Learning and Teaching

I have been interested in learning for many many years. Over that time I have studied pedagogy, androgogy and synergogy. Looked at learning styles like Kolb, Gartner and Bloom. My favourite is approach is “Situated Learning” or “Legitimate Peripheral Participation” as Lave and Wenger call it. Everyone else calls it apprenticeship.

I consider that the roles of business analyst and project manager are primarily roles where I help people learn. I provide training in the domain ( business analysis ) and training in the process of risk management ( project management ). Others can then do my job for me which reduces any key man dependency on myself. It also frees me up to do the most important thing of all…. Learn new things myself.

Over the years as I’ve studied learning, I’ve learned a few things and developed a few tricks. Here are a couple of them…

  • Teaching is a commitment on the student and an option to the teacher. The teacher decides what the student needs to know and controls the agenda and the timetable. There is no real discussion with the student.
  • Helping someone learn is an option to the student and a commitment by the “teacher”. They pull you in when they need to learn something.
  • Too little emphasis is placed on holding the attention of the student. Too much emphasis is placed on delivering content. It is up to the student to stay engaged. Several years ago I decided to study Al Murray and Eddie Izzard as models for knowledge delivery. Both use real option based delivery (as most comedians do these days). As a result my primary focus is attention and engagement, Content delivery is a secondary consideration and option based. As a result I can run a session on financial maths for an hour.

I like to help people learn. I hate the idea of teaching.

I wish there was a word for someone who helps others learner. A learnee? Can anyone help? Perhaps there is a non English word we could appropriate. ( hopefully something Arabic like Caravan or Assassin ).

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

7 responses to “Learning and Teaching

  • Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei)

    This post confuses me somewhat, especially the use of long words – and the first of the bullet points.

    Response to closing question: Seems like “coach” is a perfectly good word for someone who helps others learn. Does it have e.g. unwelcome connotations for you that precluded its consideration?


  • theitriskmanager


    Yep. Dont you love the phrase “Legitimate Peripheral Participation” or “Doing real work stuff close to a master”.

    Coach could be a good word if used in the English context. Unfortunately coach has a very different meaning and emphasis (closer to boss) in the USA. This confusion on meaning means I tend to avoid it. Still holding out on something nice in Arabic or Portugeuse. 😉


  • Jabe

    “Legitimate Peripheral Participation” or “Doing real work stuff close to a master” are appropriate for different audiences.

    “Doing real work stuff close to a master” is awesome for someone trying to understand the domain for the first time without the appropriate vocabulary to navigate. Experts however may point out that “stuff” isn’t very scientific and the entire phrase is so ambiguous as to be difficult to situate in formal theory.

    “Legitimate Peripheral Participation” is useful for disambiguating the conversation among experts. The professorial tone could be off-putting or simply too confusing for some…

    As a partitioner I can appreciate both approaches.

    Here is your half of the baby 😉

  • Bad Captain

    Chris, this is genius commentary on the state of the community (deliberate or not). The heavy reliance on long or foreign words to brand existing concepts is getting somewhat tiresome. Ubiquitous language does not mean Japanese (or any other language) jargon.

    The helper is either “tutor”, “coach” or “mentor”.
    The great thing about using 3 distinct words is that their menaings (with a little help) are unambiguous – nobody can build a pyramid empire on something that everyone can understand.

  • Paul M Boos

    I’m not sure how you are equating to coach as boss here in the US. Few people view coach as boss that I am aware of (except perhaps on pro sports teams). I will state though that my life experience so far are small in the relative size of US life experiences.


    • theitriskmanager

      Hi Paul

      When we originally propsed the idea of an “Agile Business Coach” we were told by Americans in the session that coach has much more authority and power in America than in the UK. It was not my observation, rather my stating the opinion of Americans in the session.


  • nickdevoil

    Hi Chris, I only just came across this post.

    A side-note on the language point – I’ve been intrigued for a long time by the fact that not all languages are like English in having two completely separate and contrasting words for to learn and to teach. For example, in French “apprendre” means both, and so does “учить” (uchit’) in Russian. It seems to me that speakers of these languages must have a greater instinctive awareness of the fact that learning is not something that a teacher does to a student, but rather is something reflexive. Actually, I think in English “learn” also had both meanings once, but we have lost one of them.


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