Resilient Learner + Resilient Educators = Resilient Organisations?

Here at RSVP Design we’ve recently needed to ensure that we have a shared and consistent understanding of the nature and dynamics of resilience in learning. Two significant client engagements have asked us to revisit this understanding so that we have a common point of departure in terms of both learning design and trainer training. My colleague Ann Alder has used her exceptional skills in developing experiential educators to produce her excellent training guide: “Developing resilience in learners: 10 things any educator can do.” My own reading included an intriguing insight into the educational environment in the form of a short journal article that included this extract:


If resilience occurs in the space in between the learner, the teacher and the institution, then we need to ask how each of those offers the potential for resilience in the others. It also asks us to re-evaluate some of our pedagogical responses to behaviours that we might see as difficult or obstructive. Pedagogical practice becomes one of shared growth and challenge; we need to recognize and explicitly talk about anxiety without trying to close it down or protect learners from it.


(Resilience in Adult Learners: some pedagogical implications By Elizabeth Chapman Hoult,. Journal of Pedagogic Development. Vol 3 Issue 1 March 2013)


Recent research has moved us away from the idea that resilience is a set of rare and innate qualities that made an individual capable of rebounding from adversity: and we now view resilience as a developmental process that incorporates the normative, self-righting tendencies of individuals. Reading the quote above from that viewpoint I found myself wondering about the interactions between organisation, educator and learner that would result in increased resilience in each. Can we create a sustained learning environment that has as its explicit purpose the development of resilience at an organisational level, whilst being entirely supportive of the development of personal and professional resilience in its membership?


My background in experiential education leads me to the practical and pragmatic: what are the practices that could be adopted by each part of the organisation - educator - student triangle that would develop resilience in each of the others? This question immediately provoked another: How do we manage the requisite dynamic-balance between risk and protective factors if we are to create such a challenging environment?


Answering these questions is too great an undertaking for a blog, but I thought that it would be entirely possible to stimulate some thoughts in readers by listing some of my immediate thoughts about these practices. Here are a couple of start points for each;


Organisations might develop the resilience of their in-house educators by:


  1. Providing a steady stream of input about relevant external changes to challenge the educators on how learning materials are responding.
  2. Introducing peer observation and review as standard practice.


Organisations might develop the resilience of their learners by:

  1. Exposing them to the challenges that the organisation faces with a view to co-creating possible responses.
  2. Ensuring that there is a variety of formal and informal learning spaces available and encouraging learners to utilise all of them.


Educators might develop the resilience of their organisations by:

  1. Ensuring that there is a routine flow of feedback from learners to organisation about what they need to achieve the results they are expected to deliver.
  2. Demanding support for the introduction of new pedagogies, content and relationships that will promote growth.


Educators might develop the resilience of their learners by:

  1. Introducing a planned rotation of the spaces, approaches, assignments and people that learners are exposed to.
  2. Recognising the necessity of a degree of anxiety in any learning situation, being open with learners about this, and avoiding any amelioration whilst this is still a positive thing for the learner.


Learners might develop the resilience of their organisations by:

  1. Ensuring that there are effective channels to communicate relevant learning from inside and outside the organisation to decision makers.
  2. Challenging, and holding accountable, the organisation in relation to its response to relevant new information.


Learners might develop the resilience of their educators by:

  1. Being active in any process that offers feedback to educators on their practice and effectiveness, recognising that improvements are mutually beneficial.
  2. Routinely asking questions about content, and being comfortable with answers that indicate that educators don’t know all the answers, provided there is a shared commitment to searching for them.


As I’ve said, these are my first thoughts, offered with the idea that they might provoke your own thinking, and possibly some responses?

For further information and support in relation to Resilience training please click here






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