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The Art of Knowledge Sharing

Among all the concerning facts that surround us these days, there is one point that shines a positive light on current developments: The progressive trend of knowledge sharing.

Even in the not so far past education, whether in schools or non-traditional settings, was merely a matter of dumping knowledge from one source (the teacher or trainer) to another (the students or trainees). The person in front of the group was the almighty supplier of information, and everyone else was quietly and subserviently absorbing.

Fortunately, there has been increasing awareness that this "bank-deposit" method is not very stimulating or effective. More than half of the lecture gets lost when knowledge transformation is executed from an active to a passive source. There is growing evidence that active learning sorts much better and more rewarding effects.

In educational terms this means that the pedagogical style, which is the teaching of children (read: unknowing subjects), is finally being replaced by the andragogical style, which is the teaching of adults (read: subjects with valuable insights to contribute).

Although thus far predominantly applied in college-, university-, and job training settings, andragogy is finding its way today toward lower levels of education as well. And rightfully so. Every person, no matter how young, should get the opportunity to contribute something in the dialogue about a topic, even if it is just an opinion after listening. And what is of higher importance: people just learn better and more enthusiastically, when they get involved actively.

There is nothing new about this theory, and in fact we can safely conclude that the andragogical style of knowledge sharing has been long overdue. We probably all remember this from our student or trainee years: there is a significant difference between knowing that you are going to sit and listen to someone drumming up facts for an hour, and knowing that you will be encouraged to share your opinions and experiences. The difference is called: attitude or responsiveness.

The trouble that some educational institutions still have to overcome today is a perceptual one: It pertains to the reality that students who are exposed to an andragogical instruction style perform better on average, which is reflected in a higher level of average grades among these students. This raises eyebrows, because it may look as if either the standards in that course have been lowered, or the instructor has been giving away credits for free. Neither one of these options have to be the case, of course: People are just more motivated when they find that their opinions matter.

This does not only count for educational environments, but for workplaces as well. The companies that do best in today's work environment are those who accommodate a free flow of information, thereby enabling even the workers at the lowest echelons of the organization to share their insights. And we should never underestimate the value of these workers, because they are usually the ones in touch with customers, and therefore hear a lot of valuable news about the world outside of the corporation.

In conclusion, this is what we have to keep in mind: Today's work-, school-, and shopping environments are as broad as the globe. Classrooms, whether executed in a brick- and mortar setting or online, increasingly consist of students from various parts of the world. And so do workplaces and customer communities.

Allowing others to bring their opinions and experiences to the table may therefore benefit all parties involved. First: it enhances the feelings of mutual respect and recognition. Second: it enlarges the horizons of everyone involved. Third: it delivers long-term benefits for the facilitating source, whether this is an educational institution or a work environment, simply because the shared knowledge, now stored in the minds of all involved in the sharing process, will become applicable on a broader scale.

It is therefore truly important for all learning organizations to review their knowledge sharing processes, and, where necessary, encourage their educators, trainers, mentors, and coaches, to engage in the participative style of knowledge sharing that will be the trend from now on.

Dr. Joan Marques. Burbank, California, 06/03/04

About the Author: Joan Marques emigrated from Suriname, South America, to California, U.S., in 1998. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, a Master's in Business Administration, and is currently a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. You may visit her web sites at http://www.joanmarques.com <http://www.spiritcounts.com/>


It is better to live in serene poverty than in hectic affluence. Everything has a price. The price for nurturing your soul is turning away from excessive stress, destruction of self-respect, and the constant strive in lifestyle with the Joneses. But itís worth it.

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