Saturday, 7 December 2013

Action Learning Pathway Redux

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? Asked Alice.
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the Cat. I don't 
much care, said Alice. Then it doesn't matter which way you go, said the Cat.
                                                                                                                  Lewis Carroll (1)

An 'Action Learning Pathway' (ALP) or 'Diploma Learning Pathway' (DLP) is a commonly suggested first design for apprentices on the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. It's a pattern design for the entire Diploma, which will be filled in with detail by the Diploma's conclusion by (at least) another 9 designs, an account of technical training and more.

Back when I first registered for the Diploma in late 2006, an ALP was just a suggested design - now, while it is not an essential portfolio design, most portfolios contain one and it's highly recommended to have one. For apprentices that are very land focused in their designing, it provides an opportunity to apply permaculture design skills and methods to an 'invisible structure' - one's own learning. It also centralises and promotes the fact that the Diploma process is one of action learning - acting and reflecting on one's actions in order to influence and enhance future actions - learning by doing.

At the start of the Diploma journey it can provide a structuring element in the field of possibility, identifying a destination and a proposed route. The route may of course, in fact will, change as the journey progresses - but having a route map provides the confidence to begin and an initial action from which to learn. It reflects something of the maxim President Dwight D. Eisenhower learnt in the Army 'Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.'(2).

When I signed up for the Diploma I didn't take the suggestion to design my learning pathway, I took the minimum two year term to complete as an invitation to take as long as I liked, I wasn't in a hurry. At the time, my objective in signing up for the Diploma if I could be said to have one at all, was simply to stay engaged with permaculture. But I found myself staying engaged with permaculture anyway, supporting courses put on by Naturewise, participating in monthly London meet-ups, volunteering at Plot 21 and the Naturewise Forest Garden. All of these could have been consciously part of a pathway, but they weren't consciously designed into my life.

So my Diploma lacked some purpose and a clear destination, like Alice I didn't seem to care much where I was going - so perhaps as the Cheshire Cat suggests, it didn't matter much what route I took. Only, it's difficult to be completely convinced of that when the minimum two years has expanded to spill over into eight... I have engaged in much permaculture related activity, attended many courses in related skills, applied permaculture design thinking, implemented permaculture designs and more - but I think I can attribute at least partial causation for my lethargy in completing the Diploma to that initial (and ongoing) avoidance of setting clear goals and route planning.

I have scratchy and half-formed ALP notes from over the years, which are partial materials for an ALP design, but where an ALP design could most effectively help me now is in designing a route for my final Diploma stretch from Here to Accreditation, so that would be the most best place to make my next steps.

1) Carrol, Lewis Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
2) From a speech to the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington, D.C. (November 14, 1957) ; in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957, National Archives and Records Service, Government Printing Office, p. 818

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