In learning about Marc Presnky’s “partnering pedagogy” concept, he proposes, and many of my graduate classmates (who are teachers) that school teachers should “partner” with their students for more engaged learning. However, I can see very similar applications of this concept for adult corporate training. After all, I think that in the sense of learning, there are many similarities between how adults and young students learn. In fact, as a trainer I’ve had a number of new-hires who are barely out of high school, so the concept certainly applies there.
What I especially like is how Prensky turns traditional learning on its head. Instead of providing all of the answers upfront (via lecture, reading textbooks, etc.), he suggests turning this around by simply providing students with the questions upfront. Then it is up to the students to use whatever means necessary (textbook, library, Internet) to find the answers. It’s almost as simple as presenting the test questions upfront, then letting students find the answers on their own.
This method empowers students and gives them the freedom to discover and learn for themselves, with the teacher now acting more as their coach and “partner” (moving from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”). Most all students prefer this method, as it treats them more as responsible adults, and also makes their learning more active. Prensky interviewed over a thousand students, and most agreed that they would prefer to learn in this way, over the old “lecture + taking notes” method.
Before even reading Prensky, when I trained new-hires at Insight Communications, I tried more and more to live by this concept. Why? Because I felt strongly that adults (at least as much as kids) prefer active learning, and I can always see them being more active and engaged when they are “finding the answers” as opposed to me lecturing for 8 hours a day. Not many humans can take that much lecture without, at the very least, nodding off.
In my classes I helped students learn product knowledge, for example, by dividing them into teams and assigning each group a key portion of the product. For instance, in teaching about Internet service, I would assign each of 3 teams one of the following topics: “speed,” “equipment,” and “other features.” Those teams then break out to learn and “become the experts” on their topic. They are asked to become the experts because later in the day they must “teach back” what they have learned to the other 2 groups. My job as the trainer is to mingle between the 3 groups as they are discovering their topic, and be there as a coach to answer any questions they have.
This works well by first laying out a few upfront guidelines. I first present them with all of the resources where they can find the information. I provide whatever materials they need to put together their presentation (in the interest of time, this is usually a whiteboard, easel pads, or maybe use of PowerPoint). And one big rule they must follow is that all team members have to show equal participation both in the research and the presentation.
Prensky discusses these concepts in his book Teaching Digital Natives – Partnering for Real Learning. The book outlines ways for teachers (many of whom are not digital natives) to better “connect” with their students, and to move away from direct instruction. Too many teachers today are still using the traditional teaching method of “I lecture and you take notes.”
While this old way of teaching sufficed in the pre-digital age, it is wholly ineffective now. Anyone born in the past 20 years has grown up with an ever-growing amount of digital technology in their lives (thus the reference to them as “Digital Natives”). These young people, having grown up surrounded by technology, learn and discover in very fast-paced, often random ways. They are no longer able to “sit still” and learn from a lecturing teacher. So what often occurs is that the students simply shut down from such antiquated methods.
A thought just occurred to me. Could there be a connection to the growing number of people we diagnose as “ADD” or “ADHD” and the growing amount of technology use and available media? Maybe those students that teachers diagnose as ADHD are merely digital natives who can’t slow down to meet the pace of their out-of-touch teachers and their out-of-date teaching methods?
I have heard about recent studies that show that our attention span has decreased tremendously, and that it is attributed to our ever-increasing use of digital technologies. I may have to research those studies for a future post…
Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching Digital Natives – Partnering for Real Learning. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, A Sage Company.