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Tuesday, December 1 • 4:15pm - 4:45pm
F4S and Humble Inquiry: Two Approaches in Orienting New Educators/Agents

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Extension educators/agents have a complex role, in complex times. They simultaneously balance multiple “tensions” in work. They need to generate, offer and stay current on evidence-based research and knowledge, when stakeholders can quickly access other resources via technology at a faster pace than ever. They need to work independently and interdependently, in a geographically-dispersed organization. They simultaneously represent the unit, organization, university, land-grant mission and public sector. Their work is amidst the demographic changes, environmental issues and economic concerns affecting community life and generating complex problems where neither the problems, nor solutions, are clear. Yet, educators/agents feel pressure to be the ‘expert’ with solutions. Challenging times can create unease, stress, discomfort and fear, characteristics that inhibit learning and openness to the change that learning will prompt. Extension education demands that educators/agents engage and build effective relationships with those of all ages and backgrounds regardless of issue or setting.

To help new educators/agents be successful across these many complex situations, their orientation needs to include multiple strategies, ongoing opportunities, and incorporate both teaching and modeling of a helpful approach called “Humble Inquiry”. Multiple strategies can address the varied learning styles of these adult learners, and introduce a breadth of resources they can tap for future use. Ongoing orientation strategies beyond the first 6 months, for example, allow new educators/agents to have a better understanding of the role and its complexities and ‘make meaning’ of what they’ve learned. These strategies help build staff knowledge, skills and resources.

Modeling and teaching the “Humble Inquiry” approach helps new staff remember that how they engage with others in these complex times is as important as what they know. There are situations where it is not possible for the educator/agent to know the information needed or to be someone that will automatically be trusted. It is imperative that the employee can ask questions to “build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we [they] may need to know in order to get a job done” (Schein, 2013, p 2). Behaviors transcend language, culture, content, situations and time. Modeling---and reinforcing --behaviors that help new educators/agents createenvironments built on authentic and respectful communication will only help them succeed in their role, across any situation.

This session will briefly highlight two orientation strategies used at the University of Minnesota Extension to help set up new Educators for success. Foundations for Success (F4S) is a six-month cohort program for newer educators from across the organization who have been on the job for six months to 3 years. It includes educational sessions and small group project work and support. The second strategy to be highlighted is one the presenter has used as a supervisor: modeling and practicing the use of a “Humble Inquiry” approach, as coined in the recent book written by Edgar H. Schein (2013), in her 1-1 interactions with staff.

avatar for Mary Ann Hennen

Mary Ann Hennen

Director, Professional Development, University of Minnesota Extension

Tuesday December 1, 2015 4:15pm - 4:45pm

Attendees (11)