Why "Simple" Works to Engage Every Student: Use Risk Mitigation and Debriefs to Deepen Learning and Critical Analysis

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Increase participation in learning by facilitating students to teach one another and learn together! When you stay focused and keep things simple, it decreases identity-based concerns that block students.  Utilizing easily applied techniques, you can help students think more deeply and critically while teaching your most complex topics!

Extended Abstract

Advancing student learning in all venues is often seen as an exercise in increasing complexity and sometimes even obscurity of the material being taught.  Educational strategies are too often focused on expected and tested outcomes while ignoring the processes associated with good instruction and successful learning.  As a result, concepts that are essential for both the immediate moment and that point toward learning that will need to occur moving forward become a singular focus without adequate consideration being given to either the methodology or the possible processes that could produce that outcome. 

In this brief workshop session, Why “Simple” Works to Engage Every Student:  Using Risk Mitigation and Debriefs to Deepen Learning and Critical Analysis, we will focus on two elements that facilitate (and sometimes even just make possible) changing our individual perceptual lens to include valuable input from others, and what that experience ultimately is like.  Particularly when participating in learning that is connected in any way with a chosen discipline or profession, remaining open to new information is often thwarted by our concerns about how others perceive us, shutting down the value of the shared information and the experience itself.

Central to becoming a member of a high-functioning team is the need to jettison culturally common beliefs related to competition, replacing such assumptions with an awareness of what happens when team mates work together.  When approaching tasks from the standpoint of perceptions and problem-solving, each of us compares the current situation to similar ones we may have experienced in the past or knowledge that we may have acquired either actively or passively.  The downside to working alone is that one can generally only see what one perceives or believes to be true.  In other words, we retain and act out of information that we believe in some manner has veracity for us.  Why would we function from a place of known error?  In our brains, one thought causes a cascade of others.  When we think we are right about something, we build entire realities around that perception. It appears to be instinctive, causing us to make decisions with information which is perhaps proved out to us by some prior circumstance or condition. We are familiar with the phenomenon where there are multiple witnesses to the same event who then remember and relate the details differently. Why would they relate different information unless their perceptual experiences caused them to believe it true?

One of the primary values in working on a team is to learn to share and to receive input from others, recognizing that how they see or experience or even describe what is going on may be different or contrary to what we have believed is true.  In teams, we should expect collegial members to be different than we are, and ideally, we will welcome those differences as an advantage.  It is out of those differences that we have the best opportunity to learn new insights or other means of seeing or understanding an issue.

Stepping away from the exclusive certainty of our perceptions requires opportunities to experience and receive information from others that ultimately proves to be in alignment with our paradigmatic understanding. While that doesn’t assure a learner’s readiness to challenge and potentially change their own thinking around larger or more complex issues, it is possible to demonstrate in relative safety the advantages that emerge when multiple participants look at and discuss the same stimulus.  For learning readiness to occur, the personal and professional stakes of the participants must be low enough to allow engagement with information where they can reduce their guardedness.  Simpler tasks based on common experiences that do not tax our perceptive or cognitive powers opens the opportunity for experience to shift our attachment to our own perceptions.

A simple, perceptual challenge in this workshop opens the possibilities of comparing what we see and what we believe to be true.  A facilitated discussion both brings forth the imagery perceived as well diving into the experiences of seeing what others see and changing and challenging our own conclusions.  While the imagery may vary from lesson to lesson, the insights gathered are similar regardless of the stimulus.  What parts did you see first?  How many people had an “aha” moment when someone, who saw something different, revealed their perception?  What is it like when we realize that we do not see the world the same as other people but that neither of us needs to be either wrong or right?  How does this relate to insights you have gained on teams?  What internal narrative did you identify when your perceptions were challenged by those of other people.

As part of this workshop, we will discuss the importance in debriefing of utilizing open-ended questions (as opposed to those that suggest a binary of right or wrong).  We will formulate together the possibilities for questions related to this image as well as other imagery that might have been utilized. Ultimately, each participant will walk away with a framework for doing this kind of activity, applying it directly to the subject matter or the composition of teams with which they are working.

As a result of fully participating in this workshop, the learner should be able to:

  1. Formulate a context for an experience such as offered in this workshop for their own groups of learners, simultaneously providing relevancy while mitigating risk in participation.
  2. Construct a framework of debriefing questions that fit the experience as well as the educational context for learners.

This brief express workshop will let you walk away with approaches and ideas that you can implement immediately in the context where you work.  The value in this group experience will be the opportunity to learn with others, learn from others, and learn about others and how they see the world!