My New Job in Education

2012-09-08 – Relax! No children are involved, only consenting adults.

I’ve been in education for a long time, but it’s been a peculiar kind of regulated education: continuing education, where rules from 50 state departments of insurance limited what we could do.

Monday, I start a new job as executive director of a relatively new department called Professional Development and Certificates. That is targeted and substantial training in important job skills in the fields of business, IT, and health care. Although the department was started by others, it is barely underway. It’s an almost clean slate. A place where I can leave my mark.

A month ago, I graduated from a master’s degree program in instructional technology, with a focus on adult education. Although I entered the program interested in learning more about the technology part, I was captivated by the instructional ideas. I’d been doing instruction for many years, but the program let me put two and two together (it’s four, in case you are wondering).

One of the things I learned about in one of my adult education courses was something called transformational learning. It was a weird concept. It seemed like a concept to allow teachers to pat themselves on the back, without providing any theory or program for accomplishing the transformation in their students.

My master’s program was transformational. It got me my new job. But it was transformational certification, not transformational learning. Completing the degree and getting the diploma got the attention of the executives, but the truth is that I could have stepped into my new job a year ago and done fine. My actual learning in the program was only incremental. But degrees do count.

(My most transformational learning experiences were mediation training, that I took shortly after leaving the practice of law almost 30 years ago, and improv training, that I took 25 years ago.)

So Monday morning I will begin to map out a process for developing a potentially unlimited number of programs designed to help people advance in their careers—really, to do something comparable to what I just did with my master’s program, but in a format that will be more friendly and attainable for busy professionals.

My process will be geared, of course, to get the work done in an efficient way. But just as important will be the need to assure that the learning is goal driven, motivating, and connected both to where the learner is coming from and to where the learner is going.

If I can get my team to do this on a consistent basis, the learning could be transformational! (I’m patting myself on the back here.)

Now, I lied at the beginning of this post. I said that no children were involved. Not yet. But I’ve been interested in childhood education since my sons began preschool many years ago (they are now 20 and almost 19). Much of the education for children seems not to embody the principles I hope to get into my own adult education programs. Goals are vague and there’s little connection to the student’s life. Most appalling, there is little thought to motivating the little brats. In fact, a number of the readings in my adult education courses contrasted andragogy (adult education) to pedagogy (childhood education) on the basis of the need to provide motivation for adults whereas children need none.

Baloney! No wonder our childhood educational system has so much trouble!

So for me, there’s no involvement with children today. But come back in the months and weeks to come. I have opinions on that subject. And I won’t be shy about letting you in on them.

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