When did everyone go to the seminar on how to run a seminar? Since I graduated college, every class, training, conference, and workshop I’ve attended has run on the same lines and those lines are collaborative learning.
Collaborative learning (or teaching?) is what I call (maybe correctly?) the classroom technique where, at its most basic, a teacher becomes a ‘facilitator’ and learning takes place through groupwork with colored paper and constant mini-presentations. Along with it come all sorts of New Age brainstorms, notecards, markers, stickers, interactivity, storytelling, and everything else you left behind in elementary school.
Peace Corps was the first offender, but it has some valid reasons for the technique that I’ll get into in a minute. The PC’s stated reasoning, or at least the reasoning our trainers gave us, was that adults learn fundamentally differently than adolescents (and, apparently, the slightly younger adults who learn like normal people in college). They backed up the methodology with a couple of learning-style tests that ‘proved’ that only about a quarter of our group (and ostensibly of humanity at large) learns through the tired old “teacher actually teaching” format.
Nearly every session we had ran on these participatory lines. Maybe three or four, all taught by outside educators on a one-off basis, were traditional lectures, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that those were clear favorites among the volunteers. Many of the rest of our sessions had us dividing large packets on running workshops, community organizing, environmental education, etc, among ourselves, reading an assigned section in small groups, and then “reporting back” to the larger group what we’d read. Blind leading the blind-cum educational philosophy. Other favorites had us breaking into groups to fill poster paper with brainstorms, lists of contacts, commentaries on the training, and always “reporting back” to the main group, that is, “reading the poster verbatim to the class (who can read it from where they’re sitting and in any case has the same information as everyone else’s poster)”.