Better Learners–Better Teachers–Better Leaders

I am posting this on January 1, 2016, so Happy New Year to everyone!  I recently read an article on the Harvard Business Review  entitled “Four Ways to Become A Better Learner.”  I wondered if it would be a good article to share with my advisement students.  Then, I read the article! Wow, this is really about being a better teacher, and these four ways of becoming better learners are aimed at leaders and teachers as leaders!  They are core to what teaching with Comprehensible Input is about.  In fact, these four keys to becoming “better learners” really echo the findings of CI research and teacher experiences who use it.  So, while I am not very keen on New Year’s Resolutions, I am very keen on learning how to do what I do better.

Take a look at what the author calls “learning agility.”  The best deal is to follow the link above and read the article for yourself.  Here’s my quick summary.

Learning agility “is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience.”  Learning agility includes:

  • making connections across experiences
  • letting go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful
  • unlearning things when new solutions are required
  • focusing on learning goals and new experiences
  • experimenting, seeking feedback, reflecting
  • acquiring new skills and mastering new situations is core to learning agility
  • enjoying the process of learning itself
  • willing to take risks and not becoming defensive

There are four ways to develop learning agility:

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Experiment with new approaches or behaviors
  3. Look for connections across seemingly unrelated areas
  4. Make time for reflection

If you read the entire article, you will see that this was written for corporate executives, but, in fact, it was written for those involved in leadership.  In my opinion, a teacher who does not see him/herself involved in leadership has missed something core to teaching and learning.  “Educate” from the Latin educare implies leading people out and growing them up, and that requires leadership.  Those of us involved in teaching second languages with Comprehensible Input will see the close connections between CI theory/pratice and learning agility even through my simple outline above.

I will close by quickly offering some first steps for implementing learning agility in our teaching practices:

  1. Ask your students for feedback with three simple questions:  a) what have we been doing that HELPS you learn (language)?  b) What have we been doing that DOES NOT HELP you learn (language)?  c) If you could change one thing that would help you learn (language) better what would it be?  Promise to read and collate their advice, and implement the major trends.
  2. When you look at your practice of Comprehensible Input, what aspects of it do you tend to steer clear of or do less often than you think you should?  Make a committment to regularly including that one new thing in your teaching practice this spring semester.
  3. How often do you engage in conversation with teachers outside of your language or outside of your language department?  Identify one or two teachers whose good work is well known, and find time to go and observe them.  Find out what they are doing in their German class or their Chemistry class that might work back in your (language) class.
  4. At the end of each day, before you leave the campus (I do this while walking from my classroom to my car) ask yourself:  what worked today?  What didn’t work today?  How will I change this the next time I do this thing?  (see the connections between 1 and 4?).

I’m thinking of taking the bulleted items above–the qualities of an agile learner–and making a little poster–for myself.  I think I’ll hang it something in my classroom where I am likely to see it each day–just to keep the reflection going.  Am I this sort of learner?  Am I this sort of teacher?  Am I this sort of leader?

Bob Patrick