4 Characteristics Of A Learning Leader

by Stewart Hase, Heutagogy of Community Practice

Writing is always a learning experience for me.

Writing forces greater clarity. In addition, the tranquility of the unique Australian bush setting in which I am currently sitting, miles from anywhere, provides a perfect environment for learning. My book, ‘A Practical Guide to Self-Determined Learning: Experiences from the Field’ is an edited work where people share their experiences of using heutagogy in a variety of contexts.

Ideally, heutagogy should be fun and, hopefully, useful to people wanting to try something a bit different in their ‘classrooms.’ I got so excited while writing the chapter that I thought I’d share some of its content with you. In this day and age there is no need to be patient, which suits me, as patience is not a strong point. And I might get some comments back to help me refine the chapter before it goes to air.

A number of insightful writers have suggested the skills that people need in order to cope with the 21st-century. One of my favourites that appears to summarise all of them is from Jackie Gerstein who has put together a neat pictorial of these skills. See also Tony Wanger’s work, which Jackie acknowledges.

The skills she has identified are: effective oral and written communication; collaboration across networks; agility and adaptability; grit; resilience; empathy and global stewardship; vision; self-regulation; hope and optimism; curiosity and imagination; initiative and entrepreneurialism; and critical thinking and problem solving.

Some of the implications of self-determined learning are:

  • involve the learner in designing their own learning content and process as a partner;
  • make the curriculum process flexible so that new questions and understanding can be explored as new neuronal pathways are explored;
  • individualise learning as much as possible;
  • use social media to network learners;
  • provide flexible or negotiated assessment;
  • enable the learner to contextualise concepts, knowledge and new understanding;
  • provide lots of resources and enable the learner to explore essential content;
  • experiment and research;
  • base practice on the latest science;
  • engage learners in collaborative learning;
  • differentiate between knowledge and skill acquisition (competencies) and deep learning;
  • recognise the importance of informal learning and that we only need to enable it rather than control it;
  • have confidence in the learner;
  • be on top of the subject area so you can be a resource;
  • and recognise that teaching can become a block to learning.

So, what of the skills needed by learning leaders, given the abilities we should foster in our learners and the rather more learner-centric approach prescribed by self-determined learning?

At the outset, I think we need to get rid of the terms teach and teacher from our lexicon and start talking about the ‘learning leader’. It immediately changes the focus from teacher-centred to learner-centred approaches. So, I think what we used to call teaching is really leadership and the broad abilities are similar whether or not you are leading students or leading people in an organisation.

4 Characteristics Of Learning Leaders

1. Ability to deal with ambiguity

  • Low need for control
  • Openness to Experience (one of the Big 5 personality traits)
  • Moderate perfectionism
  • High Stability (low anxiety)
  • Project management skills
  • Ability to use social media
  • Optimism

2. The capacity to foster engagement

  • An understanding of how to motivate others
  • Ability to foster a shared purpose and vision
  • An understanding of human needs
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Ability to self-regulate
  • Empathy

3. The capacity to learn

  • Ability to research and learn
  • Being thoroughly on top of one’s subject area
  • Wide and accessible networks
  • Able to share with others
  • Knowledge management skills
  • The ability to foster collaborative learning

4. The ability to use open systems thinking

  • The capacity to scan the external environment
  • Able to foster participative democracy/collaboration decision-making and process
  • Able to actively diffuse power
  • Capacity to work in a team
  • Ongoing internal and external analysis of effectiveness (continuous improvement)

Source: heutagogycop.wordpress.com; 4 Characteristics Of A Learning Leader