December 22, 2014—I recently had the opportunity to attend several lifelong learning events. They were refreshing in the sense that I got to be a participant, and sometimes, a spectator. My family teased me about going to an event where I was not the presenter, asking, “What are you going there for, really?” As is the case with many lifelong learners, my tendency is to strive to learn on several levels. For example, being attentive to: (1) the content of the presentations, (2) the ways of thinking of the presenters, (3) the ways the presenters communicate (“teach”) their information, and (4) being attentive to what I am learning and how I am being challenged. There’s something to be learned from all levels.
One frustrating experience at these events is seeing how few presenters practice effective presentation skills. And fewer show evidence of knowing how to apply effective learning theories. Too many of these events are “sage on the stage” experiences where participants come to sit and listen. What, if anything is learned, is left to happenstance.
In the book Active Learning, educator and psychologist Mel Silberman identified eight qualities of an effective and active learning experience:
Would that conference presenters use even four out of the eight! I’d likely come away a happier learner.