In today’s high-tech, information-at-your-thumbs world, education models have shifted.
Our conference participants now have the capacity and cultural motivation to produce their own knowledge. They experience overwhelmingly support for creating and sharing information and connections in their daily lives.
We continue to witness the rise of the participatory culture as Henry Jenkins describes it. These ongoing developments mean that conference organizers must foster and leverage participatory learning experiences. We must develop and implement peer-learning and co-learning experiences or risk that our conferences becomes disengaged from the real world.
Four Values To Promote Participatory, Peer, Co-Learning Experiences
Co-learning – where experts, presenters and participants pool their skills, knowledge and understanding, and share in the tasks of teaching and learning—should emerge in our conference cultures as a primary education model. Peer and connected participatory learning honors communities of like minded individuals and social networks to develop knowledge, shared understanding and action.
Here are four key values that should shape your education offerings using effective participatory peer learning design. (Hat tips to editors Erin Reilly and Ioana Literat as well as all of the contributors to Participatory Approaches To Professional Development In Education that identified these four values.)
1. Participation Not Indoctrination
Conferences face a critical need to move from education sessions for attendees to learning experiences with participants. Participatory learning relies on a model of distributed expertise. This assumes that knowledge and context is diffused across a network and community of like-minded individuals. It no longer rests only in an expert or panel at the front of the room. Talking heads and panel monologues, when not designed with participatory learning opportunities, strive for indoctrination. Conferences have to move from transmission of information to transformational experiences through empowered co-learning.
2. Exploration Not Prescription
Too many conferences try to provide prescribed steps to success, growth, security and happiness. We have to allow conference participants a sense of ownership and co-design in their futures. Conference organizers need to shift from what participants are required to get from education sessions to what they want. This allows attendees to explore their own personal and professional goals and align them with their employers’ goals. Then attendees can connect with the content, uncover what it means to them and display their individuality in the process.
3. Contextualization Not Abstraction
Conference education should be tailored to specific attendee needs and the challenges they face. It should also align with their personal professional goals. Too often conferences err on the side of a committee’s personal agenda to advance a specific discipline or topic at the expense of the paying participants’ pressing needs. Conference organizers must give more attention to crafting education sessions that represent a genuine investment in professional development and not a side attraction by volunteer committee’s personal views that don’t represent the paying attendee.
4. Iteration Not Repetition
Conferences must adopt an ongoing continual improvement process for their participatory learning offerings. This means authentic evaluation, tweaking, troubleshooting and improvement. We need to rely on steady, improvements and the next iteration of design, not just repeating last year’s experience and changing the filling.
Which of these four core values could you adopt and implement quickly and why? Which will be the most challenging for your organization to consider and leverage?