Friday, December 14, 2018

What I have learned (so far) from teaching KM

Teaching is all about knowledge transfer.  Understanding the challenges of knowledge transfer from an organizational learning perspective is very helpful in creating parallels for teaching (and the other side of the coin, learning).  Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning could borrow a little more from learning theories and instructional design.  The Learning and Development (L&D) departments of most organizations could also learn from Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning.

In the fall of 2018, I focused my professional activities on teaching, but since i was teaching Knowledge Management, a lot of merging happened.  That merging of ideas is something akin to Nonaka and Takeuchi's Combination stage of knowledge creation perhaps.  Now I can't help cite some of my classes mandatory readings they're so present in my mind.

I taught two sessions of a Knowledge Management class for undergraduate students completely online and a semester long graduate level class on Knowledge Management Strategy face-to-face in a Friday evening/Saturday all-day format that accommodates working students. The two courses are taught completely differently.  There is some overlap in terms of the content, and the target audiences are very different.

In both courses, I've enjoyed the part that actually involves TEACHING through my interactions with the students.  With the graduate level class I have a lot more control over the methods and content and much more flexibility to adjust anything I need the next time I teach it (assuming I am asked to come back to teach it next year).  With the undergraduate level class, I am adjusting to a rather rigid format and content I have limited control over.

Regardless of the format and challenges presented by each class, I found myself often wondering how much learning was actually going on.  Obviously I was teaching but that's just one side of the equation.  It's like a conversation.  I could be talking while no one is truly listening. 

In both classes, there were disappointments and challenges.  There were things I wasn't fully prepared for, such as the 4.0 student who isn't quite happy with anything other than 100% on every assignment, the general reluctance to read, the overzealous reliance on Google to find answers to everything and the nagging feeling that there is some cheating going on (in the online class).  I was troubled by all of this but I was also inspired and in awe of some of the learning that I witnessed.  There were a few times, both online and face-to-face when I reviewed an assignment and I genuinely thought I could not have done it better if I had tried. 

The online learning environment can be particularly challenging because it requires much more self-discipline on the part of students.  I have seen good students (those who were really good before stepping into my virtual classroom) take advantage of what was being offered and learn a lot.  I have also seen weaker students make strong efforts to take advantage of my advice and support throughout the session and improve tremendously.  Somewhere in the middle, 50% of the class just wants to get to the finish line and will do the minimum required.

The face-to-face environment is challenging in a different way.  The students are working adults.  On Friday evenings, they are not in the best state to absorb four hours of teaching or engage in deep learning.  They want to get through the evening.  When they come on a Saturday they've had another class the night before.  Again, these are not ideal learning conditions.  Most of the work they have to do in-between classes involves a group consulting project which is also quite stressful (if they take it seriously).  Those who take it seriously learn the most, but there is a toll to pay.

While I have learned a great deal this Fall semester in terms of my own teaching and there are lots of little things I can change to improve the classes and their delivery, the most important things I have learned probably relate to my increased understanding of the students themselves, their strengths, weaknesses, motivations, attitudes, and how to react (and not overreact) when things don't go exactly as planned.

I look forward to more teaching and developing new classes.

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