I recently came across a video that criticizes the modern education system, highlighting that the society is progressing in all different spheres while the education system is staying the same for a hundred years and more. It argues that the education system is changing people into robots and it is not supporting them to think innovatively, creatively, critically, independently, with the ability to connect, which are the characteristics that we need to face current challenges. The video encouraged my reflection on the CEF`s approach to learning.
The CEF follows a participatory approach to learning that puts the learner in the center of the learning process. First, because the psychology of learning suggests that we should be much more proactive in the learning process to learn effectively. Secondly, and very importantly, because the CEF deals with learners that are experts in their fields, so it is necessary to give them space and opportunity to share their own knowledge and exchange it, thus enriching the learning process. I believe that the practice of participatory approach to learning itself puts all learners in the spotlight and encourages activeness instead of passivity. It motivates and inspires learners to use and implement the newly gained knowledge in practice. This is all very good but the CEF has to continuously upgrade the approach and introduce methods that will serve learning and the subsequent changes as effectively as possible.
The CEF with its learning activities for public finance officials wishes to achieve positive changes and reforms in the countries of its constituency. For this to happen gaining technical knowledge is not enough. Officials have to carry the changes and reforms forward. Therefore all CEF learning initiatives have to be supportive of this and in addition to the sharing of technical knowledge they should encourage motivation, inspiration, action, and cooperation among participants to successfully implement changes and reforms in their own organizations. For CEF learning initiatives to be supportive, we have to constantly improve and push the limits of our approach to learning.
When introducing novelties in our learning process we first try them internally with our own staff. For instance, we recently held an experiential lab on contemporary art for personal and organizational transformation. I was one of the participants together with some other colleagues, and I was looking forward to the lab as I like art in general and the title sounded like something new and different. At the same time, I was wondering how the knowledge from the lab could actually be applied in the context of CEF learning initiatives. What I liked the most was that the exercises challenged my way of thinking and literally made me think outside the box.
At the lab we got an assignment where we had to imagine that we are inside one of the pictures and describe our feelings as part of it. This was completely opposite to the traditional way of observing art. Another exercise was a challenge to come up with our prejudices towards contemporary art and then, with the help of an art piece, find counter arguments for our own prejudices. Again, it was totally opposite to what we are usually taught – finding arguments for one’s own position. At the end of the lab all participants made their own piece of art, and I can say for myself that I really enjoyed the creative process. For me it was especially interesting to observe how people with at least one prejudice towards contemporary art eventually created their own piece of art.
The lab was certainly a pleasant creative experience. What I appreciated the most were the exercises that made us think outside the box. In the final discussion together with the facilitator participants came up with many ideas how to effectively adapt such exercises to the CEF learning context and use them at our learning initiatives to support learning and change.
Sometimes the introduction of novelties in the learning process can be more challenging for the CEF, as we are dealing with adult learners who are used to the traditional lecturing style of learning and often consider it the most relevant. We have to take this aspect into account and be moderate with new ways of learning as well as observe how they are perceived by our audience and what kind of results they give.