Facilitating Learning Appreciatively for Adults

Lets talk about Appreciative Learning Facilitation - a skill that makes a real teacher!

Knowledge has become so commonplace. It has become cheaper than most of the commodities, not necessarily high in quality. Adult learners don’t come to a class as blank pages anymore; they are like patients who know a lot about the diagnosis and medication even before consulting a doctor. ’Googling’ has become the default to ‘find’ anything. Internet is the infinite grass patch on which we search for the lost key. Facebook like social media interfaces consume so much of our energy and focus. People who have something or the other to sell compete for grabbing our attention even for just a few seconds.

Access to information does not necessarily translate to knowledge. How do we know that? A few questions would probably reveal the answers: Do our student participants find learning easier these days? Do teacher facilitators find it easy to teach? Do we have an energizing and inspiring learning environment? Are the students capable of living a better life and capable of creating a better world that ever before? Do they seem to ‘know’ the pulse of the work/society and respond appropriately?

Teacher facilitators are not held accountable for the participant student learning. But it is beyond doubt that teachers have a lot of influence on the students learning, by bringing out the best in them while, ‘teaching’. As the gap between students and teachers is shrinking in all aspects, one way to make learning effective and knowledge transfer real, is to play the role of a learning facilitator rather than an expert in the field imparting knowledge - this is more relevant in the classrooms of values, morality, citizenship, social responsibility and life skills including leadership.

What does Appreciative Learning Facilitation entail? The key is to shift from the ‘what’ of teaching to the ‘how’ of learning. A teacher with the intent of making a difference to the students and in the process to oneself will be able to make the shift by learning the following skills (not an exhaustive list):

  1. Ability to ask appreciative questions to bring out the best in the student participants through stories of strength, insights, contribution, success and dreams. This skill goes hand in hand with the supporting skills of patience, inquiry, balancing judgment (neutrality) and active listening.
  2. Create safety for student participants to open up in conversations by being vulnerable, open and willing to share, even accept mistakes and ask for feedback. Appreciate courage, inquiry, contribution, honesty and openness. Scheduling time for such activities is crucial.
  3. Role model positive energy, optimism, hope, graciousness, abundance and can-do, instead of compliance, fear, victim mindset and scarcity mentality. Share dreams openly and create opportunities to listen to others dreams.
  4. Allocate work that helps the participants apply the concepts and produce results. Share successes, challenges and clarify questions that help the learning to sink in. Focus on the results (shift in mindset, achievements, acts of courage) and celebrate success.

A teacher in this context rises to the level of enabling the student learning rather than being overwhelmed with the responsibility of teaching them. The process of inquiry becomes the norm, asking replaces telling, creativity replaces compliance and energy turns to positive.

In such an environment, the student participant learns to separate wheat from chaff, learn to focus on what is important to the self and the world, embodies the learning spirit of a true student, breaks barriers by challenging the assumptions. Now a real teacher is born and a student!

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