Something different?

Have you done something different in your classroom or training room recently?

In his opening plenary at the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow just a few days ago, Adrian Underhill took us on a heady trip into the realms of systems thinking, and then brought us back to earth to discuss learning from experience.  The whole talk was fascinating (see below), but it’s  particularly the issue of learning from experience I want to discuss in this post.

In the talk, Adrian introduces the idea of the ‘Learning Mantra,’ a variation on the experiential learning cycle.  The Learning Mantra goes like this:

  • See what’s going on
  • Do something different
  • Learn from it

This is a simple but powerful mantra which allows you to ‘prod the system’ and learn, he suggests.  We learn more from doing something different than from doing things the same.

What might doing something different involve?   Adrian suggested one of the following three alternatives:

  1. Do what you don’t usually do.
  2. Refrain from doing what you usually do.
  3. Do what you usually do, but watch it more carefully.

Well, yes. This is all very true, but have you ever tried changing your teaching or training routines? It can be very hard to do-if you watch the video, Adrian’s first song has an amusing take on the difficulties of doing something different.  But of course here where the learning comes in. Much of our training is geared towards establishing routines, and changing those procedures and practices can be challenging. They retaliate by kicking back at you. It is perhaps in the fight that ensues that real learning can happen.

Still, it is hard, changing your habits and routines….

But hey, wait a minute.  I’ve forgotten that I’m doing something different, and my first step is to accept this idea without being overly-critical – and try it.

What about you? Have you tried doing something different? How did it work? What do you think of the talk? I’d be interested to hear from you.


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