Note: Revised and reposted from a 2011 post.
Dear Association Executive:
Is education in your organization’s mission statement? If not specifically mentioned, it’s probably in your strategic plan. Isn’t it?
If not, it should be!
How Much Do You Budget For Education?
So let me ask you an important question:
If education is in your mission or strategic plan, how much of your budget is dedicated to educating your members?
Come on, now. How much of your budget is dedicated to education?
Stop, right there. Don’t spout budget numbers that say your education dollars are for events. Conferences and events are NOT education.
And don’t give me your budget numbers for research or government affairs. They are NOT education.
No! Knowledge management and information officers are not part of your education budget either.
What percentage of your budget is dedicated to educating your members. 10%? 20%? 30%? 40%? More?
If it’s in your organization’s top five goals, do you at least allocate 20% of your budget to education?
If education is in your mission, is your education budget in line with your mission? Are your education staff and programs aligned with your mission or strategic plan?
Do you have any professional educators on staff? Seriously, do you have any professional educators on your team or do you just think education is scheduling a speaker and that’s it!
If education is one of your primary goals of your association, how much of your staff time is dedicated to providing education initiatives?
Sharing Information With Your Members Is Not Education!
Sharing information is not education.
That’s just passing along reports and stats.
What is the goal of education? Usually it is about changing attitudes, behaviors and skills. It’s about understanding and applying information.
Authentic education leads to learning. Learning requires thinking. Learning requires actively doing something…not just reading or listening.
Oh, and by the way, reading and rereading doesn’t lead to learning says the authors of Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning. Reading “often involves a kind of unwitting self-deception, as growing familiarity with the text comes to feel like mastery of the content,” says the authors.
So sharing information to be read by your members is not a form of education! Reading information gives us the illusion of knowing and learning.
Lectures And Panels Are Just Passing Information Not Providing Education
But what about conferences that provide presenter monologues and panel dialogues? you say.
Guess what! That’s not education either. That’s still just information transfer.
Yes, if you believe that a session with a presenter is providing education, you are WRONG!
Talking heads, whether through monologues or panelists, are still ineffective strategies for education and learning. If you really knew the ROI of a traditional lecture, you would not secure those speakers or pay them fees. You would change your conference education sessions and programs if you really believed the research.
Information Is Not Education
Here are the definitions of information, education and learning to help you understand the differences.
Most of what you call education is actually information transfer. Passing on concepts, data, facts and statistics.
You want your members to do something with that information. Right? Or do you care if they just line their bird cages with it?
Learning Is Really What You Want!
I suspect that what you really want is learning.
Your education goal is for your members to learn and apply information. Or do you just want them to memorize the current data that you spout the same way they memorized their multiplication tables?
If education and learning are the primary focus of your organization, you need to do things differently! You need to focus on learning design instead of just scheduling speakers and picking content.
Start by adopting this association learning manifesto.
The Association Learning Manifesto*
Learning is a life-long adventure.
We value learning where our members construct enduring understanding! That’s real learning!
Enduring understanding leads to application. It leads to change and forward movement.
How do we know if our members learned and increased their understanding?
- Explain their understanding’s relevance.
- Describe how their understanding connects to or conflicts with prior learning.
- Communicate their understanding effectively to others.
- Generalize and apply their understanding effectively to new situations.
- Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning.
- Ask questions to extend learning.
- Create meaningful solutions.
- What if your association programs and conferences were not about content?
Instead they were about attendees’ enduring understanding and application.
- What if your association was evaluated on providing education that met these seven definitions of learning?
Then we could create improvement plans to help members gain enduring understanding and application.
- What if your conference was ranked on how much your attendees learned?
Then we would focus on real ROI and not just scheduling speakers who talked at audiences. We would secure facilitators of learning, not talking heads!
I think it’s time to start spending time on real education and learning!
*Thanks to educator Jeff Utecht for sharing his school’s definition of learning that I used as the Learning Manifesto.
How can we help association staff and leaders transition from information transfer to educating members? What has to happen for board members to understand the true value of education and learning?