Teaching and Learning
Why I teach
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’
The first assignment I give the participants in my Project Management course is to tell me why they are taking the course and what they expect to get from it. Some of the responses I got were:
I am taking this course because I want to be more organized and more capable when leading and working on projects.
As a young professional I want to equip myself with as many tools and knowledge as possible before I launch my career in May. I hope to expand my network and gain valuable information about more effective project management.
In my new role I will be working with teams for the first time in a long time. I will also be involved in some managing of team members. I would like to develop Project Management skills to facilitate an effective and efficient means of defining my role and carrying out projects within the role. I also believe that learning to use some of the tools available in Project Management will help me keep projects organized, within budget, and can help me communicate progress.
In each case from individuals with different levels of experience, the common theme was to become a good and effective Project Manager.
That was what I was looking and hoping for from each person. What was not mentioned was that each would receive certification upon completing the course. While that was there, it was not the most important thing to the respondents.
That made me extremely happy because while important, it was not the key reason each was taking the course. They were not hung up on getting a piece of paper that said they had taken and successfully completed a Project Management course. That paper would say nothing about what they learned and retained, nor how well they would use the skills. The proof of their learning was in their success at being a good PM.
And that was exactly what I was looking for in my class, people who wanted to learn and employ the skills they were taught.
I am a firm believer in experiential learning. This is defined as an engaged learning process whereby students “learn by doing” and by reflecting on the experience. It allows opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, and / or physically.
My class is based completely on taking the tools taught and completing (or getting far) with a project during the 9 weeks of the class.
Each individual needs to report on his or her work verbally (5-minute presentation) and in writing (2 to 3 pages). They must describe the project, the tools they used to manage it, the outcome, and what they learned through the process.
There are no quizzes or exams. I don’t care what they can regurgitate to me from memory. That is what they have notes and articles to refer to. It is the application of the materials we cover that matter. There are readings every week on both articles and 2 books. We then cover these in class, using my experiences to highlight the key points and to get the message for that session across.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler
Even with all of that, there is ongoing learning involved.
Anyone who thinks they know everything after a 9-week course is kidding themselves. So, I make myself available essentially forever to the participants. Once class is completed, they can contact me at any time with questions, concerns, or just to chat about how things are going. I don’t know of any other course offers that feature.
I was offered the opportunity to teach a similar course for another organization (I currently teach my course through the O’Pake Institute at Alvernia University, Reading PA). To do so, I would have had to change the curriculum to meet the needs of people taking who are going for their PMI certification.
I declined for three reasons:
1. My loyalty to Alvernia University. They gave me the opportunity to teach and I do not want to jeopardize my relationship with them.
2. There are many courses already that people can take to study for certification. In my opinion they don’t need another one.
3. The added content required, in my opinion, does not add to what I am presently teaching. When done my students have everything they need to be competent and good Project Managers.
The people who are taking the Project Management course offered by Alvernia and taught by me, want to learn and become better at what they do.
To me that is what learning is all about. So, we are very compatible in what I am trying to achieve and what they want and need.
Others may have other reasons for learning such as:
1. To stay up to date in their career field.
2. To prepare for the unexpected such as job loss
3. To expand their resume
4. To increase competence in a particular area
5. To spark new thoughts and ideas
6. To change or increase perspective
7. To develop skills which in turn may lead to encouraging others to pursue further education
Whatever the reason, many are driven to learn. It is my hope and intention to help some of those along their way. So far, so good. I will do it for as long as I can and as long as there is an interest for me to do so. When either or both of these stop so will I. But until then I will continue to do what I do in the way that I do it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter H. Christian was a founding partner and president of espi, a business consulting firm in Northeastern PA. Previously he was an Executive at Crayola Corporation. He has worked with 300+ clients in business development, profit improvement, operations, IS selection and implementation, and Project Management. He has 40+ years of experience in strategic and facility planning, CI, lean, and supply chain. He has helped companies to realize millions of dollars in cost reductions and profit improvements adding and retaining thousands of jobs. He has authored the Amazon bestselling business books, “What About the Vermin Problem?” and “Influences and Influencers” and is published in a variety of professional magazines. He is most appreciative of Dr. Rodney Ridley and Donald Schalk of the O’Pake Institute, Alvernia University for their support in allowing him to teach this important course.