A small story about educational change
Opdateret: 7. juni 2019
How should we go about changing educational culture? Changing an educational culture happens when the ideas is not dictated from top but is instead a process and a collective experience. When ideas are not concepts implemented by few, but instead when ideas are felt by everyone and brings people together.
This is a sharing of a project that ran 2 years in Denmark using a specific method for bottom up cultural change within educational environments. Merged with our own content and methods for deep dialogue facilitation, we will use a similar approach and method to create the Dialogue Training 2019 focused on education.
The project in Denmark (2016-2018)
A teacher might attend an interesting course and feel empowered to make changes in his/her classroom, but if his/her colleagues and the administration does not understands what he/she wants to create the ideas will be crushed by the resistance from the system. A group of teachers might attend a similar course and feel inspired to implement some new cool concept “back home”, but as soon as outside pressures, such as everyday curriculum implementation and unforeseen chaos, arrives, it does not matter what the mind(s) decided on, inevitably they retreat back to what feels familiar and safe, and it is likely that the great concept will meet resistance from students and maybe also from the leadership.
What the (læringsprojektet.dk, The Learning Project) explored, with a number of schools and institutions, was how to create a different kind of training and impact. They asked themselves “How do we create community? How do we let the system experience something together that brings a strong collective feeling? And, does this collective feeling and experience lead to a more collective dedication to change and perseverance supported by the whole system?”
The Learning Project is a small group of people, who have a mission to strengthen school culture and to create a more positive, holistic and supportive learning environment for all. They experimented with letting these central questions guide them in their approach. They saw that the power of such a collective feeling and experience, does not only take root in each community member’s minds but also in their hearts, and therefore it leads to not only convincing a few people about a new culture, but it leads everyone (who felt part of the experience) to feel accountable for the integration and maintenance of a new way of being together.
The Learning Project did that by first creating a community around themselves for people who loved the vision they were holding and who wanted to learn how to implement these ideas themselves. Those community members were all trained in the fundamental concepts and methods of the learning project. They were trained in holding dialogue and processes as well as community building. The Learning Project then worked together with institutions and schools, by entering the system not as consultants but as a community (sometimes with 20 people, who all “spoke” the same language and the same practices because of the shared training). This way of working with external classrooms and schools also became an experience of community, not just a training or teaching of a course module.
Impact at Glamsdahlen
In summer 2016 they worked with Glamsdahlen idrætsefterskole (a boarding school in Denmark for youth between 13-15 years). The headmaster (Thomas Madsen) knew at this point that he would like to bring to life a new culture. A culture of more togetherness, positive attitudes towards self and others and as well more awareness of being a community where everyone contributes. He also knew how hard it was to come up with an idea as a headmaster and alone convince a whole teaching staff to follow along. Thomas knew that a top down decision around cultural change would often create resistance no matter how good the idea was. “My focus was to improve the awareness on social capital and relationship, but I needed to be supported in letting this focus also flow into the systems around me in a different way.” In collaboration with The Learning Project he started a process where the trained community members of the learning project, who shared another way of learning and being together, came and facilitated groups of students and teachers in new experiences and ways of connection.
“What we got was a common language not just amongst the teachers, but amongst all students, teachers and staff. What also happened was that the concepts and ideas (including positive psychology, conversational methods and community tools) that we all liked and theoretically understood did not influence our culture until we DID it together” - Thomas Madsen.
Today Thomas shares that when it comes to changing learning cultures in education, he sees that a lot still needs to happen. In general it is about shaking up some of the old ways we “used” to do things. At the same time it is important to not end in chaos and despair, but being able to integrate the experience that takes place and to come back to stability and stillness. “Today we as a school still uphold a strong focus and a pedagogical awareness of our culture, and we still work daily with concepts and a common language that strengthens our social learning environment.” - Thomas Madsen.
Impact at Egå
From summer 2016 to fall 2018 we worked with Egå Ungdomshøjskole (Egå boarding school for youth between 15-18) together with the teachers and the headmaster Erling Joensen. “As a system and school we saw that there was another way of doing things and being together. After the Learning Project left us we have maintained the philosophy and many of the ideas and concepts of working and being together we have made our own. All in all I definitely see a strong pedagogical and cultural development at our school” - Erling Joensen.
Dialogue Facilitation Training for Education 2019
During the last years together with collaboratio helvetica we have held Dialogue events and processes with local people all over Switzerland. Dialogue shifts the conversations we usually have around difficult, complex and sometimes ambiguous topics, from a place of debate & problem solving, to one that explores the opinions, experiences, views and questions on a deep level.
It is our opinion that individuals and groups needs to learn dialogue to create deeper human connection as starting points to discuss our daily problems and dilemmas effectively as well as discussing the main challenges of our time responsibly. We know that we love the nature of dialogue and we see the potential and new possibilities that the format of dialogue can unleash. We know that Dialogue is one of the most transformative yet simple methods amongst our current social and human technologies for change.
What is needed is therefore to educate people who can hold the space for dialogue so others can experience it. This is why we did the first Dialogue Training which started in fall 2018. In October 2019 we will start the second Dialogue Training with a focus on educators and education. Because education is an important leverage point to reactivate our capacity to do and be i n dialogue as a society.
With The Learning Project in Denmark learning; that changing an educational culture happens when the ideas are not dictated from top but are developed instead through a process and a collective experience. And when ideas are not implemented as concepts carried by the few, but when ideas are felt by having experiences that touch the heart and that bring people together. The next training in October 2019 will focus both on providing the skills for Dialogue facilitation and conflict resolution, AND will also focus on bringing dialogue skills and experience into 1-3 educational institutions using a process similar to the one The Learning Project in Denmark used.
Read more about The Dialogue Facilitation training here.
Authors: Christine Dürschner and Sidsel Andersen (Founder of the Dialogue Training)