Increasing the emphasis, and ability, to teach and learn through the use of the stories of practitioners, within an Understanding by Design framework.

Often times in a professional education setting the topic of focus or concentration is on best practices of codified or doctrinal ideas and processes put into use. What is now codified in doctrinal ideas and processes, however, started off as a story of how something either worked or didn't, where a gap was found in the existing structure and how it was filled, or a bright new idea of a way to do something no one had thought of before. Often numerous practitioners will identify many of the same issues, and respond in varied ways, some of which are judged by those higher up in the hierarchy as being worthy of being passed on as best practices, or made routine by instituting them as a new formal process. Due to both a lag in time in being instituted, and a tendency to extract the "essence" of many experiences into something that will be universally applicable (and testable), what was originally an exciting and dynamic idea has now lost it's stickiness when attempts are made to transfer these idea on to others. Many of the same institutions that love to play buzzword bingo spout the cliche that their institutional learning structures teach "how to think" not "what to think," adhering to that dictum in word only. In practice they've stripped out any such ethos in a sterile learning process crippled all the more by a method of standardized testing that requires only minimal if any synthesis, but provides those who are in charge of the formal institution of learning with quantifiable, measurable test results to point to when asked if they're accomplishing their mission. Such rote memorization and regurgitation has no corresponding value for the learner once they're back in their everyday operational environment, though, and therefore I believe the entire structure needs to be re-evaluated from a vantage point of how this can be corrected. The idea I propose seeks to facilitate and enable the current system, not replace it, and in a way that requires a minimum of resources to bring into reality. In fact, the idea really distills down to being more about a shift of mind than a requirement for additional resources.

Perhaps the greatest strength of a professional education setting is the students themselves, all of whom are practitioners with applicable experiences from myriad and diverse settings. Inextricably intertwined with those experiences are their own stories, which when shared with other professionals can set the conditions for a transformational learning experience. With all of these practitioners already gathered together, my proposal is to more deliberately, systematically, and formally pursue this rich opportunity: it naturally occurs on anyway, so why ignore it?! In my place of work, there are already processes in place to capture these stories, but not in a way that feeds them back into the learning loop, it's done more to preserve history, not to influence future success. My idea is to have the stories that are already being gathered- which are about dynamic, adaptive, and outstanding performance in action- feed directly back into the learning cycle. Such an undertaking would require the following things; institutional buy-in, instructor buy-in, and increased methods of collecting and disseminating these stories. The first two aspects of this are pretty clear-cut, if not necessarily easy. The final point, though, is crucial to overall success, and requires the buy-in of the first two. For collection and dissemination, the main idea would be to increase the media involved from just text narrative to include an accompanying presentation, video interview, video of the practitioner delivering the presentation, or audio file of the same. All of this wouldn't be gathered for all stories; perhaps only for those that are recognized as the most applicable or demonstrative of the principles that need to be transferred for the betterment of the profession. To select these stories I advocate a form of peer review in conjunction with instructor input. Key criterion for selection would be overall applicability vis a vis the formal course objectives, and also stories deemed to be of impact that don't necessarily fall into a neatly defined category, outliers of a sort that are nonetheless judged as important to the profession. The reason for instructor input is that through this process they're gathering the stories that they plan to incorporate into their own lesson plans. The reason for peer validation is twofold; one, to ensure that the stories chosen will actually resonate with their demographic, and two, to perhaps form another category for the compilation of the important "outlier" stories that might be put into an informal educational forum for later, or simultaneous, use.