3 Simple Questions To Shape Professional Learning

I have often heard that there are two types of professional learning experiences; a “warm bath” or a “cold shower.”  The “warm bath” is an experience that makes you feel that everything you are doing is right and just full of positive affirmations.  The “cold shower” challenges you and makes you feel uncomfortable in what you are doing currently.  There is a risk in both approaches. In the first, people think there is a need to grow, and in the latter, people could feel that they will never be good enough and just give up.  In my opinion, great professional learning should be a combination of both. Educators need to walk out knowing that they are on the right path, but that we can always get better. All of us.  It is something I continuously strive for in professional learning opportunities that I am lucky enough to be a part of but also in my learning.

Because of that belief, there are three questions that I try to ask in any workshop that I am leading.

  1. What has challenged you today?
  2. What has been reaffirmed?
  3. What will you do moving forward?

The first one is to help people embrace their discomfort. The hope is that own what they are struggling with, and they share it openly with others. (Cold Shower)

The second question is to let them know that there are things that they are currently doing that that need to be validated and celebrated. (Warm Bath)

But the last question, “What will you do moving forward?” is probably the most important.  This is what shifts learning to action.  It ensures that people do not become “over-thinkers and under-doers.”  What is most important about the last question is not the “call-to-action.” It is the ownership of the solution. Instead of saying, “Here is what you should do,” it becomes, “Here is what I am going to do” to make things better.

These questions are not only beneficial for professional learning days but in your individual development.  In this tweet from Leslie Borkenhagen, she reminded me of these same guiding questions I provided in the foreword from Katie Martin’s book, “Learner-Centred Innovation”:

How could you use these same questions in the classroom? How would it help guide learning, while providing students an opportunity for reflection and action moving forward?

The hope from these questions is that learners walk out empowered, knowing that although there is room for growth, their strengths are still being honored.  It also gives learners the opportunity to think of their own way to move forward.

When you have ownership over the solution, the solution is more likely to happen.

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