Keeping it fresh IV: sense-check

Mmm. Maybe I need a certified sense-check, from Germany.

I’m (slowly) rebuilding my negotiation module for the autumn (starting here), and am toying with different ways of doing this.

Apparently, it’s the season for this, and reading the recent posts from Chad and from Natascha I think it’s a good moment to try to get out of my furrow and look around.

Chad pointed to the work by Erin Baumann and John FitzGibbon on the utility of stripping back content: focusing on what’s not needed, rather than what’s good/nice to add. This is very much an issue for mature provision, where the barnacles of “a bright idea I had 5 years ago” impair the sleek running lines of the original design.

Typically, I’ve approached this problem from the other end, telling people that it’s best to start out with something simple, then add in complexity as you go along and feel more confident about what’s what. What Baumann and FitzGibbon are doing is asking us to sense-check as we go, and not just add for the sake of adding.

In either case, it’s a matter of keeping your learning objectives crystal-clear, wherever you are in the journey.

For me and my particular case, a central objective has been to develop self-awareness and self-reflection on the part of students, so they can make their own judgements about their negotiating practice.

Over the years, that’s meant trying to carve out more space for practice and for debriefing, which is where Natascha’s post comes in.

Natascha writes about flipping a research methods class and turning it into more of a tool-box: students come in with diverse needs, so why try to fit them all into the same format?

Clearly, there’s an issue here with present and future needs – it might be great to be able to avoid learning about a particular technique that you don’t like, but much less great if it turns out you need that technique down the line.  For me that’s an issue, as someone who thinks methods follow questions, not the other way around.

However, in the more limited context of negotiation, I think this issue is much smaller. Partly that’s because all the elements interlink and partly it’s because the practical activity of negotiation tends to play up that interlinkage. To take an obvious example, any negotiation can be understood better by focusing on preparation, just as any negotiation can be understood by looking at communication: both are essential and pervasive.

With this in mind, I’m very tempted by the toolbox approach that Natascha sets out – parking my delivered content in podcasts and/or online elements – and using contact time to run exercises that are less driven by different factors. Indeed, this might help with the joined-exercises approach I discussed last time around.

But the most important message I’m taking from this stage is that the wheel has already been invented.

Rather than having to go back to the drawing board every time, and do it all from scratch, there is a great community out there, with ideas and approaches. And because most people are happy to share, we should make the most of that.

So my next stage is to go hunting and found out more of what’s going on, and thinking about how I can re-use it.