Since we finished the most recent ThoughtWorks University session last week a few people have been asking me how the experience was and I’ve found myself comparing this experience to my own as an attendee in August 2006.
Back then ThoughtWorks University was much different. We had 5 weeks of workshop style sessions and then spent the last week working on an internal application.
This time we spent 1 week doing the workshop style sessions, 1 week working together on a story and then 4 weeks working on the application.
Knowing what you don’t know
My general feeling is that although TWU v2.0 is better designed for helping people to learn, an advantage of the previous approach was that there was more opportunity to see the gaps in your skill-set.
From what I remember there was much more trainer input and at times it was amazing to see how good someone could be at programming once they’d got years of practice behind them.
Although this still happened, albeit less frequently, there was often feedback that people didn’t know what they didn’t know and were therefore unsure what they needed to learn.
They will still be able learn about those gaps on the projects they work on but I didn’t feel this group had the sense of how much there still is to learn as I did 4 1/2 years ago.
The ‘trainer’ role
The role of the ThoughtWorks University trainers has changed from being an actual trainer to being more of an enablement coach whose primary goal is to facilitate people learning.
I think this makes the ‘trainer’ a more passive participant as your job is no longer to ‘teach’ people things but rather to let them learn themselves.
At times this meant sitting back to allow people to explore and learn from their mistakes and although I think this is a valuable approach it can get quite boring!
Realism vs Creating Learning Opportunities
One of the nice things about the new style is that the challenges and problems that people encountered were actually real and not contrived.
On the other hand this meant that we couldn’t specifically target things that we wanted people to learn in such a structured way.
For example, I remember doing several sessions on object design and design patterns and although we weren’t experts in either of those by the end of TWU it helped us to see some areas that we could go and read/learn more about.
I think people probably came across similar types of situations in this TWU but in their pairs rather than as a group so it was more difficult to point out the learning area.