Public Learning: A Strategy for Adult Learning

In the world of teaching, instructional dilemmas are pervading especially when it comes to the learning process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, educators found themselves in these difficult situations. Some of them were able to think of solutions while others reached out to their school’s learning support departments or colleagues to seek help. One way that can help teachers to learn together as a community is through public learning, a presentation and sharing concept introduced by Mills Teacher Scholars as an alternative format of sharing best practices and instructional dilemmas.

What is public learning and how can it help teachers to learn together?

Public learning is a sharing method designed specifically for adult learning. In this format, one will have to become a moderator, a public learner, and a public listener. The public learner presents an instructional dilemma backed with real data or evidence. The public listeners pay attention to the public learner’s presentation and then reflect. The method allows some vulnerability on the part of the public learner, but in the end, both the public learner and public listeners benefit as multiple perspectives are being discussed. The goal of public learning is not to find the right answer to the learning dilemma, but to help the public learner to think differently and prepare him/her for the next plan of actions.

Why public learning?

Human learning is a complex process. One strategy that works for other students may not work for another group of students. Hence, educators will continually face an instructional dilemma. Learning assessment and instructional evaluation can help teachers make informed decisions, but they only cover a few aspects of the teaching-learning process. Teachers’ responses to instructional dilemmas are more likely to be dependent on their beliefs and philosophy. But these perspectives are subject to our own biases. A community of teachers can be valuable when we want help thinking about something. They can help us see solutions and even boost our morale during the most difficult times in teaching. Through public learning, a culture of questioning assumptions and biases are emboldened.

Key Features of Public Learning

Public Learner’s Engagement (3 minutes): The public learner shares the learning dilemma. But this requires a certain level of vulnerability on his/her part. The task of the moderator is to help prepare the public learner as he/she may need social and emotional support. To help the public learner identify a learning dilemma, some guide questions maybe considered: (1) what is your learning goal for students, (2) what would success look like if students were meeting this goal?, (3) what do you notice in your data?, and what does your data tell you about your students’ progress towards your goal?

Listener Discussion (4 minutes): The public listeners make reflections on the sharing of the public learner. At this point, the public learner pays attention to the public listeners who are providing multiple perspectives and insights to the learning dilemma encountered by the public learner. But it is important to note that the task of public listeners is not to provide solutions but help the public learner widen his/her thinking.

Open Discussion (8 minutes): The public learner rejoins the discussion and engages with a dialogue with public listeners. At this point, the public listeners can provide support to the public learner to question what is or is not working in his/her instruction. The public learner welcomes probing questions to make sure that the goals for public learning are met.

In an effort to support school improvement and for the instructional strategies and techniques to work for education, some teachers may feature their best practices among their professional circles. But as lifelong learners, teachers’ learning process is not a one-way street. They also need to establish a learning culture that also features uncertainties and knowledge gaps welcoming other perspectives from their colleagues.

What are your thoughts about public learning?

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