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Reframing, Rethinking, and Re-inspiring Professional Training

How well do your professional development trainings leverage the collective wisdom and experience of the participants, foster a culture of excellence, encourage creativity, and nurture communities of practice?

Reframing how we conduct river and water management trainings can re-inspire trainers, engage emerging professionals, and motivate long-time career professionals all while having some fun along the way. Although it may not explicitly be in one’s job description, many times experienced professionals are asked to become trainers. As trainers they are expected to be good facilitators, educators, and interpreters even though that may not be their primary expertise. Trainers who leverage the wisdom of formal educators, professional interpreters, and practiced facilitators can create learning experiences for their staff and colleagues that are highly effective and relevant, while also creating space for innovative leadership within their organizations and agencies.

In order to reconsider how to do this work, we must begin rethinking how we think and learn. Below are a couple videos to get us thinking differently about teaching and learning. How can river and water management trainers leverage the wisdom shared in these videos in their adult learning environments. As you watch these videos consider these questions:

  • How do we incorporate thinking and how to think into our trainings?

  • How can we make curiosity, messiness, and reflection stronger - if not defining - components of adult learning?

  • How can we incorporate failure and being wrong into the culture of our profession and workplaces? How can we stop delivering only information and instead start asking learners to show us how they can use the information?

  • If formal education can kill creativity, does professional development training kill innovation and leadership?

How Thinking Works - Dr. Derek Cabrera

Do Schools Kill Creativity? - Sir Ken Robinson

As this is the most watched talk on TED, there's a good chance you have already seen it. This time, watch it with a lens of adult education and how we can consider Robinson's premises in how we conduct professional development trainings.

How to Learn from Mistakes? - Diana Laufenberg

How can we incorporate failure and being wrong into our organizations? Our process of creating adult learning experiences often focuses on delivering the correct answers and “how-to” instruction. The idea of letting people fail in professional development training could cause the human resources folks to squirm, yet Laufenberg argues that failure is education. If we want people to learn we need to create space to experiment and fail. We need to stop simply delivering information and challenging learners to do something with that information; to tell us what they could do with the information. It could be transformational!

3 Rules to Spark Learning - Ramsey Musallam

How can we make curiosity, messiness, and reflection stronger – if not defining – components of adult education? Musallam describes three rules he uses as a science teacher:

  • Rule #1: Curiosity comes first. “Questions can be the window to great instruction, but not the other way around.

  • Rule #2: Embrace the mess. “Learning is ugly. Trial and error can still be an informal part of what we do every day.”

  • Rule #3: Practice Reflection. “What we do is important it deserves our care, but it also deserves our revision.”

These are powerful ideas that make a lot of sense in a classroom full of children and teenagers – do they also make sense in staff meetings and training workshops? Could employing these rules also re-inspire passion and engagement in employees?

I'm inviting you to consider reframing and rethinking how we conduct professional development training so that we might re-inspire our colleagues and ourselves to perform the excellent work of managing, studying, and ultimately protecting our natural resources.

Check out the new River Training Center's Certification Program from the River Management Society.

Author, Sarah R. Johnson MAEd, is the founder of Wild Rose Education, an innovative environmental education business providing relevant learner-centered educator workshops, consulting, and youth leadership programming.

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