If you asked my friends, they would tell you that I can play piano. They would probably tell you I am quite good. But I'm here to make a confession. It's a sham. I can play a song on the piano. It's Michael Nymans theme to the 1993 movie The Piano. The Heart Asks Pleasure First. And it's a spectacular score. On top of that, I can play a few random chords (mostly in major keys). Plus about 15 seconds of Fur Elise...
There. Now I've gotten it off my chest. It's my big confession. The truth of the matter, is that I never actually learned piano. I never went to lessons. I never went through grades. Instead I sat down one day and by mimicking what I saw, taught myself note by note how to replicate the tune. It took months, but eventually I got it.
But if you put a different piece of music in front of me, I wouldn't have a clue what I was doing. I cannot play the piano. I can just play a song on the piano.
I think of education in the same way. Speak to any L+D lead, and they will sprout things such as the ADDIE principles of Instructional Design, or Blooms taxonomy of verbiage. And whilst these things are great frameworks, for me it's much more simple.
To learn is to do. To critically analyse. To learn the basics, but then to put them into practice. And to allow yourself time for reflection.
Great learning design encourages you to do this. Not just recite the information that you've crammed into your brain. This is why, in my generation at least, the school educational system is fundamentally floored. I remember staying up all night cramming my brain with the rules of trigonometry the night before a maths exam, yet I couldn't tell you the first thing about it if you asked me now. Thank god for Google.
The only reason I can still play The Heart Asks Pleasure is that every year or so, I find myself in the company of a piano, usually at a house party or bizarrely as part of some random art installation. In any case, I'll sit down and belt it out, accept the rapturous feedback and then slink away before anyone asks me to play anything else.
Learning is a journey with no end. Sure, you can go to university and earn a certificate, but that's not when you stop learning. And learning should be a discussion, not a recital. It's called discursive for a reason. The best MBA's in the world have known this for decades.
When designing training programmes, this should be your biggest focus. How do you make sure the learning gets to a higher level? How do you make sure that the students are doing, evaluating, analysing? There is a specific craft to designing and facilitating that. You also need to realise that people learn in different ways, at different speeds and in different contexts.
If you can just repeat what I've told you, then I have failed. If you can structure a chord then I have succeeded.
Meanwhile I'm off to YouTube to increase my repertoire by teaching myself the acoustic version of I'm not Calling You a Liar.