Learning is forever/scarred for life

A particularly rewarding part of being an educator is when someone you’ve taught comes back to you, years down the line, and recounts the experience they had with you and how it changed them.

Usually I like to illustrate this with the case of a former student who told me how my negotiation class had been front-and-centre of their thinking when sacking someone at their business, but now I get to add a new example. Not much better, I fear.

Some years ago, I ran an exercise with colleagues during an awayday.

They still remember it:

You might recall that I wrote it all up at the time. And yes, I do still have the other photos and video, before you ask.

As you’ll see for the responses to the tweet, they all remember the point of the exercise, which I think makes it a success. The exercise took under 30 minutes, and no clown costumes were needed.

And this is maybe the key point.

Looking at the dress-up-as-a-clown thing, I’m not sure if that would necessarily be the take-home from that activity. Yes, you’d rapidly forget about your outfit as you did other stuff, but is that ‘losing inhibitions’? Not really: maybe more about being reminded about how much you have to put up with stuff in your job.

So what to take from this?

As so often, it’s all about clarity of purpose: what are you trying to get the participants to learn?

It’s super-easy to get lost in the mechanics and the (metaphorical) dressing-up of your class, but you always, always have to come back to whether it helps improve the likelihood of your learning objectives being reached. If that doesn’t happen, then you’ve failed the most basic test of efficacy.

Feel free to point this out next time you’re sat in a wood in a clown outfit.