Many people do a great job of briefing. Because their goal is simply to inform, briefing is really all they need to do. They are organized, knowledgeable, often charismatic, and in control of their performance. Briefing is a valuable skill, essential for the rapid dissemination of significant information. In industry, government, and many institutions of higher learning, briefing is what passes for training, and adult students have come to expect it.
When you expect people to retain, understand, and act on information you provide however, you have to do more than just deliver a message. You have to make sure listeners understand the message the way you intended it to be understood. To that end, it helps if you can get inside the listeners’ heads. And you cannot do that unless you are able to get past concerns over your own performance, place the focus rightfully on the audience, and focus on the dynamics at play in the audience.
What is often missing from what passes for training in the form of briefings is an interest in drawing out listeners, an interest in actively connecting listeners to the issues under discussion in a way that is personal and spurs them on to contribute to and shape the event. “People need to weigh in before they can buy in.” The intention to cause an audience to negotiate meaning, feel something, react openly, argue constructively, and cause the contemplation of concepts to linger is associated with teachers, not briefers.
Logic, of course, should play a prominent role whenever people articulate ideas. Logic establishes relevance and competence. A necessary emotional connection, however, must be elicited, as it is responsible for creating the link that personalizes the learning experience. Making the topic of discussion personally relatable and actionable requires more than just a logical presentation of factual information. It requires that emotional connection. A change happens in the knowledge structure of participants as they engage each other and the teacher in an interactive exploration of the material. The emotional connection moves people to enrolment, ownership, and ultimately to action. It is only when we connect with people that we get them to see what we really want them to see.
A learning event is a cooperative effort between students and instructors. They feed off of one another. It is a social experience that like all successful social transactions requires a positive atmosphere. Effective teachers must be responsive to the students in their class. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but also teaching them how to learn… It is about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students. Good teaching is about substance […] it’s about doing your best to stay on top of your field … bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student is different. It’s about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It is also about having fun and basking in the rewards that learning brings.
One cannot learn to teach by reading a book, but reading a book can be an important step in a reflection that promotes better teaching and learning. Action that is not informed by reflection runs the risk of leading to diminishing returns. Through this book we aim to engage you, the reader, in a salutary reflection on ways to advance the concept of developing others. The scope of this endeavor goes beyond pedagogy and embraces leadership. Teaching is leadership in action. Teaching is enhanced when teachers are strong visionary leaders. We consider teaching an end within itself; real teachers love the art so much that it often becomes its own reward. Yet we also consider teaching to be a means and a pathway in the pursuit of transcendence, our own and that of those we touch. Frequent reflection, given the stakes, can only make the journey more rewarding.
The Banking Concept of Education [Pedagogy of the Oppressed]
When briefing passes for training, we are reminded of Paolo Freire’s banking model of education. In this framework the ability to recall and regurgitate facts from class is the way to success. Education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the receptacles, the depositories and the teacher the depositor. In the banking concept of education knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those they consider to know nothing. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposites. The banking concept of education stimulates practices that mirror the practices of an oppressive society:
a) The teacher teaches and the students are taught;
b) The teacher knows everything and the students know nothing
c) The teacher thinks and the students are thought about
d) The teacher talks and the students listen – meekly
e) The teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined
f) The teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply
g) The teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher
h) The teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it
i) The teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which he or she sets in opposition to the freedom of the students
j) The teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the students are mere objects
This banking concept smacks of education as an exercise in domination. Banking education begins with a false understanding of men and women as objects.
The Performance Model of education [Pedagogy of the Distressed]
Today we have class discussions, oral reports, and student participation of various kinds. The banking model should be obsolete. But according to Jane Tompkins, what we do have is something no less coercive, no less destructive of creativity and self-motivated learning. That something can be called the performance model.
While teachers believe they are helping students understand the material they are studying, what teachers are actually concerned with and focused on most of the time are three things:
a) To show the students how smart they are
b) To show the students how knowledgeable the teacher is, and
c) To show the students how well prepared the teacher is for class.
Teachers put on a performance whose true goal is not to help the students learn but to go through the motion and perform before them in such a way that students end up having a good opinion of the teacher.
This essentially, and more than anything else, is what we teach our students: how to perform within an institutional setting in such a way that they will be thought highly of by their colleagues and instructors.
How did it come to be that our main goal as instructors turned out to be performance?
Here is how Tompkins, who identified this model, answers the question:
“Each person comes into a professional situation dragging along behind her a long bag full of desires, fears, expectations, needs, resentments - the list goes on. But the main component is fear. Fear is the driving force behind the performance model. Fear of being shown up for what you are: a fraud, stupid, ignorant, a clod, a dolt, a sap, a weakling, someone who can't cut the mustard [...] Such fear is no doubt fostered by the way our institution is organized, but it is rooted in childhood […] Fear of exposure, of being found out, does not have its basis in any real in-adequacies either of knowledge or intelligence on our part, but rather in the performance model itself, which, in separating our behavior from what we really felt, created a kind of false self […] We became so good at imitating the behavior of our elders, such expert practitioners at imitating whatever style, stance, or attitude seemed most likely to succeed in the adult world from which we so desperately sought approval that we came to be split into two parts: the real backstage self who didn't know anything and the performing self who got others to believe in its expertise and accomplishments. This pattern of seeking approval has extended itself into our practice as teachers. Still seeking approval from our peers and from our students, we exemplify a model of performance which our students succeed in emulating, thus passing the model down to future generations. Ironically, as teachers we are still performing for the teachers who taught us.”
Education needs to become the practice of freedom, our own and that of our students.
Problem posing, Inquiry, critical thinking and dialogue are the tools of education for freedom. The voices of the learners inform the learning experience.
To put it simply means, “to get it all out there”; it is a special type of discourse, which comes before decision-making. Debate is about winning, whereas dialogue is about learning.
Dialogue is about learning
Debate is about winning
Assuming that others have a piece of the answer
Assuming there is one right answer and you have it
Collaborative: looking for common understanding
Combative: attempting to prove the other side wrong
About finding common ground
Listening to understand and find basis for agreement
Listening to find flaws and make counterarguments
Bringing up your assumptions for inspection and discussion
Defending your assumptions
Discovering new possibilities and opportunities
Seeking an outcome that agrees with your position
Any process that has the aim of augmenting knowledge, resolving doubt, or solving a problem.
Students and teachers must become partners in critical thinking. Teachers should replace banking educational goals with “the posing of the problems of human beings in their relations with the world”. When students are given problems as opposed to only information, the process of learning becomes less alienating and more practical. When there is no one right answer, students are then pitted with the task of critical thinking.
1. What differentiates your training from a briefing?
2. What can you do to further differentiate your training from a briefing?
3. Where is your focus, on the subject, on the students, or on yourself?
4. How does your focus impact the learning experience?