Thursday, September 3, 2009

Learning Equation

"[E]ven the most well-articulated agreement or memorandum of understanding cannot predict the future or prevent people from behaving badly."

Judith Millesen, "How Applied Learning Shapes Nonprofit Management Education," The Nonprofit Quarterly, Spring, 2009.

The "behaving badly" list includes a variety of problems that "clients," (e.g.nonprofits) experience, especially smaller nonprofits. In an otherwise useful article on applied learning, the author spends little attention on the benefits and costs for nonprofits from engaging in projects involving student learning. The assumption is that students don't behave badly and that applied learning projects always produce valuable results for the nonprofit.

The behaving badly list for students certainly includes tests, other priorities, lack of work experience, team dynamics, time limits and lack of real teacher engagement and oversight. The bigger problem is that many graduate students, even in nonprofit management, don't necessarily have the experience to help identify and solve complex nonprofit challenges. Many professors do not have the skills either.

Applied learning projects with nonprofits have produced important results, including better training for a new set of nonprofit leaders and managers. We just need to pay attention to both sides of the learning equation.

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