Following on last week’s discussion about when do people learn, as against their nature, I found myself after class having exactly the same conversation with a student. The assessment for my module on ‘negotiating politics’ is a reflective piece, where students consider their development as negotiators, in light of both the literature and their own experience through the weeks.
Today’s class was about principled negotiation, taking Fisher and Ury’s classic “Getting to Yes” as the key text. The student was bemoaning the idea that it was necessary to analyse one’s own actions and that over-analysis was the likely outcome. Indeed, he claimed that now we’d covered the model, everyone in the class was just going to stick to it and no one would really learn anything.
I reminded him of the second round of Victor’s card game, where a student had just ploughed on because “it’s nice to have more than one card.” I then also remarked that even though I’d closed today’s class with a reminder about the centrality of good (or indeed, any) preparation in being an effective negotiator, I was confident that not everyone in the class would prepare, not even for the session in a fortnight entitled “preparation in negotiations”, which I have flagged repeatedly as requiring preparation.
The student took the point, but it was apparent that he didn’t quite buy it. And it’s here that the experiential model will really kick in. In a few weeks, I’ll be able to go back to students and ask them how the theory they’ve learnt has helped them and shaped their actions; not because I think it will have changed much, but because it won’t. Likewise, even though they know they should be keeping notes to help them produce their reflective piece at the end of the module, most will not have been particularly assiduous about it. By making them confront their natures, I hope to make it more likely that they will change (or at least modify) them.
Then again, I’d not bet on it…