Rethinking thinking…


You know those cool “A-HA” moments when you tie together multiple focus points, ideas, or paradigms into a single, encompassing thought?  I actually remember the first time being cognizant that this had happened.  Obviously our lives are punctuated by this experience.  But the ‘meta’ realization that it has taken place is a significant part of what learning means to me.

I remember consulting on a case with a District Attorney.  I had recently graduated with my M.A. in Human Communication – a Generalist degree.  (That meant I studied a bit of everything – intercultural comm, interpersonal comm, group and team comm, public address, nonverbal, etc.)  So, instead of coming out of my graduate work with the kind of degree that pushed me to consult with organizations around a single concept, I could expand my opportunities a bit.

So, as the newly appointed Rhetoric and Public Address coordinator at Metro State, and as instructor of Courtroom Communication (a hold-over from my work at UNC), I found myself being asked to consult on a trial case.

MMSI’d done some legal consulting before, but it was strictly Voir Dire related.  I had helped pick some jurors and went on my way.  But this time, I had to help craft a narrative that would (hopefully) lead to a conviction.  Without going into all of the (literally) gory details, we needed to prove to a jury that a man had assaulted an elderly female living in his apartment complex.

Long story short, we accomplished our task.  But HOW we did so is what I am referring to here.  I brought to bear a persuasive model that I have used hundreds of times since.  I recommended using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence during the consult and we never looked back.  I had an ‘A-HA’ moment during the meetings that just directed us:  Gain their attention around the crime.  Establish a need for the jury. Solve their problem.  Visualize it on their behalf.  Give them the action step of convicting.  And like dominoes falling, we clicked through all 5 elements of the sequence.  And they worked.

That moment in time was exciting for me.  Again, not just because we won the case, but because the theory clicked with the practical.  More than just an idea, the logistics of the trial played out in a way that the model was made meaningful.

So….that giant story was essentially an introduction.  See, I recently had another connection.  I tied together concepts, like a puzzle, and the pieces fit nicely.

ReimaginationIf you read my stuff with any regularity, you’ve seen me write about the power of Mindset and Carol Dweck’s importance to education.  But one of the major pushes of her work is that people need to be trained to rethink what can be learned.  It’s the old self-fulfilling prophecy concept.  Believe you can’t learn something and you can’t.  Believe you can and you can.  Period.

It took a conversation with an Army Colonel though to tie that notion to something else I’ve talked about (and taught) for years.  It’s another aspect of perception determining reality that is important.  Like Dweck, I’ve purported for years that speakers need to rethink nervousness.  The anxiety of speaking in public is actually a very good thing, for dozens of reasons.  (Email me for a list.)

So, what does rethinking learning do for someone?  It allows them to learn anything.  What does rethinking speech anxiety do for someone?  It allows them to speak to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

RethinkEverythingBut it got me to thinking…what else should we rethink?  Psychologists would tell you that some degree of stress is important, even good for a person.  Should we rethink how we view that?  Should intentional teaching include stressors?  What about classrooms?  I’ve quoted the brain scientist John Medina hundreds of times when he said that one of the worst environments for the brain to learn in would be a classroom.  Should we rethink spaces with an eye for neuroscience instead of tradition?  Should we rethink mediated learning?  I can show you ways in which computer based learning is superior to face to face.  But at the same time, should we rethink eLearning too?  After all, the text-centric models we seemed to get mired in from the early days are generally quite bad, yet they are still used over and over again.

I hope you will join me in trying to figure out what else we should rethink.  Let anything be fair game – put anything on the table.  It’s time, right?  What would YOU rethink when it comes to education?

Good luck and good learning.

Dr. Jeff D Borden
Chief Innovation Officer

About Jeff Borden

My title at work is ‘Chief Innovation Officer.’ So I'm trying to transform teaching and learning at scale. How do I do that? Through my "life" jobs. Primarily, I'm a dad and husband. But I'm also a professor, writer, professional speaker, comedian, researcher, lifelong learner, musician, dog-owner, and even a ranked disc golfer... I've spoken to, trained, or consulted with hundreds of thousands of educators at all levels, in numerous countries, K-20, about how to teach and learn effectively in the 21st Century.

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