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The Teacher Becomes the Learner

Friday, April 24, 2020
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Michelle here. I’m taking a few executive education classes, and it’s been a good reminder of some things that we know yet forget the impact of when we teach, especially in executive education settings.

Simplicity Counts
It takes time to think about how to explain something in a non-wonky way, and it makes a huge difference to the learner when you invest that time. I’m in a class that is covering some material I was introduced to last year. This year I’m tripped up with the concept because the instructor is using the most arcane, academic wording instead of explaining it in simple terms like the professor did last year.

Remember There Are More Ways Than Yours
As long as someone turns in the assignment, let them use whatever tools they want unless you can answer the “why” behind telling people to use a specific software package.

Share Your Joy
The more often you teach a class, it is easy to feel comfortable with the material and to lose what initially excited you about the topic. I have a teacher for whom the class topic isn’t naturally my favorite but is mandatory for the program. Through the simple act of sharing her joy, the instructor made me more inquisitive about the topic.

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Chunk It
Admittedly I would rather be hiking outside than in a classroom or in front of a computer taking a virtual class. But for me it’s difficult to go a full hour hearing a teacher lecture when I have questions and want to hear how my colleagues use the information. So, I start thinking about the pasta that I’ll have for dinner. Yes, there are many studies about how chunking helps retention. It also helps the learner stay in the moment.

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Marykate here. I love the advice that Michelle shared. It is so important to go back to be the learner in a formal setting occasionally to experience things from the other side of the podium. I put those learnings into practice.

This sounds cliché, but when our dinner table is not too chaotic, I often ask my family what they learned that day. It’s fascinating when they notice something simple or if they learn a great lesson from making a mistake. I often find it’s easy to share when I have taught because I am always learning from my participants.

So something I would add to the list is to go into a session with a beginner’s mind knowing that even if you have taught a session many times before, you can always learn from those in the room and the new experience. As they say, you can never step into the same river twice.

MZ
About the Author

Michelle Zager is with The Treasury Executive Institute, a government shared service providing leadership development and services for over 40 different government agencies.

MD
About the Author

Marykate Dougherty is with The Treasury Executive Institute, a government shared service providing leadership development and services for over 40 different government agencies.

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