"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

An Interview with Christine Little, GLP Partner

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This is part of a series of interviews conducted by Kate Larose, GLP's Director of Strategic Partnerships, with people who believe deeply in the power of dialogue to influence learning that lasts. Today's interview is with GLP Partner, Christine Little

[Chris facilitating a knowledge sharing event in Rwanda for United Nations Capital Development Fund in Rwanda.  Due to Ebola outrbreak travel restrictions, half of the audience ended up having to join in virtually at the last minute.]

Kate Larose (Kate):  What’s your favorite axiom, and why?

Christine Little (Chris): Telling is not teaching.  And, I would broaden that last word.  Telling is also not leading. Telling is not creating the change. In the world of organizational change, there is a lot of emphasis on getting your story straight, mapping the path and selling it. We talk about "drilling down" and "rolling out" our message.  We spend too much time building our slide deck, and not enough time inquiring, listening and learning.  

[Chris (left) with GLP Partner Valerie Uccellani (right).  A day at the beach during the GLP annual retreat.]

Kate: Name 3-5 of your favorite facilitation skills. Describe what you use them for and why they’re favorites.

Chris: The open question. A good question unleashes our best thinking.  It surfaces ideas and feelings. It makes undiscussables discussable. Even a confusing question, or an ambiguous question works. It doesn't have to be perfect.  It just has to be authentic, a question where I am genuinely curious about how it will be answered. That genuine curiosity leads to my next favorite skill…

Listening. If I am genuinely curious about what others are thinking, then I listen as they answer. I hear their words and want to discover the meaning behind those words. I don't feel responsible for resolving all their doubts, or interjecting my own experience. I can let go of my need to be helpful, and instead, create the space for others to explore, make meaning.

Silence. Sitting quietly with our thoughts, even in a room full of people. We don't have enough of this in organizations. We are driven to produce. We have all those emails to answer.  We have meetings scheduled in half-hour increments. So we are thinking and talking at the same time, often while checking our phones. I used to think silence was a waste of precious face time. Now I think of this as an investment in the preciousness of that face time.

[Chris at UPEACE with fellow facilitator and Education 2.0 course participants.]

Kate:  When you attend learning events that are not learning centered, what’s your biggest pet peeve?

Chris: Pet peeve: "participation" instead of dialogue. It looks like this: questions that are designed to elicit a right answer, rather that questions that are designed to elicit something new. Activities that are designed to alleviate boredom, rather than activities that are designed to put the question to the group. When doubts or disagreements are placed in the "parking lot" rather than explored or at least acknowledged.

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Three Levels of Listening: Café Conversation, Part 2

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[This post is the second in a summer series of three posts on Three Levels of Listening.  Stay tuned for the last post in this series, and download the tipsheet Three Levels of Listening in the meantime!]

Imagine this:

You have just attended a learning event, one you did not design, and you found it absolutely engaging and enjoyable. You met up with two colleagues, who you also consider friends, after the event and before you have even ordered coffee you share the words that are coming to mind that describe your experience at the event. It was like a “beautiful orchestra”, it was “musical”, “freedom” and “love”. Your friends describe their experience as well using words like “lively”, “friendly”, “intense”, and “peaceful.” What a great event!

You are now sipping your black coffee and reliving the enjoyment of the event with your friends when you notice a shift in the emotional field (the dynamic of the conversation) and sit up and look more closely at your friends. You realize that one of your friends has stopped talking and is looking down rather dejectedly. You’re surprised because this friend was so animated only moments before. You pause mid-sentence, take a breath, and ask your friend if everything is okay. Your friend sits quietly for a moment and then speaks in a low voice that he just got a text message that his brother was taken to the hospital with chest pains. You lean in to better hear your friend as he describes how important his brother is to him and how they had been making plans to go on an extended bike trip over the summer.

As your friend continued to speak about the trip and his summer plans, it was like the world around you disappeared and all you saw was your friend and what he was experiencing. The clatter of coffee mugs faded into the distance and the din of voices around you disappeared. It was just you and your friend.

The moment shifted almost as soon as it had begun as your friend decided to leave and head straight to the hospital. You say your goodbyes, offer your prayers and suddenly just two of you are left at the table.  

Level Two – Listening to Others

To review Part I of this blog series: there are many aspects to listening, and I’d like to draw your attention again to three distinct levels. Level One is where you listen to what is happening inside of you. Level Two is where you listen to another person with focus and attention. Level Three is when you listen to the broader emotional field, or dynamic, around you. We all take in information on these three levels, but we are not always paying attention to all three levels. The story above is an example of Level Two Listening when the two friends connected in a focused way and the world around them seemingly disappeared.   

Imagine that you can turn a knob to fine-tune your listening to pick up on the emotional field or dynamics happening within another individual.  

  • Think of a time in the recent past when you were very aware of, focused on, and in sync with another individual. What was that experience like? What happened to time…did it speed up? Slow down? 
  • Now think of a time when you were very out of sync with someone you really care about. What was that like?  

Reflection

  • What benefit is there to being aware of and listening with focus and intent to another individual?
  • In a learning event, how might you use Level Two Listening to enhance your learning experience? 
  • What colleagues do you naturally seem to be able to listen to at Level Two? What colleagues is it hard to get in sync with?
  • How comfortable are you with Level Two Listening? Why may this be so? 
  • As a leader, how might you use Level Two Listening to lead more effectively? What can you do to be more present (not distracted) and connected to the people you are talking with?

Practice

Let’s practice this week! What if you were to pick two people this week that you were going to practice listening to more intently? You know that you tend to rush ahead with your thoughts whenever you talk with these people. What would it be like to be fully present and listening without giving in to distracting thoughts?

Are you willing to take on the challenge? If so, please post your learning in the comments section below and let’s learn together what Level Two Listening has to offer us this week!  

Stay tuned for another post soon on Level One Listening.

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Wendy Balman wendy@wendybalman.com is an ICF professional certified coach, a consultant and a coach trainer practicing in Chicagoland, IL, USA. Her passion is to provoke people to deeper learning and to grow their capacity to creatively address life’s challenges and opportunities with joy. 

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How Am I Doing? – The Importance of Feedback in Higher Education

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Young adult college students can be tricky, especially when you consider they are going through all these changes and sometimes they can hardly understand themselves! How are we supposed to help them learn, if we cannot communicate properly?

Feedback is one of the most powerful and least understood tools teachers have (and even less understood when college students are part of the equation). Thereby it is imperative that teachers can be able to communicate to their students how they are doing and what it is expected from them. If the educator is not able to communicate and guide his or her students it will be impossible for their students to improve and learn properly.

After a lot of research (including this article and this publication), I have put together a list of key elements that must be taken into account when giving feedback in higher education:

  • GIVING FEEDBACK TO WHAT? Usually we think about giving feedback to a student—who else will listen to what we have to say? Of course the message´s final destination will always be the student, but feedback can be given to: the student´s homework, the process they are using to solve a problem, their train of thought, and to the student directly.
  • HOW SHOULD WE GIVE FEEDBACK? You can talk to a student or to the whole class, write feedback to a working group, in their paper, or include thoughts in a blog or wiki. Feeling creative? Share a video or make your own audio. When thinking about how, just think of the many innovative ways we can communicate nowadays!
  • WHEN TO GIVE FEEDBACK? Before, during, or after a learning task is being executed. When thinking about when to give feedback, you should remember what you are giving feedback to, a task that you want to explain BEFORE perfectly so that your students know what it is expected from them. Or maybe a process DURING the project they are working on; giving feedback AFTER everything is finished can be helpful for them for their next task (although it is not always recommended since your prior feedback might  have already helped them learn and produce a better result as a result).
  • IT’S ABOUT THEM: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Yes college students are tough, but if you are able to connect with them and recognize their ideas, struggles, contexts, and way of learning, your feedback will have a bigger impact on their leaning (which is ultimately what we want: for them to learn!) A good interaction and communication will result in successful feedback.
  • IT’S ABOUT THEM: DELIVERING, RECEIVING AND BEYOND. Feedback goes both ways, the first three ideas focus on how to deliver a message, the fourth starts talking about how they will receive it. This feedback interaction must goes beyond delivering and receiving a message—interaction and teacher-student participation must be taken into account. How? Let students help design the evaluation criteria for a project (they will be more engaged and willing to pay attention to your feedback), give them the opportunity to give you feedback about how you can improve your class (interact!), or explain the importance of feedback and help them keep in mind these important questions during homework:
    • Where am I going?
    • How do I get there? –and-
    • How can I improve next time?   
  • IT’S ABOUT THEM: THEIR OPINION MATTERS. QUALITY MATTERS. When talking about higher education and feedback, students are demanding when it comes to the quality of feedback they are given. Different statistics show that students like clear, simple, and positive feedback that expresses directly how to improve.

Not convinced about the importance of feedback? Well, let me see if we can change that. When feedback is properly used it can: help clarify what´s expected from a student (goals, standards, criteria), help students develop their own learning self-assessment, motivate students and lift their self-esteem; it can also help the teacher understand the gaps between what is taught and what it is learned, and this can help teachers improve their lectures.   

So, how am I doing? Have I convinced you that this powerful tool call feedback can help you and your students improve? 

Please leave your comments. I would love your feedback.  ;)

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Lorena Bianchi is a Guatemalan who is passionate about continuous learning and improvement for all in order to unleash their potential.  She has her M.A. in Leadership and Management in Education.  

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The Fourfold Frame Called Dialogue Education

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Fatemeh is a graduate student at the Tarbiat Modares University of Tehran.  After discovering On Teaching and Learning on the shelf of the university library, she wrote me an email and we have had a vigorous virtual conversation ever since!

Fatemeh found a copy of Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach and last year, she translated that book into Persian.   She has been using what she learned from the books and from our ongoing dialogue in her teaching and in her preparation of her thesis.

Her thesis advisor asked her :

"Does your model apply for guiding the conventional process of curriculum planning/ development leading to a national curriculum framework?"

I responded that what we call Dialogue Education is not so much a model as a system for designing and teaching so that effective learning occurs.  I thought this system did not only guide the conventional process of curriculum planning, but actually enhanced that process by being very specific.

I liked the professor’s use of the word framework.

How about this?

Dialogue Education offers a unique frame that has been proven effective for learning at many levels.  This fourfold frame consists of:

  1. Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education
  2. Learning Needs and Resources Assessment and the 8 Steps of Design  The data from the LNRA informs the design.   
  3. Learning Tasks  Including open questions.
  4. Evaluation Indicators  The three levels include learning, transfer and impact: these are behaviors anticipated in the “So That” design step. 

Essentially, it is a simple system consisting, today, of these four basic parts. However, that simplicity does not preclude the difficulty of designing and teaching faithfully using every single part.  It is time consuming to design thoroughly. It is demanding to be attentive to principles and practices that make for effective learning.  It is challenging to stand by quietly, avoiding the temptation to steal the learning opportunity from learners by telling them how it is done or what the correct answer is. It is tough to evaluate constantly so that the system develops through our own learning.  This “system” is an ongoing research agenda!

Such congruence in the behavior of designers and teachers is a must.  Happily, we and the learners can see, hear, taste and feel the effects of faithful use of this fourfold frame of Dialogue Education.

What other piece would you add to these four as a basic element of Dialogue Education as you use it?

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Three Levels of Listening: Café Conversation, Part 1

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[This post is the first in a summer series of three posts on Three Levels of Listening.  Stay tuned for the remaining two posts in this series, and download the tipsheet Three Levels of Listening in the meantime!]

Imagine this:

You are at a learning event, one you did not design, and you listen intently to the facilitator and your peers as a lively discussion plays out like beautiful chords of music throughout the room. You are mesmerized as the voices rise and fall – sometimes softly, sometimes loudly – in a rhythm that seems to be led by an unseen conductor. You are drawn to participate in the group discussion as much as possible and speak your mind and share your wisdom, and questions, freely.

All of the sudden you are surprised to find that the event is over and the lights are flickering as a sign that it’s time to go. As you make your way out the door you are basking in what felt like an orchestrated musical event. You wonder to yourself, “What just happened?” - you can’t remember the last time you were so engaged.

You can’t wait to meet up with your two friends, who also attended the event, at a local café and discuss the experience. As the three of you arrive at the café and find an open table, you can barely wait to be seated before you burst with exuberance about the event. You use words like “orchestra”, “musical”, “beautiful”, “freedom”, and “love” to describe your experience. Your friends listen to your animated description and nod. They felt it too. They add words of their own like “lively”, “friendly”, “intense”, and “peaceful.”

You sit back in your chair and relive the enjoyment of the event with your friends.       

Level Three – Listening to the Emotional Field (of the Whole)

There are many aspects to listening, and I’d like to draw your attention to three distinct levels. Level One is where you listen to what is happening inside of you. Level Two is where you listen to another person with focus and attention. Level Three is when you listen to the broader emotional field, or dynamic, around you. We all take in information on these three levels, but we are not always paying attention to all three levels. The story above is an example of Level Three Listening as the three friends describe the emotional field they experienced at the event.  

Imagine that you can turn a knob and fine tune your listening to pick up on the emotional field or dynamic that is present in a family, team, or event.

  • Think of a time in the recent past when you were very aware of the dynamic around you and it made you uncomfortable. What words would you use to describe the emotional field in that experience?
  • Now think of a time when you were aware of a fun or joyful dynamic, like in the learning event story described above. What words would you use to describe the emotional field in at experience?

Congratulations, you just practiced honing your listening skills to capture and name the dynamic or emotional field that was present in your experience. You may have noticed that this skill is one you already have working for you. The purpose of this blog post is to draw your attention to it so you can strengthen it and use it more intentionally. Some people call the ability to name the emotional field accessing “intuition.” Others call it something they just know in their “gut.” What do you call it? 

Reflection

  • What benefit is there to being aware of and listening for the emotional field in a group situation?
  • In a learning event, once you pay attention to the emotional field, how might that help you deepen your learning as an individual? As a team?
  • What is the dynamic you anticipate you will be walking into at your next work meeting? What was the dynamic at your last meeting?
  • How comfortable are you with paying attention to listening to the emotional field? 
  • As a leader, how might awareness of the emotional field help you lead more effectively? What can you do to shift the emotional field to be more conducive to learning in a group setting?

Practice

What if you were to set an intention to listen to the emotional field of your family or workplace throughout this next week? You can do this by taking a break every two hours or so throughout the day and asking the question “What is the dynamic now?” Then consider what two or three words come to mind that describe the “vibe” in the room. Now that you have expanded your awareness of the current dynamic, how might that influence what you do next?

Are you willing to take on the challenge? If so, please post your learning in the comments section below and let’s learn together what Level Three Listening has to offer us this week!   

Stay tuned for another post soon on Level Two Listening.

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Wendy Balman wendy@wendybalman.com is an ICF professional certified coach, a consultant and a coach trainer practicing in Chicagoland, IL, USA. Her passion is to provoke people to deeper learning and to grow their capacity to creatively address life’s challenges and opportunities with joy. 

 

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