I looked for themes as I reviewed the responses to the question posed for the first World Cafe Event. The themes fell into several categories and I chose to look at these first responses through a lens that asked, “What does this mean to students right now? What could I change in my co-learning practice?” Although this is data towards my dissertation, it still applies to the more immediate moments of this practice.
The focus for the event was to think back to a time that participants felt was a high point in their learning, a time they felt most alive, effective, and engaged in the learning they had undertaken. They were asked to describe how they felt and what made the situation possible.
Some of the responses were replicated and some were phrased differently, but carried similar messages so I brought them together as I found links between concepts. For example, encouraging curiosity fits with directing one’s learning. The following serves as a brief summary to immediately begin a reflective process. What can I do to enhance my current practice?
Students can be encouraged to ask thoughtful questions and I can model this practice. Nurturing learner curiosity allows a process of inquiry to underpin learning and can create connections between people and subjects. Meaning is created when we ask “What makes this subject important? What relationship does it have to me?” Thoughtful questions fuel learning, motivating and directing the learner, unlike going through the perhaps mindless motions of learning what others prescribe. It is not my learning, but the learning of each of us that is paramount.
Several points stood out in the summary that fit with my reflecting on and carrying out my practice in the immediate future. Learners need to have their basic needs met before they can move onto the next level. What does this look like with my students? What do I observe? What works for them – for each student? What connects me to them and each of us to our learning?
Active listening provides a window into where students are in their individual learning. Students progress at different paces and learn in different ways; the questions they ask might provide insight into what they need next in their learning. Certainly they need to step outside their comfort zone and the key may be to identify comfortable. This might be seen as the “Goldilocks paradigm” of learning; not too hard, not too easy, just right. This seems to run contrary to the current model of schooling where we lump students into grade levels based on age rather than present ability or even interests. The ideal adult learning situation is when we see value in what we are doing. What can we do to apply this kind of thinking throughout education?