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Learning from my mistakes

Posted on: March 23, 2015

Whenever I run workshops for teachers, I stick to my principle of trying something different each time.

No two “repeated” workshops are ever the same given the different needs of each set of participants. But it is easy to fall into an autopilot rut, so I try to mix things up.

I tried three main strategies at a recent workshop that did not go well.

The first was accepting the wrong type of attendees. A small group of ten wanted my services, but a larger group of about twenty decided to join in. Administratively this appealed to the number crunchers because it cost less per head on paper.

As much as I knew this was a terrible approach because I get attendees with neither buy-in nor ownership, this is a very common approach among my clients. It is the numbers game that lets administration dictate pedagogy, strategy, or anything else that should actually drive an experience.

I have little choice but to accept such a practice from time to time. But my experience tells me that it is already difficult to change the converted, so it is next to impossible to expect change among the unwilling.

My second mistake was switching a facilitation strategy midway. I typically require participants to take quick reflective pit stops. In the interest of time, I left a critical middle pit stop out.

Theoretically I was practising reflexive teaching based on a feel of how things were going. I thought participants needed more discussion and convincing than reflection. I was wrong because that detracted from the initial participant-centred personal learning to a teacher-controlled event.

My third mistake was not discussing answers to a quiz as a follow up to online work prior to the workshop. The quiz could illustrate a few things depending on context: linking the online with the offline, how learners collaborate (cheat), or showing an example of assessment as learning. The quiz answers were not important in themselves; the rising above was.

I left this out to go with the flow of discussion. However, the flow went to relatively trivial areas and I should have stuck to the plan. In my head I was hoping that a few participants would steer us back. I even seeded the main topics, when prior to discussion, I asked individuals to raise specific issues that would have kept the right flow, but they did not and I struggled to bring us back.

Like any educator worth their salt, my reflection has helped me shape the next session and strengthened my resolve to do better. I share my mistakes openly to model how mistakes are opportunities, not obstacles.

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