be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!

In the final quarter of 2015 we set forth on a most excellent adventure. Our aim was to bring together a diverse group of practitioners to explore the future of learning in sport. At myfastestmile our primary passion is to understand how people learn so that we might support others in the curation of learning environments that help people be their best. We established relearn so that we can work towards co-creating that future by exploring an alternative approach to professional development that is rooted in our emerging principles.

With the benefit of that first experience behind us, along with the feedback of those who were brave enough to join us in that first step, we are now planning a series of relearn events for 2016 that will begin on January 27th with relearnSouth.

One of our key reflections on the relearn launch event was that we made a lot of assumptions about how much people attending already knew about our principles and approach through previous social media interaction and we’ve wondered since about what impact that had on what people brought to and took away from the experience. We also underestimated the desire people would have to join the conversation and left too little time to fully explore the issues that were raised.

To improve on our offering this time we’ve extended the duration of the event from two and a half to four hours and decided to share more details here of our underlying principles and therefore approach to facilitating the learning experience of those who join us on the night. We hope that by doing so we will inspire you to bring your game to the challenge that relearn represents.

For Bill and Ted the task of completing a school history assignment did little to inspire them. It was only by circuitously following their passion, with some gentle guiding from Rufus the cosmic meddler, that they were able to embark on a journey to ‘excellent’ (queue air guitar riff) that involved travelling into uncharted territory and making unexpected discoveries that led them to new levels of insight and awareness of what had come before them. The story of these happy hapless travellers is allegorical of much of what is wrong with formal education in many of its current guises and also much of what might be done to improve matters given what we are now learning about effective learning.

We’ve spoken at length in blogs and hangouts about what we think is wrong with current approaches to the curation of learning in sport and we’ve gathered, through our collective experience, insight and networking, an emergent view of what we believe to be a more fruitful if messier and less travelled path. Along the way we’ve converged on a number of principles that shape our thinking and guide what we do. Whilst we draw on a wide range of sources from the sciences and the arts to inform our practice much of our approach is anchored to the combined tenets of self-determination theory, dynamical systems theory and, in its application to sport, constraints based learning theory.

For us, the expression of these theories is framed jointly by the notions that behaviour is goal directed and learning is dynamically situated. To be effective in helping people bring their game we believe therefore that a learning environment must meet three core needs:

  1. create space for engagement by tapping into personal curiosity
  2. provide an opportunity for aspirational exploration in problem setting
  3. enable people to connect their efforts and resources to problem solving

Our approach to relearn is based on these principles and therefore, like the adventures of Bill and Ted, it can appear somewhat messy and unstructured at first glance. It may even look like we don’t know what we’re doing, because at times we won’t, but we’ll definitely know why and we’ll have a pretty good grasp of how — the what is up to you. You see, at relearn we predominatly see ourselves in the role of Rufus (minus the time travel!) and therefore our aim is to faciltate for the people in the room an exploration of their collective interests and a gentle guide through the process of discovering new insight by sharing the story of their experiences whilst listening to and learning from the stories of others.

We frame this process as a transition from monologue to dialogue and always aim to follow it with a focussed attempt to explore solutions to the problems we’ve been collectively marinating in so that people have new ideas to take away and try. Or in the language of our principles we start by providing people with an opportunity to engage by sharing a story about why they’ve come; we then explore how we might collectively aspire to improve by aligning to the issues of common interest and clarifying the challenges we face; finally we shift attention to problem solving by shaping an opportunity to connect to the insight and expertise of others in the room.

Of course, we hope to add value to the conversation ourselves wherever possible by sharing our own experiences, insights and ideas but we actively seek to avoid falling into the traditional educational format of playing the sage on stage as it would feel not only like a betrayal of the very principles we hold to but more importantly would deny people the opportunity to give to and draw from the collective capabilities of the community of learners we hope that relearn will foster. We were delighted to draw an eclectic mix of attendees to the launch event with conversations striking up between grassroots coaches and skill acquisition researchers or PE teachers and performance directors. We see this as a great chance to look at the issues we all face from a variety of different perspectives that offer new insight and opportunity.

We also aspire to make learning as much fun as it was for Bill and Ted when Rufus stepped in so we invite you then to be excellent together and join us at relearnSouth for a rethink of learning…