Developing a Learning Partnership

Sell your cleverness, buy bewilderment.

The 13th Century Persian scholar, Rumi, wrote the short poem you see just above. It’s one of his more mystical exhortations. Type this sentence into Google, and you’ll immediately discover the rich, rewarding world of interpretations and perspectives that Rumi's entreaty evokes. 

Here, in this blog on developing a learning partnership, we’re sharing Rumi’s advice with you as a way for you to frame and expand the insights that Etienne Wenger is offering in the YouTube video I’ve posted. Dr. Wenger is one of the world’s foremost authorities on learning partnerships, especially professional communities of practice. And here, with Brantlee Underhill, he’s showing us how a learning partnership can be a real boon for any learning efforts, given how important it is to have both a "place for engagement" and a clearly defined "learning community" during any learning adventure.

In this context, Dr. Wenger is well worth listening to because, in a few short minutes, he highlights three or four of the more important issues involved in the development of a learning partnership. I’ve add Rumi’s admonition at the beginning of this post as a frame that rounds out, deepens, and enriches the sense and feel of Wenger's insights.

For me, Rumi’s phrase, “Sell your cleverness,” suggests that authentic learning is something that can never be completely realized through the simple acquisition of new information. Rather, authentic learning flourishes in the real world only when we relax our concern with facts and figures and allow ourselves to "Buy the bewilderment" that’s always part of every authentic learning experience. To truly learn anything, we need to be willing to struggle with the new realities that confound us until, out of this struggle, we find a way to fashion new ways of perceiving what we’ve been struggling with. This is the kind of emotional breadth and depth that contemplating Rumi’s short poem adds to the story Dr. Wenger is telling when, in the video above, he suggests that effective learning happens for us when, in the presence of others whom we trust, we are courageous enough to “bring our questions and our challenges” open heartedly into a community of practice that we’ve learned to trust. A “community of practice that, here at TLO, we're calling a "learning partnership." There’s much more we can say about all this.