There’s a lot of talk happening right now about the way that working and learning styles are changing. This article from the Washington Post outlined how colleges and universities are shifting from the traditional lecture hall approach to teaching, college classes are increasingly formed around collaboration, participation and working/learning groups that engage everyone. As a student quoted in the article says of one such class, “you can’t hang back,” he told the class, during a lull. “You’ve got to talk. You’ve got to argue. You’ve got to contribute.” Amidst the change in tradition, I have to think that educators find this sort of comment inspiring. Part of the reasoning is this: If information (really good, accessible and compellingly-delivered information) is everywhere, then perhaps an emphasis on experience really is the key. How many people have experienced (and continue to experience) the conundrum of, “you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job?” And the fact that professors are choosing to assign online lectures as homework to allow for classroom time to be more engaging and participatory is certainly a harbinger of things to come. It’s a shift from teacher-focused to learner-focused.
Several of my friends are recording engineers, and studied that in college. Most had peers that seemed to be the star students in the program, and those people got the plum internships at world-class recording studios – the sort of lavish recording palaces that rarely exist today. The conventional wisdom was that an internship at Ocean Way would communicate, on a resume, that this person was at the top of their game and had experience in big time situations. The reality, as most everyone knew, was that those people, talented as they may have been, were glorified errand runners, learning to make coffee, use the copier to make tracking sheets, and sweep up after the sessions were done.
Meanwhile, others aligned themselves with some of the smaller, dingier studios in town. The places with no real staff but the owner/operator, where bands blew through albums in days or weeks instead of months, and resourcefulness of a McGyver level was often required to get the right sounds or effects, as the gear didn’t have the same level of sophistication as the big houses. But the people who interned at these places came out of their experiences with just that: experience. One friend had close to two dozen engineering credits on national releases in the same 9-month period that his classmate had done nothing except for coffee, copies and sweeping up. Word got out that he worked hard, got things right, and could make any type of gear work to get what was needed. The classroom taught what work was supposed to be like, while the internship showed what it often really was.
Experience and collaboration are a reality of new ways to function, work, learn and grow. Obviously, as the article points out, there are places where regimented instruction is needed over just digging in to something (surgery comes to mind). But learning and applying knowledge and skills are a more hands-on experience than ever. This applies to client work, working groups, employee training and volunteer engagement.