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The Dialogic Learning Weekly #153

This week we focus on insights and lessons about facilitating workshops and professional learning ses
The Dialogic Learning Weekly
The Dialogic Learning Weekly #153
By Tom Barrett • Issue #153 • View online
This week we focus on insights and lessons about facilitating workshops and professional learning sessions. I have had a productive week in Sydney working with teachers in three different schools running a range of workshops. Here are some reflections.

The Standard You Accept
The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept
This powerful idea has been something that always resonates with me. Setting the expectations for your workshop and starting the session in a thoughtful and intentional manner is vital.
During a workshop this week, after I established the working norms and session protocols, a participant turned away from me and said to another participant “Why are we doing this HR crap!
It was a moment that presented a choice for me. The words were unkind and attempted to undermine the validity of our work at a critical moment in the workshop. They were overheard by the whole room. What would you do in that moment?
I decided to address it immediately and invited the person to express the sentiment to me more directly and explain a little further. The same sentence was repeated. I refused to accept that inaccurate and unkind judgment. But I was still curious about why that view had been formed.
I stood firm on the principles I valued, the expectations I had set and highlighted the inaccuracy - but then I followed up with questions. I wanted to know why that view had been formed and what was the missing piece. Needless to say I turned that perspective around and helped the person reconnect with the workshop, and they contributed effectively for the remaining two hours.
I was aware of the signal and I refused to let is slide. I didn’t walk past it. My curiosity helped me understand better and guide the participant back to a purposeful disposition.
3 Steps to Improve Your Next Workshop
Understanding the Longer Story of Change
Partnerships no projects
A further reflection is about the longer stories of change that we might not be aware of. These narratives of change may well be decades long for some workshop participants. The two hours we spend together pales in comparison.
My work in schools is focused on partnerships not projects. That means we are working together over years not hours. This model of long term partnerships immediately gives you access to the longer story. (With some schools you may become a chapter of that story.)
The pace of workshops and sessions changes because you know that you are working together for a longer period of time. The story and nuanced understanding becomes much clearer over time.
We should all try and connect with the longer story of change in schools when we are running workshops. This is often in the detailed planning, preparation and design phase.
This information is vital to be ready for the people you are working with. Exploring the context and history might signal potential dispositions to look out for.
How Will This Change Me?
Exploring how a new learning environment might function, flow and flourish
I help architects and schools design new learning environments. For many teachers and staff in my workshops long term building projects represent a massive challenge to their identity as a teacher.
Over time we connect deeply with the spaces we teach in, they begin to represent our ideologies and beliefs. When the design team starts sharing new ideas and different precedents, that can become quite a challenging experience.
How will I teach in that space? Where will I put all of my resources?
This discombobulation is compounded by poor communication. Not everyone can see how a new learning environment might function, flow and flourish, from plan drawings or renders.
For many years now I remind myself before learning environments workshops of the assumptions I might be making. Maybe not everyone will be as excited about the new project. Maybe not everyone will feel comfortable. Maybe some of the group feel anxiety about the change.
I reconnect with the basic premise that everyone is seeking understanding of how the project might change them. Start with empathy.
To close this week a dedication to Allana Vedder a retiring Principal from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School in Sydney. I have mentioned Allana in a previous newsletter and want to share why she inspires me.
I have worked with Allana in partnership since 2016 and her energy for learning, self improvement and seeking better understanding has never diminished. I am inspired by that and hope I too can maintain an open disposition for learning. Thankyou Allana for showing us the way - see you next year!
Thanks for reading this issue.
~ Tom 
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Tom Barrett

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