Students learn more fully when they are able to engage with each other and have the ability to voice their own experiences as a means of peer learning. This means principles of democratic education are the foundation to effective learning in trainings, workshops, classrooms, and any communities of learning. I recently led a workshop for my colleagues about how we can do just that.
I currently work with students who are serving in internships while they make
meaning of their experience through the lens of their future career, so I combined the concepts of democratic education with Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning for the workshop. I built the workshop around discussing the experiences both good and bad we’ve had in group dialogues. We then discussed what the outcomes of those experiences were, what we can learn from them, and how we can use those experiences to improve our own skills and planning.
Once we were able to conceptualize why classroom activities were successful or needed improvement we shifted gears to discuss how we can use our experiences, concepts of democratic education, and Kolb’s theory to add new elements to our existing workshops so we can encourage more the peer learning that is valuable to our students. We then discussed the experimentations we came up with to improve peer learning in the current workshops and took notes so that we could incorporate our ideas in the future. The workshop was designed to use Kolb’s model to conceptualize our own learning about facilitation as a framework for how we could use the same method with our students to encourage more peer learning. The workshop was successful in implementing this concept and highlighted new ways for us to proceed in workshop design and implementation.
I started writing about mindfulness in the context of social justice work back in February and thought that it would make a good series as there is always more to learn in both social justice and in mindfulness because there is so much personal work (self-discovery, whatever you would like to call it) to do. This post is a continuation of that irregular series, but focusing a little more on background of why I had the thought to link them and some resources I’ve found since thinking of the idea.
Mindfulness and meditation are becoming more visible in the mainstream eye (see Time Magazine and the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks). Both of these linked articles reference the power of being present and the Seahawks leveraged that concept and applied it to focusing in football. I’ve been working on growing in this area through a regular yoga practice and through regular meditation (that’s been more irregular recently) and one day as I was reading An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life by the Dalai Lama I realized how interconnected my work to deepen my understanding of mindfulness is to my work as a social justice educator and I began to see connections as I continued to read books about both mindfulness and about social justice. This really opened up some new pathways for me that helped me become a more effective educator.
I started to think about the ways in which I try to sit back and listen to others when having a dialogue about social injustice. I actively listen and try to understand, as best I can with my combination of social identities,other perspectives and other experiences. I pay attention to how I’m feeling and try my best not to let those emotions steer my contributions to conversations. I pay attention to the emotion in others and make attempts to be supportive. I pay attention to how much space I take up in the conversation. Mindfulness helps me do all of this critically because I’m paying attention to what’s happening around me. I’m absorbing it to understand the dynamics of the room. (I’ll also say that I did some of this prior to my attempts to be more mindful because I’m an introvert).
I’m currently reading Diane Goodman’s Promoting Diversity and Social Justice (I’m reading the first edition. A second one was published in 2011) and chapter 9 is focused on “Issues for Educators.” Goodman writes about increasing educational effectiveness part of which is doing our own personal work to fully understand our own backgrounds and where we are in understanding our identities. It means working through the issues that may get us caught up in responding to an unruly participant rather than focusing on educating/training the whole room. Goodman writes about using mindfulness as a strategy to avoid some of these common issues. “In situations in which we feel we are not being conscious or are immersed in negative reactions, it can help us return to a more centered way of being and depend our understanding of what is really going on” (Goodman, 2000, p. 183). By using mindfulness, Goodman argues that we become more effective educators. We can more holistically recognize what’s happening within ourselves to develop a better approach to the training/workshop. We can also be more effective in listening to others’ perspectives and understand what kind of support that someone may need. We can aptly discern the vibe of a room from a negative or resistant vibe to one of true curiosity. These are all huge in helping us move ourselves and our participants/students forward with the difficult concepts and conversations that comes with social justice.
Goodman, D. (2000) Promoting diversity and social justice: Educating people from privileged groups. Sage Publications. Thousand Oaks, CA.