Holding Safer Spaces for Adult Learners

Holding Safer Spaces for Adult Learners

0 2 7 January 2020

This week's guest blog comes to you from Brenda Barritt, Project Lead - "Holding Safer Spaces" Professional Development Pilot.

As we change over our calendars and get used to writing out ‘2020’, it is a time of reflection in many ways. Having just completed the first pilot program of the ‘Holding Safer Spaces for Adult Learners’ professional development offering that we are developing, it is a perfect time to be able to share some of our key learning and reflections with the network.  

As a recap, Holding Space, as defined by Heather Plett, is “Being willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they are on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome.” In our field, we do this daily with the adults who come to us to explore and take next steps in their own learning and life journeys; and we do it for each other as we learn and grow in our own roles and organizations.  


Format: This professional development offering consists of a 1 day, in person workshop and then eight weeks of self-study, practice, and online peer-dialogue and coaching to support exploration, integration, and application. The self-study portion consists of some reading and complementary videos that prompt reflection and inform action; an online video call is hosted each week that allows for further processing, clarification, and sharing of how the content is impacting each participant. Participants are also provided the opportunity to be connected with a buddy that they can share with throughout the course, in private conversations, in order to continue to deepen the learning. This format seems to be working well in terms of introducing new concepts, building on ideas throughout the 9 weeks of the full program in a way that allows for personal practice and a supportive community to learn within.Safe spaces

Safer not safe: Within the CALP system we aim to be a safe space and we used this terminology in naming our learning opportunity: “Holding Safe Spaces for Adult Learners” however in exploring the content and also our role as professionals, it very quickly became apparent that the truth is we can’t offer 100% safe spaces and in trying to do so we may be setting up ourselves to fail. More honestly, we can aim to be SAFER, but not safe. Thus we have renamed the offering to “Holding Safer Spaces for Adult Learners”. This article helped inform our dialogue: https://humanparts.medium.com/my-classroom-is-not-a-safe-space-406927bfeab6

The Goal may be professional, the process and practice is personal: Early on, in trying to communicate what the aim of this learning opportunity is, I started using the language of ‘muscles’. That we are building and constantly exercising muscles that allow us to take what we may hear and understand intellectually about building relationships and being learner-centered, and put that knowledge into practice. This ‘exercise’ doesn’t start and end when we walk through our centre doors. These muscles require us to be open to self-reflection, becoming more aware of our own needs, bias’, and experiences that inform every relationship that we have - including our professional ones.  

Of course we have learned more and we will continue to do so as we go forward with the next group but for now - I will sign off.  If any of the participants from the first pilot want to add their comments and reflections, I welcome them! And of course, the invitation is there for anyone wanting to know more to be in touch with me at Brendabarritt@stettlerlearning.com        

We are now accepting registrations for the 2nd pilot program of the “Holding Safer Spaces for Adult Learners” professional development offering. Specific details about this next pilot can be found here.

Finally - it is an honour to continue to be involved with the CALP network through this project and I look forward to continue learning with you in 2020. Happy New Year!

Brenda Barritt
Project Lead - "Holding Safer Spaces" Professional Development Pilot


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