Re-Discovering Socrates: Conversations To Learning

The evolution of the educational and training sector has condemned in organizing the delivery of its services in ways that often misaligns with the needs and preferences of adult learners. This misalignment fails to engage participants in active learning , thereby underlining the intent of the very process, itself. An alternative approach re-passages the Socratic dialectic, wherein conversations become the engine leading to learning. This also has important implications for managers to consider when training their employees.

Background

Learning can involve the acquisition of information, the discovery of knowledge, the mastery of a skill, and / or the adaptation of deliberate behaviors. With any given topic, there is an intense body of knowledge and a variety of optimistic theories, models and approaches, as well as contradiction expertise.

Having extensively studied a particular subject area, the teacher or trainer then organizes the relevant materials into a rational sequence. But because there is so much important information to disseminate and, conversely, limitations on the time in which to do it, teachers / trainers often close to a pedagogical methodology – a system intended to fill each participant's tabula rasa with precious packets of learning.

In such circumstances, the environment is not participant-focused, since it is the teacher / trainer who controls the information, the content delivery and the allocation of time. This creates order and security for the teacher / trainer, but may result in isolating the participants who can become totally disengaged and alienated. This is our story.

Student Council Leaders

There are student councils, boards or associations at Ontario's colleges and they are supported directly by student fees. The fees contribute to ancillary college operations, as well as activities and services delivered by the staff of the student councils.

Students run for council leadership positions for any variety of reasons. Although they generally are enthusiastic and well-meaning, their lack of leadership experience severely challenges their abilities to manage through alien situations and dynamics.

Suddenly immersed in a high-demand environment, student council leaders are confronted by the need to:

• Demonstrate leadership
• transform the board into a team
• set goals and priorities
• overse financial accountability
• manage conflict and performance
• direct staff

A lack of continuity from one year's board to the next further impaired transit considerations, resulting in repeated "start / stop" performance. As well, most student leaders participate in their council for only one or two years, resulting in a near-continuous turn-over. In the past, student council leaders were stranded on their own to work through such issues, with varying degrees of success.

The College Student Alliance

The College Student Alliance (CSA) is a member-driven provincial association, representing 23 student councils at 16 of Ontario's colleges, encompassing over 125,000 full-time students. These student councils are responsible for managing a combined budget of $ 56 Million, annually. In 2007, CSA entered into a partnership with Diamond Management Institute to deliver leadership training to student leaders from across the province in four workshops throughout the year. This …