Rachel Burnham

BLOG AUTHOR

Rachel Burnham

Associate Tutor

Rachel is a tutor for the Foundation Certificate in Learning and Development and has been an Associate Tutor for MOL for 16 years. She was the lead designer on this programme. She has her own consultancy, Burnham L&D Ltd, and helps L&D professionals to become even more effective. She has written publications for CIPD and has her own blog 'L&D Matters'. She can be found on Twitter @BurnhamLandD.

Contradictions make life more interesting

I don’t know about you, but I love a contradiction; something that stretches me in two seemingly opposing directions - managing with both my head and my heart, holding both the big picture and obsessing about the fine detail, the value of analysis and beautiful pictures.

I like the creative tension of doing both. I like the “and” thinking, rather than “or” thinking. I like the cracks in the pavement created by this divergence of thought.

This last week or so, the contradiction that has been echoing through the conversations I’ve been participating in and the reading I’ve been absorbing, is between treating people, learners in particular, as adults and wanting/needing to be more playful.

A little while ago I was asked if I “only taught classroom-based training on the Certificate in Learning & Development Practice?” to which the answer is a resounding “no and no”. For those who don’t know me, one of the things I do is work as an Associate Tutor for MOL on the CIPD’s CLDP Level 3 programme. I am passionate about CLDP as a starting point in Learning & Development and I will enthusiastically drop this into conversation at any opportunity. What I don’t do is “teach” - I describe what I do as “facilitating learning” and this is much broader than just face to face learning. I also see myself as a “fellow learner”. I am astounded at just how often I am challenging people who ask “what am I teaching today?”

I think we in Learning & Development do ourselves no favours when we “infantilise” the people we work with by using the language of education and particularly schooling to describe what we are about. Addressing this is actually quite straightforward.

Treating people as adults is more than just about the language we adopt. Of course, it impacts on the relationships between Learning & Development and the people with whom we work the approaches to learning we use and ideas such as peer assessment.

Playfulness was something that very much came to mind, as I participated in last week’s L&D Connect Unconference in Glasgow. If you haven’t participated in an “unconference” or something similar based on an Open Space environment – this style of event very much works on the basis that we are all adults and take responsibility for our own learning, contribution and the direction and form of the learning.

One of the discussions I participated in during the day was about what other professionals and fields we could learn from.  We shared ideas about learning from medicine, software development, sports, curating in museums and galleries, nature and children.  Leaving aside the question of whether children are more or less creative than adults, children certainly know how to play. We talked about how children can play and what we can learn from this.

Part of my experience this year as a self-employed consultant is of having a quiet summer with regard to work. I had a very busy spring and the autumn is shaping up to be full of interesting work, but the summer was quiet. And what a joy this was. I had time not only for family and friends, to garden, to fully participate in the Manchester Jazz Festival, but also time to pursue my own work interests. These included some studying, lots of reading and an amazing amount of play – experimenting with different social media, trying out ideas, drawing pictures, and talking to people. It made me appreciate just how important playtime is for us as adults and how core it is to learning new things.

For me, the L&D Connect Unconference was a fabulous example of both being treated as an adult and being playful. Perhaps it is only when we treat people as adults, and are treated as adults ourselves, that we can be free to play.