I recently attended a three-day series of lectures on the brain. This was a residential programme with two x 90 minutes lectures at the start and end of each day with some voluntary (not altogether relevant) experiential workshops in between, which I opted out of. As I think back on the programme I’m struck by a number of things. While I took copious notes during each lecture and engaged in diverse conversation with members of the eclectic audience between sessions, I have very little recollection of what the lectures covered and I struggle to answer the question: What did you learn?
This has raised some important questions for me not only in my own development but also in how I create the core conditions that enable my clients to learn either in supervision or the workshops that I offer. I wonder if the question, ‘What did you learn?’ was the appropriate question for me to ask given that the programme comprised a series of lectures. Perhaps a better question for me would be, ‘What do you know now that you didn’t know before?’ and again, in this particular situation, I realise that my recollections are hazy.
Given that I take personal responsibility for my learning, I’m wondering how much of this was my incapacity to listen, or capacity to take on board the ideas and thinking that were being presented, or my interest in the subject? At the same time, I realise that there’s also a crucial element in the timing: am I ready for this, either in terms of prior knowledge or interest in the subject? Is this method of delivery appropriate for the subject in hand? How might I sabotage my own learning when I’m merely an audience member rather than an active participant in an experience? What needs to happen now for me to gain some clarity around what I know now that I didn’t know before?
I could expound on learning styles, which I may reflect on in subsequent musings. For the time being, in an attempt to salvage something from this, my colleagues and I have agreed to get together and discuss and explore our respective recollections. I also need to take this to another level by discussing: How is this relevant and applicable to me in my practice?
Without what, for me, is crucial reflective dialogue, I fear the programme may just fade into a slightly disappointed memory of an expensive event in the Summer of 2016. And who knows what gems of knowledge may arise in the future that I don’t realise that I have taken on board as new knowledge.
Photo: Wellcome images