As a state officer in a non-profit, nation-wide, student leadership organization with family as its central focus (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America), I have great opportunities of running workshops at the district and state level. These situations have enabled me to look at learning from the teacher perspective when I’m in control of the activities that happen. It’s interesting going from the position of junior high school student to teacher in a learning environment. Lately, I wrote a research paper on student motivation and teaching techniques, so education is currently brewing in my mind.
The workshop that I ran at a district meeting was on FCCLA facts. It is a game when you bounce a ball into one of several square containers that are lined up. The further the box the plastic bouncy ball lands in, the harder the FCCLA fact question. I created thirty question/answer index cards. I ask the question and the team playing attempts to respond with the correct answer for points. I did not plan this workshop, so I was mainly responsible for running it.
I guess it was wrong of me to expect that FCCLA members at the district level to know myriad facts about the organization. It may have been their first district meeting! It’s a learning experience though, right? Even if they don’t know the facts, they would by the end of the activity. I didn’t think of that early. That was my fault. Because the majority of the members had no basic knowledge on the organization, I had to think quick.
I recently ran into VARK, the four different styles of inputting and outputting information: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic. Looking back as this workshop, these preferences for information apply to this experience. I took the survey in 2002 and scored from highest to lowest: Kinesthetic, Visaul, Auditory, Read/Write.Take a look and you can take the survey to find out which preference(s) best fit you: http://www.vark-learn.com/english/index.asp
The example I love for VARK is your in an airport and an individual asks you for directions to a gate. What do you do?
Visual: finds or draws a map to show you the direction
Auditory: Verbally tells you the directions
Read/Write: Writes the directions on a piece of paper for you
Kinesthetic: Travels to the gate or partially walks to the gate with you until you know where it is. Interesting, right? I encourage you to check out the website.
Because education and leadership interests me, I started this workshop as if it was my playground for making observations about motivation and initiative. The first thing I did was say, “Everyone do twenty jumping jacks!” Without hesitating, I started and members followed. This was my way of assessing energy level from the start. I want to make clear that the results of this exercise for each group (I conducted the workshop for four different groups) was extremely similar when estimated. About ten percent did the jumping jacks and enjoyed them (I LOVE LEARNING GROUP!). Another 40 percent did them because they were told to (He’s doing it, so we should!). The bottom 40 percent did them with half-effort(what’s going on….what is this…). Lastly, the bottom 10 percent either didn’t enjoy it or didn’t do it (No thanks…)
I did not have a lot of people for this workshop, (10-15) but you can see the distribution in motivation from the start. I think the key in a workshop is to get the upper and majority to be involved, and hopefully the members that aren’t truly motivated will turn around.
Here is where it gets interesting. I observed that first exercise. Next, I explained the workshop, the rules, the point system, and the rewards. But before beginning, I did something different. Instead of beginning my workshop I said, “If we were to not do this activity, what would you want to do?”
I believe the learning environment is dynamic because it never functions in the same way unless the learning methods require it (Ehm….school) Human intelligence is diverse. The workshop became easier to run when I reached the second group because I procured a “method” Here is what happened.
The first group that came did not play the activity. We stood in a circle and they threw questions about FCCLA at me because they probably had questions that needed answers. I did my best to answer them. This is my fourth year in FCCLA. There was one individual that had something going on in her relationship life that was eliciting a negative energy. I felt it in her attitude. No problem though; not my concern. The next group did something completely different. I mentioned team-building activities and they lit up! (My favorite activities too!) So we played word games and team exercises. I’m a Kinesthetic learner, so that was exciting to run! The third group didn’t play a game. They did something that tested my commitment to FCCLA. They took my index cards and asked me all the FCCLA questions. I sure told them. I didn’t miss a single one. I bet they learned a lot from that. It was almost as if the members took the position of the teacher and I was the student. Intriguing. Lastly, the fourth group actually played the game, even though they weren’t knowledgeable about FCCLA. I still gave them the question based on the box distance and they attempted to answer. If they were wrong, I still said the correct answer. I guess the tossing of plastic spheres into boxes, as well as me chasing them if they missed, was entertaining.
What have I learned? Learning is complex. Every group did something different. Although it was a little difficult improvising, it was fun and dynamic. That afternoon was unlike any other. I still remember it today because it was so different. For the readers that read up to this point, thank you.
As Ken Robinson stated in his TED talk about human creativity: “Human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it’s an organic process.” He means that you can’t force someone to learn or talent to arise. You can only create an environment and conditions in which students rise to the occasion and express who they are and their talents.
Learning is fun! How do you know what you know?