In recent posts, we’ve looked at how to generate motivation for learning, how to prepare learners for learning, and specific techniques for realizing a learner’s full learning potential.

Today the focus shifts to curriculum, specifically to what I’m calling ‘big picture learning’. Here’s a working definition:

Big picture learning is that which enables us to interpret and effectively manage the most persistent and difficult problems in our lives, individually and collectively.

So what are some of those intractable problems? At the personal level that list may include:

  • Sadness or depression when you are separated from things you like
  • Irritation or anger when you encounter things you do not like
  • Anxiety about money or resources
  • Physical or mental sickness
  • Fears of ageing or death
  • Failing to satisfy desires
  • Dishonesty

In a workplace, we may encounter:

  • Unclear methods
  • Unexpected layoffs
  • Poor working relationships
  • Poor or non-existent training
  • Lack of clear or consistent purpose
  • Failure to remove barriers to effective performance
  • Failure to anticipate the needs or desires of customers

In our local community, region or nation problems may include:

  • Crimes of various types – theft, assault, murder and so forth
  • Failure to effectively balance the needs of various groups
  • Deterioration of infrastructure

Nationally or globally we observe the following problems[1]:

  • War
  • Famine
  • Poverty
  • Disease
  • Economic failure of organizations – or governments

Big picture learning can help with all of these problems – personal, organizational, community, regional, national and even global.

We may think that learning focused on a ‘big picture’ is for high-ranking corporate or political leaders. Although big picture learning may be very useful to such people, it is intended for everybody, no matter what their personal circumstances.

With motivation and effective methods everyone can learn this curriculum. Learners do not need to occupy high-level positions. They can, for example, lead by example with their families, in their workplaces, and in their communities large or small.

Here are some of the topics I will explore here in the weeks ahead:

  • What is big picture learning?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Preparing for big picture learning
  • Exploring cause and effect
  • Distinguishing ‘problem’, ‘symptom’ and ‘root cause’
  • The big picture curriculum
  • A theory of knowledge
  • Servant leadership
  • Systems thinking
  • Understanding variation
  • Understanding psychology

I hope to build on the work of several esteemed theorists and practitioners, particularly Robert Greenleaf and W. Edwards Deming.

I intend to borrow as well from eastern philosophy, in particularly from the writings of Tibetan guru and meditation master Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

I hope you will enjoy this series. I know I will!

PS Please note that this is very much a work in process. I will welcome any and all constructive suggestions and comments!

[1] Some of these ‘problems’ may be more accurately be described as ‘symptoms’ but for simplicity’s sake I am labeling them here as ‘problems’.