Day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month and so on, as you become more of a Self-Organised-Learner you almost inevitably begin to wonder where all this is leading you. You start to see both short-term and long-term possibilities that had never occurred to you before.

The third level of the S-O-L Learning Conversation takes this up, in what we have come to call the Life or Relevance type Learning Conversation.

S-O-L Coach after S-O-L Coach has been faced with more and increasingly persistent requests to discuss both their job and its personal implications with the budding S-O-Lers; who were fascinated with their ability to learn both differently and more effectively.

As with the Red Indians, it is at this level of S-O-L that the life-long experience of the elders finds its real value. The insights that the older Coaches and other long term colleagues have experienced, both before and after meeting S-O-L become valued by many of the newer S-O-Lers around them.

The Coach

In quite a number of our projects we found that Project Groups of learners (including some S-O-Lers) often found it very useful to meet, perhaps fortnightly, not with any specific learning material involved. They were meeting to discuss any topic that one of more of them brought up. Sometime this was arranged over a lunch time meal but quite often just coffee and biscuits.

The idea was that since they were all playing some specific role in a shared business activity, then the ‘agenda’ which arose during the meeting consisted of an item or items about one or more issues that had arisen during their normal working activities. This then became the purpose of the meeting. Coaches and CSHL staff/students were at first rather loathe to meeting in such an unstructured way, but over and over again, once they had entered into reluctantly, became a regular valued event. It also became very useful to the third level S-O-L Coaches, because it enabled them to explore issues which, whilst not clearly related to the work were often revealed to be interfering with it in various unrecognised ways. This was true in the Post Office, and with various government over-seas projects. Also this was true in Dunlop Tyre Manufacturing, Kellogg’s and many other of our projects.

The Learning Conversation

There were at least two different types of meeting in which the full Learning Conversation between budding S-O-Lers and their Coach took central place. First was the one-to-one situation in which the learner asked the Coach for a private meeting. The other was where a group of learners met with their Coaches.

With the ‘group and coach’ type of meeting the issues always started with a business agenda. But whilst these often stayed with organisational business throughout, the Coaches often found that they were receiving requests for private meetings in which personal issues became the main content of the agenda. However over time the Coaches found that whilst a few of the issues remained one to one; very often the same issue was being raised separately by quite a number of people. Most coaches after initial personal discussions then arranged voluntary group meetings for those with common issues. But then again, the Coach was enabling the group to clarify and deal with the issue not solving it for them. This was highly valued by those taking part.

The Self-Organised Learner

We were now getting to the stage where the learner is becoming a fully fledged S-O-Ler; and initially that has meant that whilst the person concerned is developing within the job and clarifying its purposes the trend towards becoming more and more Self-Organised meant that they inevitably began to find and see ways in which this growing Learn-to-Learn ability was revealing new issues about their activities, both inside and outside of work. It became a matter for the employing organisation to decide exactly how each part of the Coach’s work was to be defined. For example in many different Postal areas across the country, we had many different decisions about this.

Had this project continued these various second and third level issues would undoubtedly been raised at the top (government) level of the Royal Mail. Unfortunately a change in government meant new people who had no idea of what was going on. So the policy was arbitrarily changed.

When one reaches the stage of the learner becoming a fully-fledged S-O-Ler the setting becomes all important. We have found that those among the managerial hierarchy, who were most involved with S-O-L, usually became quite surprised how involved both the Coaches and their aspiring S-O-Lers become in the learning process. But they are also surprised just how much the actual doing of the work at various levels improved.

This has led us in our many different projects to more fully understand what we were actually doing. We no longer see our projects, in terms of us as the researchers and our clients as the subjects of our experiments. We see it and indeed negotiate it, as a joint research project. We enable our clients to arrange, install and thoroughly understand S-O-L. Our clients offer us the opportunity to further understand how S-O-L can be developed and applied.

It took us two or three years to realise that treating the learners as the subjects of our experiments did not work. It was only after their teachers, parents, managers, even colleagues and friends began to ask us what we were doing with the students and production-line workers of our earlier experiments that we realised we were encouraging them to continue to research their own learning after we the ‘real researchers’ had left. This led us to realise it was a joint enterprise and should be treated as such.

This is both incredibly useful to then in their activities and to us in our life-long journey to understand more and more exactly what conversational science is about as a human activity.