“Great class today, you are free to go”…but we have an hour to go????

How many times have you been in a learning situation where you have been allowed to go home early? Sometimes it feels like “great, now I can go and do something else like run to the supermarket and pick up those vegies I thought I wouldn’t be able to”. Or sometimes its, “excellent now I can go and meet my friends earlier at the pub”. Other times its feels like you are being duped… “hmmm, really? we are finishing this early?”

Now don’t get me wrong, from a teaching perspective it is highly desirable for your students to see you as a well-organized time manager. The session runs for three hours, for example, then I want to finish as close to that three hours as possible, if not within a five to ten minute period. But I want the students to get “value for their money”. Whether I am running a professional development workshop, teaching in the university context, or facilitating a coaching session I as the educator have to manage the learning experience not only from the pedagogical perspective and the content angle but also the approach to time.

I’m a firm believer in beginning on time and valuing the students who are ready to go. I also know that running late is a part of life for those participating but if we are talking about modeling and valuing the time dedicated on the learning topic then, starting on time is a must. Managing the time within the workshop or session is important as well. The activities, discussions and cooperative group based strategies all need to be managed for effective use of time. All educators plan these out based on the learning outcome and focus for understanding, knowledge and transfer.

As a learner, I want to immerse myself in the time dedicated to the workshop or session I have paid to be a part of. I want to learn. I’m attending to learn. I want to up skill, apply new knowledge, transfer ideas, and gain new perspectives. Now, aside from those professional development sessions we are told to attend where the content is boring, the delivery is undesirable and the relevance does not exist, most classroom or learning environments we place ourselves in have a strong vested interest in the learning outcome. What am I going to gain from being here? What am I going to get from this three-hour workshop? How is this relevant to me?

Vested interest in learning environment (N.Lemon, 2012)

This brings me to a recent experience I had. I enrolled myself into a life drawing class. Much enthusiasm was connected to this choice. I had a vest interest in extending my drawing and observational skills. Three hours on a Saturday was also a big investment for me… I had to consider the weekend where I usually do not work nor do anything related to work (a worklife balance goal of mine). I also had to rearrange other activities, and consider impact on others in my life. I also had to consider how I would be as a leaner in this environment. How would it be for me focusing on drawing, working with charcoal and observing the human body as a form to capture shape, tone, and line. I was a ball of excitement and nervousness all rolled into one. So once the nervous energy balanced itself out, the class created a flow with quick three minute and then five-minute observational sketches I loved the experience. The flow was happening. So I was surprised when the teacher went “okay, well done everyone, great days work, you can pack up now. Great class today, you are free to go”. Wow, I thought, gee that three hours went quick. How cool. Loving this learning environment. Then I looked at my watch…hang on a moment we have an hour to go. What’s this all about?  Yep, I felt duped. A three-hour workshop all of a sudden became two hours. There was no communication about why (although the fact that the teacher was already onto the topic of where she would get her wine for the afternoon may have been a significant hint). My peers and I just looked at each other with these blank, stunned eyes. I was looking at a sea of faces that had changed from focused looks, smiles of achievement, and content artists in the making.

From a teaching and learning perspective what happened here? Leaners wanted a three-hour experience, value for their investment in time and development of skills, and a feeling of satisfaction connected to working for three hours and not two. The teacher perhaps forgot to communicate how the class would run? Or was it that the teacher just couldn’t be bothered? Either way what the intention of the workshop was and how it was delivered in regards to time management was seriously lacking integrity. What this also created was “behind the teacher’s back” comments about not feeling satisfied (including sniggering and hands to the mouth pretending to cover any opportunity for across the room lip reading). A culture of teacher verses emerged emerged after one session and a sense of questioning of the learning focus and outcomes advertised verses being delivered. What will happen next?

Have you ever been in a situation as a learner where you have felt duped?

Are you an educator where you have managed your time in such a way that leaves a significant deficit on “value for money”? What do we actually want as leaners/teachers in these situations? How do we communicate it so all have a common understanding? 

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