At the beginning of any “helping” relationship, one of the more important issues that comes up is understanding the ways in which the first contact between two strangers can emerge out of nothing, and then evolve into a “learning partnership” that produces real value to both parties. In this regard, the key question for any potential learning partnership is, “How should we go about initiating a relationship between us that will actually help each of us learn more about things that will matter to both of us?” Another way of asking the same questions is, “What are the interpersonal dynamics we can enact that will help us build an effective learning partnership between us, especially when one person is interested in the possibly of support, encouragement, and challenge, and the other person believes they’re capable of providing some appropriate measure of support, encouragement, and challenge?
In his book, In Over Our Heads, Robert Kegan clearly suggests that those of us who want to help their learning partners successfully navigate the vertical challenges they’ll face while developing new Orders of Consciousness will have to know how to be the “scaffolding” they’ll need for their transformational learning journey. Kegan likens this scaffolding to a bridge that spans a wide chasm, and tells us that those of us who want to offer useful support, those of us who want to be good learning partners, must be prepared to offer support on both ends of our partners’ transformational bridges. Actually in my experience, the scaffolding we need to know how to be, in reality, turns out to be support across the entire span of these bridges. Not just for those way stations at the beginning and the end.
Recently, we’ve discovered that every Learning Partnership that’s on a transformational journey inevitably encounters at least four distinct inflection points along the way. Each of these inflection points represents a moment in time when the Learning Partners on these journeys come face to face with crucial existential decisions.
For example, for a prospective Learning Partnership that’s approaching the start of a transformational learning journey, there always seems to be a "fish or cut bait moment." This is the point in time where the prospective Learning Partners are faced
In this paper, we offer some of the research that best describes Learning Partnerships. Especially those characteristics that experienced Thought Partners working in the transformational learning arena believe are essential for creating effective Learning Partnerships.
To this end, here are three key Learning Partnership propositions to consider:
Threshold Concepts -- Basic Principles -- Key Expectations
Every Learning Partnership gets started with, and then must eventually ask and answer, four questions:
· Am I committed to making fundamental changes in my work and/or my personal life?
· Do I have the knowledge, skills, and support I want and need to discover and implement these changes?
· Whatever these answers are, is a transformational Learning Partnership the right way for me to develop and use my current knowledge, skills, and support?