The third and final mindset in the Skillagents course is the value mindset, and I found it to be the most inspiring as well as challenging. The value mindset asks designers to dream big for the potential value a course can have for the learners. It urges the designer to not simply make artificial knowledge the goal of the course which is rewarded with a hollow certification, but to assist learners in making long term changes to the skills and attitudes related to the course objectives rooted in the real world.
These lofty goals are met by asking regularly what value the course can have for the learners not only by the end of the course, but long term. This value can be defined through empathy with the learners’ and their needs, and can be achieved by providing genuine and meaningful contexts to prepare learners to make appropriate decisions for future tasks.
This is all well and good, quite inspiring to want to change lives, but reality is never that easy. Learners come to our classes for a variety of reasons and with a multitude of preconceived notions and expectations. From my own experience with EFL learners in South Korea, who have experienced over ten years of passive English education, the final 3 – 6 years with the sole focus of passing the English section of the college entrance exam, a majority enter my conversational and academic English classrooms disheartened and numb. Their communication language skills have plateaued and the majority of students just want to complete the required courses and get on with their degree. This is what Anna Sabramowicz calls the impossible staircase illusion. A situation where learners don’t see their progress and lose sight of the value of your course.This type of situation is not unique and can occur in other contexts, such as where learners are participating in required training for the workplace. It is in response to these challenges where the designer has to be the most vigilant, explicit, and ambitious.
Vigilance is necessary because there is a temptation for the designer or trainer to respond to the learners’ indifference to mandatory courses with equal resolve. Let’s just get through this. Let’s just satisfy the requirement. This attitude can sneak in over time, but through conversations with colleagues, and participation in professional development of their own, designers can remain vigilant and continue to design courses that challenge and motivate learners.
The designer must also be explicit in the description of the objectives of the course. It is well known that the objectives of a course should be described at the beginning of a course when working with adults, and that these goals should be described in the learners’ language, not overly academic or industry-laden terms. However, as mentioned above the goals should extend past the end of the course, and these should also be clearly communicated to the learners in order to demonstrate the value the course can have for learners in the future.
This brings us to the last idea of being ambitious, and inherent in this idea is a certain vulnerability. It is not easy to share your ambitions for the course with your learners. Especially if learners are already approaching your course with a certain level of indifference or incredulity. But if bravery and enthusiasm is encouraged in your design and incorporated throughout, it will be met with equal amounts enthusiasm for the course goals and objectives from learners.
In conclusion, the value mindset module was very inspiring. It made me reevaluate the design of my past courses, and how I define and communicate the course objectives to my learners. It made me want to be more ambitious with what I expect from my learners and myself. I am excited for the next iteration of the courses I design.