Give out certificates on day one

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Learning |


What does education look like in an era when the world’s information is a few clicks away? Adult education is often uninspiring as it tends to be still focused on rote learning. Our learning tends to be focused on the test – what do I need to learn to pass the test? We want the certificate, the letters to put on our CV or Linkedin profile. It’s a silly game.

So what happens if you give out the certificate on day one? Congratulations you’ve passed! How does that change things? If we’ve passed, got the certificate on day one, what do we do with the rest of the class time? Does it help shift us into real learning? Or do some people leave, walk away?

Probably both. But those that walk away didn’t want to learn anyway.

The industry I work in, humanitarian aid, is full of people with impressive degrees from ‘world leading organisations’. People love their certificates. I’ve received CVs with a list longer than a page of various certificates.

But here’s the thing. Having a certificate doesn’t mean you’ve learned anything.

So what if we get rid of tests, papers, and certificates. What if we come together to ask questions, to debate, to challenge, to create, and implement? And what if we do it in groups, in projects, and we learn by doing? What if we ran it like an intense WORKshop, not lectures, but a workshop?

Maybe that would provoke learning and change. And it would be unlikely to attract people wanting a certificate…

And if it was a humanitarian MBA, what topics do we need to explore? Would it be these? Or others?

  • Navigating uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity
  • Building diverse teams and understanding worldviews
  • Leading networks, decentralisation, and Ceding power
  • Risk taking
  • Strategy
  • Facilitating hard conversations and healthy conflict
  • How to be intentionally and actively anti-racist
  • Storytelling for communication and for change
  • Responsible and ethical digital transformation
  • How to engage with the communities you seek to serve
  • Marketing, change and influence

Learning is partly about the subject matter, but much more about how we work with others, the networks we form, and the work we do.

Learning is a choice. And the choice is up to us.

Photo by Susan Weber


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