Sending congruent messages

Clark Aldrich wondered whether it is self-defeating to offer a formal book about informal learning or a closed-structured book about open-structured simulations. The content seems to demonstrate a way to be contradictory, self defeating and hypocritical whenever the topic gets discussed. The book says "follow my advice, but don't follow my example"

This issue has been more troublesome with the advent of Web 2.0 interactivity and citizen creativity. Authors are offering books for free download under the Creative Commons License. Content developers are making sense of digital piracy as the end of content delivery. Seth Godin has concluded that books are only souvenirs of richer experiences co-created through blogs and live encounters.

In struggling with this as a writer, educator and instructional designer, I've realized how mixed messages are avoided by changing my own premises. If I come from a better place, my messages are congruent and achieve the intended effect. I've discovered four different premises to play with when creating instruction.

1. I assume this is something you already do, but you don't realize you do it. Let me show you how you do this sometimes and have success with this. Then you can amplify this exceptional conduct of yours, call upon this internal resource more often, and feel more confident about your capabilities

2. I assume this is something that can be learned, but cannot be taught. Let me support you in using your experiences to change your mind, access other choices or respond more effectively to your particular challenges. Then you can utilize what you realized yourself with your intrinsic motivation and ownership of your understanding.

3. I assume this is something you'll do quite naturally once it makes enough sense to you. Let me share some of the ways that I've made more sense of what happens, different ways to approach this and why some methods backfire. Then you can make sense of what happens to you and come around to seeing the value of doing this thing on your own.

4. I assume this is something you'll discover on your own like I did. Let me walk you through the process of my setbacks, forks in the road and battles with naysayers. Then you can take your own journey and adventure through the maze of misleading cues like a detective in a mystery story.

When I use any of these assumptions, I steer clear of numerous pitfalls without needing to be careful about misteps:

  • I'm not telling others what to think and subverting the content into indoctrination, propaganda and control of their choices.

  • I'm not pathologizing their "lack of expertise" and feeding a misdiagnosis that frames the learner with dependency on my expertise.

  • I'm not removing the learner's experience from their education and dismissing their "theory-in use" that they still rely upon every day.

  • I'm not thinking I'm superior to those who are "still getting educated" or thinking I have "no further questions your honor"

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