Sunday, 27 May 2007

Targets, procedures and learning

The idea that responsibility and creativity are slowly dying by neglect has bothered be for a while now. I've never really been able to put my finger on what the problem was, but now I have had some help by two very distinguished thinkers:

The first person to lift up some of the veil was Peter M. Senge. I recently read his book "The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization", which I thoroughly enjoyed. In it he discusses much about how people, but also organizations, learn. More importantly, he addresses why they often don't. A lot of that links back to the systems we use to enforce and measure. Systems that, by their constant need for satisfaction, lead us to shorty term symptom driven thinking and compliance, in stead of long term holistic and creative problem solving. I am looking forward to reading Dr. Senge's treaty on education "Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education", in which I hope to gain some insights in how to make changes to our education system in order to create an enviroment in which students are once again challenged to be creative, in stead of pummeled into being compliant.

Last Thursday I coincidentally had the opportunity to attend a lecture by one of our visiting professors: John Seddon. His crushing analysis of the effects of the target and regulation driven framework that is destroying much of our public services fitted seamlessly into the seeds sown by My earlier reading. I would recommend visiting the vanguard website to have a look at some resources or events that are planned.

I see lots of parallels between these management paradigms, and concepts that keep us busy in education. The discussions about formal and informal learning, the pros and cons of instructional design, and the problem of over-assessment all seem to be based in similar (mis-) conceptions over what makes us learn and thrive. There are parts in our education system, and more so even in the collection of professional bodies governing some of the qualifications and licenses, that seem to be tailored towards breeding armies of self-confirming professionals, in stead of critical and independent thinkers. And while this seems comfortable at first, I do believe we are slowly digging ourselves some enormous holes.

Update: I gather that the podcast of John Seddon's talk is now available.