Support Personal Learning

This is definitely draft material, and it is very Senge heavy, but I feel like I’m on the right track now…

3. Support Personal Learning

Any organizational change begins with individual change, which requires individual learning. Any change agent hoping to facilitate organizational change would do well to first support personal learning. As Senge (1990) explains, “organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs” (p. 141). To that end, two of Senge’s five disciplines support personal learning – personal mastery, and mental models.

Senge (1990) describes personal mastery as “the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively” (p. 7). He goes on to explain that it “starts by clarifying the things that really matter to us, of living our lives in the service of our highest aspirations” (p. 8). He then lays out several practices and principals critical to personal mastery, including personal vision (p. 147), holding creative tension between current realities and personal vision, (p. 150), commitment to the truth – especially about current reality (p. 159), and using the subconscious (p. 161). He also includes systems thinking as part of personal mastery and focuses on the importance of integrating Reason and Intuition (p. 167), seeing our connectedness to the world (p. 169), compassion (Senge, 1990, p. 171), and commitment to the whole (p. 171). He also notes that “people with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas” (p. 142).
Senge et al. (2000) see teachers as “coaches in personal mastery for students” (p. 59) and believe that “the epitome of personal mastery in the classroom is helping children to decipher their passions, to explore whether they believe these are possible, and to nurture their courage to delve into it, without judging them right or wrong” (p. 111).

An important part of personal mastery for anyone involved in a change effort – or anyone involved in learning, including students and teachers – is an ability to question mental models. Senge (1990) defines mental models as “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action” (p. 8). He goes on to explain that “the discipline of working with mental models starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth out internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny” (p. 9). Unexamined mental models can thus limit people’s ability to change; as Senge et al (2000) pointed out, “in any new experience, most people are drawn to take in and remember only the information that reinforces their existing mental models” (p. 67). Senge (1990) also pointed out that “most of our mental models are systematically flawed. They miss critical feedback relationships, misjudge time delays, and often focus on variables that are visible or salient, not necessarily high leverage” (Senge, 1990, p. 203).

Fullan, too, believed that organizational change starts with personal learning. He wrote that “personal purpose and vision are the starting agenda. It comes from within, it gives meaning to work, and it exists independent of the particular organization or group we happen to be in” (Fullan, 1993, p. 13). He felt that “personal vision in teaching is too often implicit and dormant” (p. 14) and he believed in the “the central importance of teachers’ learning, individually and in relation to colleagues” (p. 62). Purpose came into play here again for Fullan; he explained that “paradoxically, personal purpose is the route to organizational change” (p. 14).

Change agents responsible for implementing emerging technologies, such as video games and simulations, in schools will need to support personal learning (both related to the new technologies, and related to the mission of the school). This support will need to include development of personal mastery, the ability to scrutinize mental models, and a sense of personal vision for everyone involved in the change effort.