Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Innovative approaches to learning

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the chocolate factory, a large-scale learning exercise offered by the Wizards Network. In this exercise, groups of learners work together to design, manufacture, and package luxury chocolates, using the finest Belgian chocolate, under the supervision of a professional chocolatier. The exercise may be used to learn about teamwork, team building and team leading, communication skills, customer focus, and much more. A skilled facilitator may use learners’ experiences to help them achieve all sorts of learning outcomes that may have real meaning for their business. And of course, it has particular appeal for chocolate lovers.

The point of this sort of exercise is to find ways to engage learners, in order to get them into a positive frame of mind for learning. Rather than the same old boring routine of sitting in a classroom, looking at a flipchart or a PowerPoint presentation, the idea is to excite minds by doing something new and different – without losing sight of the learning, and business, objectives.

Of course, the chocolate factory wouldn’t excite factory workers in the food industry, or perhaps any sort of factory workers. But it would be extremely innovative for most of the rest of us. What I recommend is finding out exactly what interests a group of learners, and designing a learning experience around that – be it sport, art, music, animals, the outdoors, magic, drama, or whatever.

Unfortunately, many people perceive this sort of thing as frivolous, but there’s a wealth of theory about innovative approaches to learning, and why they are successful. For starters, my 2006 article on the subject is here.

There are many situations where innovative approaches work well, and I’d be happy to discuss them further. Any interest?

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