Learning of today and tomorrow

During the past month I had the opportunity to “hang” with students in two completely different types of learning institutions in France. One, an “alternative” private school (students age 21- 48) and the other a standard university (students at masters level). Beyond the french context, the lessons I learned apply everywhere (I believe).

The first school is an innovative business school in its “birthing” stage, Team Factory. I spent a day there with Marc Tirel of In Principo “helping” the students in their process of setting up their collaborative working environment and working tools.

This years cohort of 6 students are all dynamic souls determined to be part of a new and better tomorrow and in the process make the careers that feed their dreams and sense of self. They are brave because they are engaging in a “school” that is not yet clearly set up and is still without formal recognition – but they know that this school has something to offer them that they can’t find elsewhere.

Of course, we did not meet in a classroom, but in a company working space. We did not “teach” but simply coached students through their process that they own and are engaged in. A lot of listening and open explorations interspersed with some practical decision making and prioritising. It’s a workflow in tune with the real world.
These students are taking on responsibility, tapping into their collective competence, leading their own futures. Inspiring!

Elsewhere in France, in a more conventional university setting I “gave a lecture” (not very comfortable with this term, the expectations are strong) on the subject of “social innovation”. In my “North American style”, I refused to provide a definition and theory, but worked the concept via a smorgasbord of examples.

Students had the task of identifying the common elements in the initiatives and figuring out their own definition of social innovation. And yes we were in a classroom, and yes they were told that it would be on the exam…

Here, the students are looking in on a concept – visiting it, playing with it from a critical intellectual approach. In their place of learning (university), they are following “someone else’s program”.

In Team Factory, the learners are turned on because the program connects to them and their personal and professional future. There is theory and critical thinking, but everything ends up relating to them as individuals who can act and who have their own project. This is the learning of tomorrow. When we talk about competence based approaches, Team Factory is walking the talk, students are confronted on a daily basis with novel challenges that they act and reflect upon, in a continuous process of learning and competence development.