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Questions & Answers with Roger Maitland

At USB-ED a Learning Process Facilitator (LPF) plays the vital role of mediator, mentor and advisor to participants and groups. Please let us introduce you to Roger Maitland, USB-ED LPF.

Tell us a little more about your professional experiences, particularly those not mentioned on your resume/application.

Reflecting back on my career, it was the political transition in 1994 in South Africa that shaped my career trajectory. I had a deep desire to contribute to socio-economic transformation of our country. This has taken many forms, which included leading a national youth development programme, helping to establish a tertiary institution with the vision of making counselling and psychological services more accessible in South Africa, and helping to launch the first masters and doctoral degrees in coaching in South Africa. I then co-founded LifeLab, a consulting business, and have coached leaders, teams and developed the internal coaching capacity of organisations both locally and internationally. My focus now is on contributing to the transition to a more sustainable future by applying an approach I developed in my PhD which works to build organisation-wide engagement in sustainability initiatives. Sustainability can be considered to be the greatest challenge faced by our generation and I believe that a coaching with a systemic orientation can made a meaningful contribution.

How do you define good teaching?

Good teachers, facilitators and coaches create an environment which helps people to learn. It’s important to define learning. David Kolb, well-known for his development of experiential learning theory, defined learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”. This is perhaps most important, that learning happens not in garnering new knowledge in class, but in attempting to apply knowledge in a real situation and gradually through reflection and experimentation, seeking to transform that experience. A teacher thus can’t make you learn; it is up to you to stretch yourself and step outside of your comfort zone!

What do you think are the most important attributes of a good instructor?

We face immense uncertainty and complexity in our world with the COVID-19 pandemic and the broader sustainability transition. Many of the problems we face are ‘wicked’, that is, interconnected and often symptoms of other problems. These kind of problems often require collaboration across a wide range of expertise and don’t often have definitive solutions. Good teaching today requires that we teach people to think, and to learn. Most of all, it’s about  instilling humility, courage and a conscious values orientation. Good teachers resist the temptation to strip out the complexity and give in to the demand for easy-to-consume knowledge. Good teachers stay with the question longer. Good teachers learn.

Share your ideas about professional development

Whilst it is very popular these days to promote lifelong learning, I worry that this pervasive focus on professional development may be fuelling an endless quest for driving performance at all costs. I think we would do a lot better as a species if we stepped back and paused, perhaps as we are being forced do to during lockdown, to think carefully about what we are really achieving. What development is needed to experience wellbeing? What is driving our need to perform and achieve? Simply put, our professional development needs to be more personal, and consider not just ourselves, taking on a much wider perspective – have you thought about how your work or way of life is impacting on future generations or other species?

How do you engage students?

I believe that learning should be, as much as possible, self-organised. Since learning is ultimately up to the student and most often happens outside of the formal proceedings of learning programmes, it is crucial that learning is centred around aspirations or challenges faced by the student. This provides a compelling reason to learn which leads to engagement. Another thing worth remembering is that for all of us, learning started out as play, and a playful attitude is our best resource when seeking to try out something new which typically comes with a temporary dip in performance as we learn to master performing at a new level.

Why did you choose this profession/field?

To elaborate on what I’ve already said on this, I chose this field out of a discontent and concern with the state of our world – socially, economically and environmentally. I chose this field to together discover more fulfilling ways of living and appreciating this incredible world we find ourselves in.

What have you learned during your engagements with participants?

They say that the best way to learn is to teach. Ideas are not born fully formed but are incubated in dialogue with others. I have come to realise that most of what I consider to be my ideas are in reality the shared creation of the learning communities I have participated in. Most of all, I’ve discovered how little I know in the broader scheme of things, and that the best way to grasp a more comprehensive view of reality is to think with others about the things we seek to understand.

What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Thinking back, many moments are etched in my memory. The ones that stand out the most for me are not the accolades but the more subtle moments. It's the moment when a person catches a glimpse of the potential that lies beyond a limited view of themselves, the moment when a team lets go of internal competition and discovers what is possible when they truly collaborate. These are moments that make me proud, not so much of me, but to be human.

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