Lessons learned from three days Masterclass Creating Learningspaces by KAOS-pilot Denmark

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After three days of indulging myself in the Masterclass Creating Learning spaces of the Kaos-pilot program in Aarhus, Denmark, I came home with greater confidence in being a teacher who facilitates students to learn and a deeper understanding of who I am as a learner.

The Kaos-pilot has still a pretty unique teaching and learning concept compared to regular universities, but it is not radical. Actually they use the existing knowledge about learning and educating to the deepest core of their program and pedagogy. The program exists over 15 years now and delivers students at a masters level. I’ve met with students and experienced Kaospilot pedagogy during my three-day masterclass.

If you read their philosophy, you will that they focus on the students to learn and have not a dictated content. We start so often with the topics that students are going to learn and not with who we want them to be in doing and thinking.

During the three-day Masterclass, we started with experiential learning. After that we developed in small groups a new program based on the framework of the Kaos-pilot. Here are some of the lessons I have learned.

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The lessons I learned as a teacher:

  • The KAOS-pilot, as I understood it, starts with experiential learning and uses that tool a lot throughout the whole program. Through experience and reflection afterwards, learning questions arise and a framework for learning is created. During the masterclass we did a couple of exercises that were very tangible and metaphoric. We didn’t speak in words about a topic, but used the metaphor as a tool to think about it. We did the famous lego-game, but also jojo’s. Instead of sharing our ideas through words, we cut pictures from magazines to make a mood board. We also worked a lot with post-its. Furthermore a lot of the activities were done in silence, letting body language work. Which was very liberating to me.
  • Reflection, or landing, is a second important element. Every almost each activity we reflected on what we had learned, not just on a knowledge level, but also on a personal level. The focus is on behavior. What behavior worked well and where could we improve. During our Masterclass we had a lot of short reflections, and I have to say that it has been a long time ago that I was in such a reflection modus. I liked it and it deepened my learning.  
  • Very often in a teamwork situation, you start with unclarity (chaos) about the reason of the project and the task on hand. People want to get control over the project, so some power play is at hand, before true collaboration can start. As a teacher you can shorten the chaos and control phase by pre-jecting. You create commitment and alignment towards the task. You give the right resources to students to start well, without dictating how they should do their task. You just make sure that the confusion phase will be minimal and the need to excercise control also. You also make clear what the eject is, the result that needs to be reached. And everything between the pre-ject and eject is for the group of students. You only intervene if they are not focused on the eject anymore and when the re-ject is being forgotten, you also intervene for evaluations on how things are going and how things can be improved on a task and personal level. Especially the power of pre-jecting landed with me even better, and how carefully you should be preparing that.
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What I learned about developing a new program/courses:

  • In about 1,5 day we designed a skeleton for a whole new curriculum, just by using the Simon Sinek Golden circle and a canvasmodel for designing a program by the KAOS-pilot. Yes, the details are not there yet, but the outlines are. That was a great experience as we didn’t use a lot of language or text that needed to be produced. Getting into the details and the specifics will take a longer time and of course, political play in the organization will also influence the picture of a new curriculum. But it was a nice and good experience to be able to develop a program so quickly in such a short time.
  • Dare to dream and set high expectations. I learned again that we as teachers often set our expectations low, just to be save. We are the ones holding our students back. Why not challenge them and if they are starting to meet them, set it higher again.
  • Arching is another term that landed with me during this training. When students have done a task (or after each class), you need to let them land. What have they learned and what will they take with them to the next class/meeting. Or what they would like to improve (did not go well) and how are they going to do that the next time? There are so many questions you can ask, and add a playful element to the evaluation and there is a great ending of a meeting or program. And be aware of not creating too many arches that are ending at the same time, as students will be stressed and are not able to reflect well. It made me stronger in the belief that we should stop with the 8-week programs, where students are to deliver their results at the end of those weeks. Why not have one or two programs more intensively in shorter periods of time or use more intermediate evaluations and not just one at the end?

And what I have learned as a person:

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  • I learned that I focus on converging (bringing things together) and that I have troubles with diverging. Although I understand that there are different perspectives, I want those perspectives to converge into one shared perspective. It is very difficult to me to accept the diverging phase that is needed. Diverging I can do when no words are used, but when we start talking, I start converging. One colleague gave me the tip to use the stance ‘Yes, and–” more often, so that is what I’m going to try to do.
  • I have big faith in people and group processes, I give them the space to work and make sure everybody is contributing. I also learned again that a good atmosphere in a group is important to me. I loved the simple rituals you can bring in, to share the group feelings (high-five) or diverge a bit, so energy can start flowing again (energizer rituals for instance).
  • I can articulate arguments very clearly and bring structure in discussion (as I want everybody to participate and understand), but have trouble with being led. Especially when I feel that not everybody is involved or has a chance to bring in arguments. I intervene when that is happening. And of course some colleagues told me to let go that sense of control. I’m not sure if I want to do that… hihi….
  • I learned a lot of small things, such as the metaphor of spaghetti for receiving feedback. You eat it, you put it on your body where it will fall of if you don’t want to eat it or you pick it from your coat to eat it.

During the masterclass I worked with a group of colleagues on a cross-campus program that would be focused on entrepreneurial skills. In my mind I had the idea to create such a program around social entrepreneurship, but after these three days, I would like to focus on ‘creating your own job’. As many students have no clue on what they would like to do when they are finishing their program, this might be a nice semester to learn and create their own job. I’m looking forward to continue working on this and hopefully are able to stay connected with my colleagues of this masterclass, so we can share en develop together.