the topic. We need to remember that just like when teaching young students, adults in a group will all be at different places in terms of knowledge. When facilitating Learning we must recognize the unique background and experience of people.

As you can see it is very important to consider how adult learners just as we do our student learners. Really, as adults we want to learn just like children. Let’s strive to make sure we are creating learning environments that allow adults we work with be curious and engaged.

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Conversations About Possibilities

IMG_2575As I write this post I am literally about 488 miles into my flight from Dublin, Ireland to Chicago, Illinois – USA. I am returning from an outstanding education research trip that started in Berlin, Germany 12 days ago with stops also in Paderborn, Germany, Bern, Switzerland, and finally Zürich, Switzerland. This was an incredible experience and I was proud and honored to be a part of the Indiana delegation that included Governor’s office officials, state legislators, business/industry leaders, higher education leaders, k-12 school officials, community partners, state government officials (myself as an Indiana State Board of Education member), and organizers from Horizon Education Alliance.

My goal was to write a post each day of the trip and I believe I have accomplished that goal with this post. Including this post, I have posted 11 different posts about my journey of learning on this trip. If you want to follow along with the learning I have put links to all the posts here for your convenience:

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

Application of Practice & Theory

Learning 4.0

Fully Qualified Worker

Leading Work 4.0

Leadership To Tear Down Walls

From Best Practice To Next Practice

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

Learning to Do, Doing to Learn!

Focus On The Wider World

As I continue to write this post, I am now 1,778 miles into the trip home I am reflecting on what the gains were from having had these 12 days together with my colleagues. As I reflected I believe the value of this experience was in the convening of over 20 stakeholders who came together with the intent of making the lives of Hoosiers better and in the process making the economy and education system better in the state of Indiana. This study trip gave us the opportunity to shift our attention from the problems of the community to the possibility of community. To do this, however, we must be willing to trade our problems for possibilities.

There was tremendous value in the apprenticeship and training models we visited and experienced first hand, but the real value was in the conversations we had during this experience. There was value in having a conversation that we’ve not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. That is truly what I believe we did on this trip. On this trip, all members of the delegation became citizens. This was a very important shift. A shift in the thinking and actions of citizens is more vital than a shift in the thinking and actions of institutions and formal leaders. We were all learning through the lens of a citizens wanting to make the world a better place for our state’s students and citizens.

Citizenship

Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care. A citizen is one who is willing to do the following:

  • Hold ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger collective of which we are a part.
  • Own and exercise the power we have rather than delegate it to someone else and expect them to act.
  • Develop a shared community of possibilities – always asking, “What can we create together?”
  • Remember that communities are not built by specialized expertise, great leadership, or more/improved services, but by great citizens.
  • Attend to the gifts of the citizens and bring the gifts of those on the edges to the front and center for the betterment of the community.

One thing I have learned for sure: we cannot legislate the future. We visited countries on this trip who have been doing apprenticeship and vocational training for a long time. In the case of Switzerland, their current Vocational Education and Training (VET) system has been in place since 1932. As our group considers next steps, we need to remember that something shifts on a large scale only after a long period of small steps, organized around small groups patient enough to learn and experiment and learn again. If we want to make meaningful and transformative change to our education system we cannot command speed and scale. If we do that we are created an environment that will work against anything important being any different.

I really believe that a leader’s role is not to develop better models, or even to necessarily drive change. The leader’s role is to create the opportunities that bring the citizens of communities together to identify and solve their own problems. I really believe that is what Horizon Education Alliance has done in Elkhart County, Indiana. That organization has become masterful at focusing on the structure of how we gather and the context in which those convenings take place. The study trip that I am returning from is one such convening. The context was being in schools, training centers, and manufacturing facilities and having the opportunity to keep our own points of view at bay, leave our self-interests at home, and be present in the moment to learn rather than advocate for a certain position.

There will certainly need to be lots more conversations and work following-up from this trip, but I do believe we have all truly thought about the question: “What can we create together?” I believe we all want to be a part of transforming education in Indiana to a place where a student’s education does not define them for life, but prepares them for life. In turn, this should have our students ready to enter the workforce with a growth mindset ready to be engaged employees that are lifelong learners. Even so, the challenge is not to create a shared vision or plan (both important to the process), but the real challenge is to discover and create the means for engaging citizens that brings new possibility into play. We need our citizens to be the authors of this change.

I will close with this, as my plane completes the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and is now over North American soil; transformation is about altering the nature of our relatatedness and changing the nature of our conversations. This study trip experience abroad certainly did that for this group. I believe this journey shifted the context and language to thinking about possibilities. We owe it to our k-12 students and incumbent workforce to get this right!

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

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Bern Switzerland

Because my job now involves talent identification, training, retention and helping educators discover, develop, and distribute skills in leadership and their craft (what we at Noble Education Initiative call 3D Leadership™), I have been thinking about this a great deal the past few days while in Germany and Switzerland. While our Indiana delegation organized by Horizon Education Alliance has been focusing on educating students in the 10-18 year old space (high school for Indiana), many of the principles apply to any age or experience group. The application to any age group is important because of the number of incumbent workers, those adults already in the workforce who need training or retraining, in Indiana (I am sure this is the same for many other states, industries, or countries). I really like the idea of a dual track approach to learning in Switzerland. Students are in class one to two days per week, depending on their program of study and then three to four days per week in meaningful employment (apprenticeship).

IMG_1537 Yesterday, our Indiana delegation spent time with CSL Behring in Bern Switzerland studying their talent development. Talent development for this great company includes upskilling current and new employees, soft skill development training, leadership training, and apprenticeships. It impresses me that this company takes a holistic approach to being a talent magnet.

CSL Behring‘s vision for talent development says it all:

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The pillars are the most important part here in my view:

  • Pioneering
  • Reliability
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Passion

CSL Behring is committed to working on these pillars with not only young apprentices, but with all employees. Let me dig a little deeper and give you my take on the four pillars.

Pioneering

Pioneering leaders are adventurous — driven to keep seeking bigger and better roles, products, and experiences. They inspire a team to venture into uncharted territory. We get caught up in their passion to grow, expand, and explore. Pioneers have a high need for freedom and see opportunities where others don’t. The pioneering leader reminds us that innovation doesn’t happen without active exploration.

Reliability

Reliability means that you do what you promised to do and that others can count on you. It is a positive social character trait. People don’t like to deal with those who are unreliable. They’d rather give their business and rewards to someone they can count on. Being considered reliable means that you are conscientious and keep your promises. A reliable person does not make excuses. A reliable worker will be trusted to do the job as promised and can reap the rewards of raises and promotions. A business that has a reputation of being reliable or making reliable products will get repeat and new business, as well as reducing costs of rework or repair.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

This is about employees thinking like owners. This entrepreneurial spirit is really an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It really boils down to taking ownership and pride in one’s organization.

Passion

Passion, without compromise, is the fuel behind all great leaders. If we want outstanding employee engagement, then we must help those in our organizations find their passion. This is particularly true with young apprentices. I don’t think we are even scratching the service on what needs to be done to help our young scholars find their passion. Leadership is the passion toward each team member, pushing them toward a higher level of accomplishment. Leadership is the passion for continuous and deliberate self-improvement.

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Noble Education Initiative’s 3D Leadership™ Approach

Here’s what I’ve learned, we must be providing practical know-how and the skills needed for all occupation. Incumbent workers and young apprentice scholars need to have an active part in the production process of the industry he or she is studying to be a part of. In the classroom we must be developing technical, methodological and social skills, theoretical, and general principles. I have been calling these the core competencies and transferable skills. We also need to figure out how to leverage our third party providers of technical skills and knowledge for our students. We owe it to all our learners to provide high quality training that is delivered through state-of-the-art teaching and efficient transfer into practice™.

Application of Practice & Theory

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Valerie and I

As I prepared for dinner last evening in Bern Switzerland, I had no idea what I was in store for. First of all, the views of the Swiss Alps were breathtaking. The meal was absolutely awesome! The restaurant first opened in 1862. But, it was the conversation with our waitress that blew me away.

Here I was in Switzerland with a delegation from Indiana organized by Horizon Education Alliance to learn about vocational education and apprenticeships, and all of the sudden I am in a conversation with our waitress, Valerie, who was in her last year (4th year) of apprenticeship in Service. She was two months away from taking her final exam. She will earn a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training in Service. Valerie was outstanding at serving us and spoke incredible English. Most would say she spoke better English than me.

Check out the video of me introducing Valerie to our delegation and telling her story here:

Valerie really values the apprenticeship program she is a part of. She explained that she really likes the fact that she is learning in a real world context. As the guy who really values teaching in a relevant context, this was amazing to me. In Valerie’s case she went to her vocational school two days per week and then works in the restaurant three days per week learning the business. In addition, every so many weeks she got to what are called “Branch Courses” to learn specific skills. One of the themes that has come out in the Swiss model is the belief that a student should not just “know it,” but “know it and do it.” This is an applied model.

“A Swiss Apprenticeship doesn’t define you for life, but it is designed to prepare you for life.” ~ Ambassador Suzi and Eric Levine

When I asked Valerie what she thought could be improved about the way she was being educated she talked about career exploration/guidance and how students are sometimes “pushed” into different areas. Valerie explained career guidance is very important and believed she needed more. She also discussed that she believes her teachers in compulsory education (k-10) do not know enough about business and industry. This caused a lot of discussion in our study group about needing more teacher externships. We need to really ramp up the number of our teachers we are putting out into actual workplace environments to learn first hand about the places their students will be working.

IMG_2574When we get push back in the policy-making space about how having Graduation Pathways in Indiana and providing more opportunities for students makes more work for counselors, I disagree. As a former teacher, I believe teachers have the closest relationships with students and must take on part of the responsibility of helping guide students to post-secondary paths and choices. Valerie was also concerned that student sometimes get pushed into the wrong area of interest.

IMG_2550In Switzerland 2/3 of the students do vocational/apprenticeship training while a third go on to college. I believe it is great that in Switzerland wanting a vocational education is not the second choice. In the United States we need to really work on making sure students understand the value of vocational education and apprenticeship programs. We need to make sure that students and families understand that it is just as great of education to go the career and technical education and going to a university. It is all about what the student wants to go into and where the high wage, high demand jobs are.

Furthermore, Valerie really has lots of options with her apprenticeship program – what the Swiss call “Permeability.” She can go straight into the workforce, or go to the university, or into professional education. See the chart below:

IMG_2565Make no mistake as you read this post. I do not want us (Indiana) to copy the Swiss model. I do not believe you can just cut and paste or copy another system into our own, But…I do believe there are pieces of the Swiss model that was started in 1932 that we could use in our system to better our apprenticeship programs for our students.