Iceland 2017: What’s the Point?

During the past few weeks, Associate Professor Chris Hamstra taught several sessions on leadership and communication at Bifröst University in Iceland. Chris documented his time in Iceland in a series of articles to be featured on his LinkedIn page. This is the final article in the series.

Iceland 2017: What’s the Point?

I appreciate those of you who came along for the ride through these posts from Iceland. I started these as a way to process my personal and professional learning. I am glad to hear that they might have impacted others as well. At the beginning my hope was to generate three articles. Right now I probably have ideas for another half dozen (smile).

So really, what’s the point?

I am very thankful for the seed funds from the M.E. Davenport Legacy Endowment fund to begin this pilot program titled: Connecting Across Borders. The core idea in the grant application was to think about and engage short-term, international teaching and learning experience for faculty at Davenport University. The key word for me in this whole document is the word: connection.

As I continue to think about life and my work, connection is a central focus. From where I sit I see a world that continues to fracture. I have a passion to see people connect through communication, leadership, and learning. In my mind we connect internally to continue figuring out our identity. We connect externally to frame meaning in our communities and organizations. From my faith perspective, we connect spiritually within the overarching story of Jesus and the free gift of salvation that is available to everyone. I hope that my work in these areas help individuals listen well and to continue learning.

Not trying to sound melodramatic but I got a taste of this sweetness in the education and the environment in Iceland. Similar to the first post, I would like to conclude this series with a few thoughts in the areas of: leadership life-stories, self-directed learning, and international learning.

Leadership life-stories

These learners came from different cultures, different languages, different…everything. It was interesting to watch this group of international colleagues listen to each other and share their leadership life-stories. What I saw during this time was individuals searching for and finding common themes. At some level, individuals connected with other individuals.

So the point is that we went from connection to co-creation.

It was an honor to facilitate this opportunity and to watch global cultures connect in one spot. There was an on-going exchange and building of knowledge. Shamir and Eilam (2005) suggest that the events and experiences of a life-story are selected because they “reflect the leaders’ self-concepts and their concepts of leadership, and allow or enable them to enact their leadership role” (p. 407). The stories began to take on a life of their own.

The back and forth dialogue that was co-created among individuals was interesting to watch. Everyone identified a key moment in their life and connected this to a principle of leadership. One story led to the construction of another story which led to a third story as new personal learning was discovered. One person shared a time being named a manager at work. Another disclosed a deeply personal story about a family tragedy. The stories began to build on themselves. I hope that the impact of these stories continue in the future. While I may not remember the specifics of each story in the next 5-10 years, I know that I will certainly remember the connection of this time and the co-created knowledge that was cultivated.

Self-directed learning/Adult learning

At the core of self-directed learning is the deliberate action of the learner to gather knowledge through available resources. Resources can come from just about anywhere. The adult learner is then able to practice and apply this information in their life.

So the point for me is how can I help individuals become better self-directed learners?

Gerald Grow (1991) established a model suggesting how to encourage self-directed learning among individuals. I need to review this and implement some of his ideas. From my understanding most current educational programs stem from a model established during the Industrial Revolution of the early 1900’s. Individuals follow an established program that leads to knowledge gain that (hopefully) makes them successful in practice. This leads to my second point that…

I wonder what a program could look like if individuals built their own learning?

I appreciate my colleagues in Iceland because, as a whole, they exemplified this idea. One individual attended this graded class even though they did not need the credit. Another person came to Iceland because they wanted to develop their own leadership potential. Another person was in Iceland because they wanted to see a part of the world very few get to visit. Some of these individuals pursued these opportunities even though it was not part of their degree program. This was an exceptional distinction of this program.

International learning

Consumption and contribution seem to be the opposite sides of the spectrum when thinking about international learning. During my experience I encountered both. I learned during the back and forth in the classroom. I learned from my faculty colleagues sharing a beer and sharing conversations outside of the classroom during hikes. I appreciate the quote from one of the students “Travelling is about finding those things you never knew you were looking for.”

So here is the point – I hope that an experience like this, even for the short-term, can be used for future development as well. My next steps will be figuring out and talking with people to understand how this can be used well in and out of the classroom.

The past few weeks were a highlight for me. This time has been one of those formative experiences that adds to my leadership life-story. I hope these short posts have inspired you to consider an opportunity like this in your life. I hope they help you aspire to something new.

Feel free to reach out and connect with any questions or comments. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!


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