Leading and The Future of Learning with Sanjay Sarma

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Premise:

We are inheriting a world which is seeing an unprecedented pace of change around us. This makes it super critical for us as leaders to enable a culture of continuous and on-going learning for our teams. We need to play a few different roles in this case.

We need to practice what we preach, i.e., we need to continue to learn and do so publicly. This sends a message to all that continuous, ongoing learning is crucial for the organisation. This also creates a culture that supports ongoing learning.

We also need to play the role of teachers, teaching our teams what we have learnt and what we see from our vantage points. So, it will serve us well to learn how to teach in an impactful way.

On this topic, I came across this lecture delivered by Sanjay Sarma (Vice President for Open Learning at MIT, which includes the Office of Digital Learning, the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative and the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab).

In the lecture, Sanjay shares some important insights about how deep and effective learning happens – based on the book he co-wrote with Luke Yoquinto titled “Grasp“.  

You can watch the entire video here.

Here are some key take learnings from the talk for me:

We need to move from a mindset that “The mind of a student is an empty sheet of paper for a teacher to write on” to the mindset that “The Mind of a student is not a vessel to be filled, but it is a fire to be kindled!!!”.

Around about 10 mins into a lecture, students tend to enter into a natural state of mind wandering. So, it is better to engage students around the 10 min mark to help them in making connections between what they just learnt and what they already know.

The role of the teacher is to help their students to consolidate the information they have been exposed to in a way that it integrates with their existing model of their world and helps them to make sense of the same.

Spaced retrieval of information helps in moving a piece of information from the short term memory into the long term memory and creates the neural pathway that helps in the retrieval of the said information when needed. We need to remember the importance of the insight from the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve.

Curiosity is a force multiplier when it comes to learning new things. So, in order to create an environment where deep learning can happen, teachers need to kindle the curiosity within their students about the topic that they are about to learn.

Learning by doing is on any day better than learning by listening.

There is a lot that we can teach using technology (lectures, enable spaced repetition, faded examples etc). And then there is a lot that we can do in-person – create a context for learning, kindle curiosity, coach them and enable learning by doing or applied learning.

Places of learning (Universities) have to become a place of action, creation and impact.

In conclusion:

It is important for us as leaders to also learn how to be effective teachers, coaches and friends. Sanjay and Luke have written a very important book. So, if you like reading – buy his book and read it. If you like watching videos, spend the 60 or so minutes and watch the lecture.

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