In a busy week of meetings I went to our Executive Education facility to teach in a leadership program. I had taught the participants on Tuesday. Now, on Friday, I would close the program. As I walked to the front of the room I said, “I am so grateful to be back with you. Since I left I have been in meetings. They were important, but in them I did not personally grow. In the next few hours I know I am going to grow a lot because we are all going to again join in an authentic dialogue and a high quality learning experience.”
At the end of the day, one of them came up and said, “In 25 years of professional life this week has been the best educational experience I have ever had, I am going to try to get my teenager to come to the University of Michigan.”
He was completely sincere. He so valued his experience that he wanted his daughter to have it. He assumed that what occurred to him would happen in other classrooms as well. Unfortunately it rarely does. His week was designed and taught by four unusual faculty members who understand the importance of high quality learning experiences.
A high quality learning experience is an event that causes a deep change in our personal outlook. It is a new experience around something we care about, it is relevant. It is a challenging experience. We are tested. It is a supported experience. We are made to feel confident that trying is worthwhile. It is an experience that challenges our current assumptions of fear and self-limitation. In engaging the experience we suddenly see possibilities we could not previously see. We are empowered by the experience.
In having a high quality learning experience, life becomes more meaningful. I feel positively changed forever and I am filled with gratitude. I want others to experience the same kind of learning.
It seems to me that every human being is hungry for something they seldom ever get and that is high quality learning experiences. It is ironic that universities and public schools do not provide them. It is tragic that professional work organizations have the same failing.
Given my research on public school teachers as leaders, I am convinced that many teachers believe that they are supposed to be information distributers. So they create organizations (class rooms) of information dissemination. The transformative teachers create learning organizations (classrooms).
I believe most administrators also believe they are supposed to be experts. They create organizations of information dissemination and not learning organizations. That is one reason why so many people are unengaged at work.
I believe there are many reasons that we live in hierarchies of information distribution. One is the worship of expertise and the fear of looking uninformed. Being an expert is at the center of both our educational and societal cultures. The mastery of learning stimulation requires learning to go beyond the role of expert. It requires a higher level of commitment and engagement that takes the teacher or administrator from expert information giver to master facilitator.
The master teacher is usually a facilitator of high quality learning experiences. This is true in universities and public schools and professional work organization.
The shift from expert to master is a profound shift at the very heart of the positive lens. When we speak of “high quality” learning experiences, we are speaking of leaving the conventional realm and entering the realm of excellence. This is what the positive lens is all about. The student and teacher or administrator and employee become joined in an exhilarating relationship focused on the co-creation of knowledge and the accomplishment of purpose.
Organizations that create high quality learning experiences for employees or customers have a distinct competitive advantage. They offer something valuable that few organizations offer. Because they do, the people thrive and exceed expectations.
When have I had a high quality learning experience?
How frequently do I have high quality learning experiences at work?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?