Training turned upside down

Training turned upside down

This article was first published in Business Times on 31 January 2020

Training turned upside down
John Bitteston, Terrific Mentors International

Of all the times when you want attention, discipline and focus, during training must come near the top of the list. Disruption, surely, is the last thing you need when you are trying to teach? That certainly was the case until the search engine was invented, until Wiki leaked and Micro softened. Now the classroom has done its duty and the blackboard / whiteboard have somewhat had their day. Training will always be with us. People have to learn and they have to be taught. What they need changes every day. How they can be taught it remains an evolving skill.

Analogy with the human body
Think of the human body. Today we can diagnose with greater accuracy than ever before. Tomorrow we will forecast likely illnesses. Soon after that we will be able to modify bits and balances to extend comfortable life nobody knows for how long. The mind is less explored but catching up fast. The brain’s complex connections drive our desires and make us who we are. What motivates you at the moment may not at another – and certainly won’t motivate your neighbour in the same way.

What do we need in order to learn? It’s not as simple as a subject, a teacher and a pupil. We need to learn by heart information that cannot be accessed quickly enough unless we know it. Knowledge has been turned upside down. Where information was a hugely dominant part of education, it is now virtually no part at all, since information can be easily accessed on the internet. Where communication was thought of as common sense, we know today that it is far from obvious. Where wisdom was previously believed to be something acquired exclusively by getting old, we know that small children are among the wisest of the people on the planet. Just as knowledge has been turned upside down, so education should be too.

Motivation become more important than rote
Chief of the revolutions in education is understanding motivation. What drives young people to study, to achieve, to win? Younger generations are propelled by a wish to acquire knowledge, regardless of whether skills are attached or not. Rich pickings do not drive everyone in search of a career. Assessing potential is more important than assessing capability. Capability is a matter of intelligence and tools. Potential is a matter of interest, motivation and ambition.

As a mentor, people regularly come to me in need of help. In weighing up their needs, I devote most time to learning what they think they want, to discovering how adaptable they are to reach for it and to unearthing the hidden drivers that propel each of us, often subliminally, always surreptitiously. The banking system has a compliance of KYC (know your client). They do this with forms — the only practical way for the volume of work they have to do. But to pretend that a completed form lets you know someone in terms of motivation and trust is mythical.

It takes a steady eye to spot the genuine.

Pupil teaches teacher is the new model
Get the pupil to teach the teacher. Sounds daft? It isn’t. The pace of change means that all teachers of whatever subjects are out of date every morning when they wake up. The young are less so but they lack the structures, disciplines and wisdom to codify and conclude quickly. Just as you must combine artificial intelligence with emotional intelligence in the modern world, so you must combine new technology with old desires if you are to teach commercial practice successfully. Presentations from the young promote challenge and discussion. Those from their elders may precipitate yawns and watch-talk.

Start from basics. To know the fundamentals of what you are to study is to provide the foundations for your building of creative construction. No learning should be only about what is. Instead it should always also be about what may be, what could be and what will be. To make all learning an act of creation not only provides the opportunity for excitement and tension but also results in ideas that are worth exploring socially and commercially for the benefit of all.

What is to be examined must change
Examination must also be turned upside down. The present system was devised to see how much knowledge had been pumped into pupils. Now knowledge-pumping is not needed, examination must be more about evaluating the knowledge accessed and making use of it in the most productive way. Beady assessment of fake data is a priority for examining. This requires the latest in tell-tale signs of malfeasance and good disciplines for updating both that and the security still essentially needed for your computer.

Viva and video clip will feature significantly more in future exams.

Good productivity requires creative thinking at all levels
Productive use of knowledge accessed is key to good productivity at whatever work you are going to do. This depends on your basic ability to be creative. We have talked about creativity for many years and the level of it has increased dramatically. However, this is happening when people opt for jobs requiring creative thinking. Actually, everyone needs to have the ability to perceive relationships, the best definition of creativity I have yet discovered. Without it, the value of accessed knowledge is limited to the particular issue being studied. The Segway would never have been invented if someone hadn’t related auto-gyro balance to personal transport. Artificial limb development would never have proceeded so quickly if the relationship between thought and movement had not been clearly established. A hand is for gestures as well as support.

Teacher training will become fieldwork-oriented rather than system-based. Knowing your pupils (KYP) will require much closer connections, with all the hazards that implies. Personal standards will need to be an even greater consideration than it is today. Wages must virtually double in the current decade – and this will happen even if it is through commercialisation of education, which is already well in progress.

Disrupting education is not easy. Many of the processes in place seem to tie the hands of even the most progressive educators. Breaking out of these when the parent population resist change at every turn is never going to be a walk in the park. But it has to be done.

And a walk in the park may be a good way to clear the cobwebs of tradition.

At least it will inspire a vision of the New Teaching we all so long for.