Why Leaders Need Teaching Skills

leadership organizationSomething that many people, both students and supporters, find unusual in DAI’s MA in Organisational Leadership, is that one of the first two courses that students are required to take is one that is called “Teaching and Learning for Impact”. “Why”, students say, “do we need to study a course about teaching when we’ve enrolled for a course about leadership?” Maybe they have a point. But maybe DAI looks on the course from a different perspective!

We believe that one of the key principles of leadership is empowering others; that we develop those that we lead. DAI’s philosophy is that the courses our students take are not for their benefit alone, but also for the benefit of others in their churches, ministries and organisations.

One of the first questions that we ask in the Teaching & Learning for Impact course is “How do people learn in your culture?” Having got answers like “sitting in a classroom listening to the teacher” and “through lectures”, we get the students to think a bit more deeply, by making the observation that the answers they’ve given describe how people teach, not how people learn. So we ask the question again: “How do people learn – really learn – in your culture?” And then we get more thoughtful responses like “through stories”, “through discussion”, “through taking part in the learning”.

And this is why we think it important to include a course on how adults learn at the outset of the 3-year course, because we want our students to pass on what they’re learning to others – and to pass it on in an effective way: not by “telling” them, not by “lecturing”, but by using methods that will help the people they’re working with really learn! We aim to turn their thinking turned upside down, so they think about learning and learners as opposed to teaching and teachers!

In terms of the course material, we get them exploring what it says in the Gospels about how Jesus taught different groups of people, and they see that he used stories, parables, demonstrations, discussion, questions, practice and feedback. We get them thinking about their experience of learning, and then use this to help them understand some basic principles of effective learning: that people need to want to learn or recognize their need to learn, the importance of learning by doing, of making sense of what they are learning and the value of receiving feedback on their learning. We get them thinking about different learning methods and the strengths and weakness of each of these methods. We get them working on designing learning outcomes, creating lesson plans and evaluating.

As with every course in the MAOL programme, the Teaching & Learning for Impact course has a profound impact on our students. Irene from Uganda commented, “I thought you were coming to teach us how to be better lecturers, but you completely changed our thinking and got us to focus on learning and the learners; I’ll never just lecture again!

Noel, who works with World Vision in Sri Lanka said “The Adult learning course has enabled me to become a great facilitator with village groups. I use the practical knowledge I gained from the course in my training sessions with them. They are no longer boring but have become very practical and useful for the participants”.

And Megan, who is a health worker in rural Nepal, said “The residency at the beginning of the course was a good introduction to all the topics and referring back to what was done there has been helpful as I have gone through the workbook. The workbook itself is very well presented in an easy to use format and I particularly like the way master of leadershipthat each unit builds on the last with continual reference back to the key factors that are foundational to effective learning making everything fit together. Even though I am not a teacher as such I can apply a lot of the principles in my day to day work and in training others on the job”.

Author: John Rogers is DAI’s Senior Consultant for Non-Formal Training and Adult Education and is based in London, UK. He is the author of the course materials for the Teaching & Learning for Impact course and has taught the course with MA students in Uganda, Burundi, Nigeria, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

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