Friday, January 04, 2008

Beginners Mind

I may have said this before - but the greatest thing about my current position is that I no longer have to be an "expert" in whatever it is I'm supposed to be teaching.

Signal vs. Noise pointed to a New York times article about how expertise can hinder innovation.

I had a feeling I was becoming too "expert" in Electronic Medical Records and was beginning to run out of patience for the repetitive questions any new user would ask when something is not user-friendly. I also found myself creating more shortcuts in the training the longer I worked with this particular application and becoming more resistant to ideas about how to teach because I've done it for so danged long.

Going through the often painful learning process and giving up the "expert" hat has helped to clarify the material I am developing for the University. I am the one asking the repetitive questions to the experts. I am the one "breaking" the system.

Giving up the "expert" hat has made it easier for me to see new ways to help the learners. Objectively evaluating what you are doing is tricky when you've been teaching variations of the same class (whether online or in the classroom) for many years.

I'll admit - not knowing what I am talking about is incredibly unnerving. For control freaks like myself - it's a tough position to be in. But so much of what we talk about in these blogs is about helping learners learn. NOT "delivering material." NOT being the expert who knows all.

I'm finding that my fellow learners are getting more out of me pointing to resources and legitimately NOT KNOWING than they do when I just tell them. And this particular crew (faculty and staff) has been amenable to doing a little more legwork than I'm used to making them do. As a result, the follow-ups have been more useful and the learners still feel like I'm helping them. Even better - the learners have been very good about calling me back and letting me know what they found. We all win!

Wish I could keep this "new person" hat longer....


Downes said...

I don't think you can avoid becoming expert in your field, nor would you want to.

But you can resist the hardening of views that comes with expertise by diversifying your experiences, ensuring that you pursue things in which you are inexpert as well as expert.

This will lead you to keep an open mind toward people who are inexpert in your field, because you will be able to see from their perspective, and it will provide you with new and unexpected experiences, that can change your expert opinion where the usual experiences in your own field will not.

Wendy said...

That might be the trick - making sure I am involved in a wider range of activities rather than building tutorials for just one topic.

That was the appeal of the new job - variety.

I'm hoping that you are right and it will make it easier to look at even the areas where I am "expert" in a new light.

Hopefully - I can continue to maintain that perspective.