I spent a very pleasant morning on Friday at Tate Modern, courtesy of e-learning provider IMC. After the normal registration coffee we had a fifty-minute tour of the Tate (or a small part of it, at least) followed by a discursive presentation from Prof. Stephen Heppell entitled ‘The Art of Learning’.
Now this is not your normal way of approaching a conference or a briefing. The normal drill is: turn up, drink some coffee, chat, listen, chat, leave. You don’t normally walk out of the meeting room before the main event to wander through an exhibition and hear an expert guide talk you through each a collection of challenging mostly abstract art.
And yet, strangely, it worked. Of course Prof. Heppell is an experienced speaker, with a great deal to say, all backed up by experience. One of his themes was the need to change our learning spaces in schools in order to change the way pupils learn, and he led a fascinating discussion on this.
The discussion, however, would not have been as wide-ranging, I believe, without the gallery tour beforehand. It acted as the equivalent of a mental warm-up, getting us out of whatever mindset we were in before we arrived, prompting us to look beyond the obvious, and to challenge our existing thinking.
This business of learning by walking about and chatting was absolutely in line with Prof. Heppell’s message, but I reckon that any event could benefit from a beginning that asked people to use their minds a little differently, on a subject matter which they would never normally encounter in their working day.