How can we bridge the teaching/learning gap?
The evidence-based clinical practice model that I use and teach, Motivational Interviewing, is a respectful and collaborative way to talk about change with people who are ambivalent or unwilling.
In fact, conversations about change are clearly relevant beyond counselling, therapy or health care. The new edition of Motivational Interviewing by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick outlines four essential processes that map well onto processes of adult education, particularly in contexts where learners may be less than enthusiastic. These processes are somewhat linear but also recursive – one naturally leads to (and provides a foundation for) the next, but we may also circle backwards and forwards as needed.
This is about establishing a relationship with the group and creating a positive learning community. Is it safe to speak up, disagree, critique and explore? Meaningful discourse hinges on successful engagement.
Engagement comes first, but it is also important to understand and highlight the relevance of the topic/learning objectives to real world problems and issues. What will I learn, and why should I care? How will mastering new knowledge and skills make my work easier and better? Individuals may raise topics or issues that instructors hadn’t anticipated. These are the burning questions that need to be resolved through successful focusing. Optimally, adult learners are engaged in co-creating curricula.
Learning is 100% volitional. Constructivism and paragogy mark a shift from installing knowledge and solutions towards evoking these. Although faculty bring expertise to the table – and we shouldn’t shy away from sharing this – a motivational approach presupposes doing so in partnership with learners, and with a spirit of nonjudgmental acceptance and compassionate empathy.
We’ve engaged learners in an active partnership, linked curricula to real-world issues, and evoked new connections, insights, ideas and approaches. Now what? Identifying implications for practice and committing to an action plan are key. The planning process helps bridge the gap between learning and life. If new learning has no real-world implications, then we’ve missed the boat somewhere along the way.