Learning Intelligence (LQ) and the link to Learning Teams
A natural way to learn
There can be a conflict between the idea of learning as part of a team and providing individual performance assessment, but other than that, learning teams are one of the most natural ways to learn. The strange thing is that without an individual assessment focus schools are nothing more than a large learning team, so long as that is, all the members are involved in actually learning and not just instructing or managing.
Why is it then that the idea of team learning is rarely used to its full advantage and how does a learning team link up with LQ?
The advantages of Learning Teams
Being part of a group involved in doing anything requires co-operation, communication, roles and responsibilities and of course the focus or task. For individuals in a learning team, and I keep making that distinction, there is a host of opportunities to learn if they are recognised and recorded. LQ is about managing your learning environment to meet your individual learning needs. Being part of a learning team can mean apprenticing yourself to others in order to access knowledge or skills in a practical way as well as share those that you possess. This makes the maths of a team interesting. For example take two people learning independently but each one recognising that to maximise their learning they should join forces, work co-operatively as a learning team. The maths now goes like this. One and one make eleven! The team is more than the sum of its parts because there is a form of reaction associated with people working together. Does this mean that if three people come together then the sum is one hundred and eleven? Perhaps there is a limit.
The other advantage of a learning team is that the membership can change and this can change the dynamic of the team. Perhaps using LQ you could identify exactly what that change needs to be in order to maximise the learning.
An aspect of teams is that they offer security and safety for their members. This is particularly important of you consider how challenging and sometimes frightening learning can be. Teams offer through different communication channels an opportunity to test ideas and to check understanding without risk and in doing so can build confidence and develop a wider range of learning strategies.
In a learning team the teacher also has the opportunity to become a learning member and in doing so they can model the behaviours and attitudes that are a desirable aspect of LQ. They can show the advantages of not knowing and of failing in a way that helps young learners recognise these as part of the learning process.
The learning team is nothing more than another environment and set of resources that can be effectively managed through the application of LQ to meet your learning needs. Or is it? Something happens to people when you put them into a team. The learning team can be a way of unlocking strengths and talents that would of otherwise not surfaced. Those familiar with Belbin[i] will acknowledge that people can play a range of different roles within a team but are those roles fixed and can a learner actually learn to play different roles according to their learning need? With LQ I suggest you can. It is about taking a decision to learn from and within the team and its members rather than just focusing on completing a task.
Creating Learning teams
Putting people together and giving them a task is not the way to create a learning team. Putting learners together and setting a team targets and putting somebody at the head to make sure they meet them is not creating a learning team. A worthy read on the subject of learning teams is William Glasser[ii]. Glasser would call this arrangement “Boss –Management” [iii]and it could be a description of how some see the role of the teacher or indeed how education should be organised. In such learning environments LQ can be a way of turning things to the learner’s advantage. It such models it is difficult to build a relationship with the boss and other learning relationships need to be forged. The alternative, Glasser suggests, is “Lead-Management” where persuasion and problem solving are central to the relationship. Such a manager has more of a chance to be part of the learning team rather than just the one driving it. They have the opportunity to model the behaviors and attitudes they wish to foster in the learner and LQ can play a more integrated part making the most of this type of environment. You can see how this would change the role of the teacher and therefore the learning environments of schools if it were adopted. Targets and standards would become signposts rather than destinations in their own right. The teacher would move from being the sage, the boss to the guide and member of the learning team. It is perhaps this target driven focus that prevents schools using learning teams to their full advantage. The dilemma has always been how to identify individual performance or achievement when they are learning as part of a team. This ignores the fact that team members can help in this process if asked. The account of who did what and how well they played will differ greatly from a fan on the touchline to those that played in the team. I suggest that teachers who are not part of the learning team will find it harder to recognise the achievements of individuals than those who are part of it. Perhaps the final limiting factor in adopting learning teams is the concept of accountability. The prevailing question is who will be at fault if the learners do not meet their targets. Such environments, those that focus on accountability, are defined by the level of fear they generate. This is not something which makes learning easy, engaging, or fun.
It is important however to recognise that to engage people an experience needs to be authentic, recall some of the less engaging attractions or events you have visited. It is the same with learning there needs to be an authentic learning experience and creating an environment which omits this does little to engage learners. In such circumstances the learner themselves must look with the authentic aspects of what is being taught, they need to find relevance in order to be engaged in the learning process. LQ can help learners recognise this and look for relevance. I would argue that teachers who create authentic learning experiences, those that explain or provide the relevance of the learning, tend to be those who get the greatest enjoyment from their teaching.
What this means for the Teacher
- Consider switching from “Boss-Manager” to “Lead-Manager” if you find yourself in the former position.
- Look to creating learning teams in order to identify hidden talents or to give them an opportunity to develop within individuals.
- Recognise that putting people together to work on something is not creating a learning team.
- Create an authentic learning experience or environment when you can.
- Explain the relevance of what is being taught as well as the delivering the learning.
What this means for the Learner
- Use teams to your advantage and be ready to learn from others. This may involve observing others or apprenticing yourself to somebody.
- Look for the relevance in what you learn and raise such questions with your teacher. If they are unable to provide answers look elsewhere. Finding relevance in what you learn will help you engage in the learning.
- If you come across the “Boss-Manager” recognise them for what they are and try to build learning relationships with others. Recognise also that although they may be target driven managers that targets are important. Try to see targets more as signposts in your learning rather than just something to achieve in their own right. I liken this to a train or car journey where you take note of the scenery and views from the window rather than just looking for the signposts along the way.
- If you come across the “Lead-Manager” be prepared to be involved in the learning. Recognise that this will involve risk taking but that this is just part of the learning process as is failing at times.
- Explore your role within a team and try to vary what part you play.
[i] Belbin, web reference: http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8
[ii] William Glasser 2001 Choice Theory in the Classroom, Harper (See the chapter on The Learning Team Model)
[iii] William Glasser 1990 The Quality School, Harper and Row