Want learning to stick for everyone? These 3 leadership lessons are a MUST.

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There’s a whisper I want you to know about. 

In fact, if you and your leadership team are working to make learning stick for everyone, this whisper screams about the impact of your work. 

The whisper happened at a university where I had just started to work. 

During a class, I offered students a quick break. During that time one of my students asked me a question about an upcoming assignment. 

He had great ideas on ways to do well on it and wanted to run them by me.

Each time he shared his ideas, he whispered.

Before I responded, I asked him: why are you whispering?

What he said next has an important message for you and your leadership team.

“Because if others hear them, they might use them.”

Still confused I responded: “Why not share these great ideas so everyone will learn from them and do well?”

“Because that’s not how it works here” he said. 

The conversation quickly ended as the break came to a close.  But his whisper and response offers 3 important leadership lessons. 

Lesson 1: The form creates the function 

What I came to know was the university had a norm-referenced grading system. This meant that students were graded in relationship to each other in the class. In this structure (the form), few students were able to get top grades while the majority only able to get grades that allowed them to pass.

While the university spoke about the importance of students working collaboratively, the structure often caused students to compete.  

It’s an important reminder that the form your leadership team puts into place impacts how people function within it.

Lesson 2: Pay attention to the function

How people engage, participate and act can inform you and your leadership team of the organisation’s form.

Want teaching, presenting or meetings to make learning stick for everyone but notice the opposite is happening? 

Examine the teaching and learning mission, framework or other teaching and learning “forms” that are in place. 

Remember, the form creates the function. 

Lesson 3: Change the rules of the game 

The form often creates the “rules” by which people participate. But you and your team can change those “rules” with the system (form) you put into place.  

If you’re noticing the function isn’t aligning with your teaching and learning mission, it might be time to change the rules of the game.


My hope is that his whisper positively screams to you and your team. And says:

  1. The form creates the function.
  2. Want to make learning stick for everyone? Put the right form (system) into place and magic can happen!

Dr. DeJean

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A question for you...

What does the whisper cause you to think about in regards to your leadership work?

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