Does the classroom make you smarter?

Blackboard b2s

A couple of week’s ago I became a student once again for the first time since my days of University almost 12 years ago. This was also the first time I’d had to sit any exams since I was 17 years old as, having chosen to study Design, my degree was more of a practical style examination.

The week long course came as a result of my place in our Talent Academy and one of the commitments from Bromford was to enrich my personal development plan. Having spent the last 18 months working on the Home Rewards Club I wanted to further my knowledge of Project Management so it was suggested that I should immerse myself into the world of PRINCE2.

To say the week was intense is probably my biggest ever understatement. The 6am get ups I was fine with. Public Transport by way of bus and train each morning and every evening wasn’t too bad; the fact I could check in with my emails (don’t get me started on those) using Virgin’s free on-board Wi-Fi was great. The homework wasn’t pleasant but it allowed me to reflect on the day and put some of the learning into some of the mock exams we’d been set, so yes, I was OK with that too. But, (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?!) the 8 hour long classroom environment just didn’t do it for me.

As I mentioned earlier; my last experience of education outside of the workplace was in my University days where energy was in abundance, creativity was the norm, teamwork was essential and thinking outside the box was encouraged – in fact just like my workplace! So to be sat behind a desk for hours on end, nose in book and where the infamous ‘death by power-point’ was portrayed – you can probably sense that this wasn’t overly stimulating.

Don’t get me wrong I totally get PRINCE2; I get its Principles and its Themes and I understand why it’s considered as the leading method in project management – the world over. It brings together considerations for all types of project, no matter what the size, and if used correctly and widespread will instil a common language of project terminology throughout your organisation. But, (there it is again!) I’m not sure that the week long course was necessarily the best use of time on this occasion. Perhaps just a couple of days getting to grips with the ‘Foundation’ element would have been sufficient.

PRINCE2 themes

We are very fortunate to have an extremely experienced Project Manager here at Bromford; Barry Hodge. Spending time working alongside Barry and under his close supervision I would deem as being a far more worthy approach to learning about the curriculum. Barry will know his audience far greater than any external speaker would; he can put his own unique style of delivery into any training and engage with the room with some real-life examples of how PRINCE2 projects can be applied here at Bromford – I see this as bringing the whole experience alive.

Where I’m going with all of this can be summarised in this fab quote:

“Going to college doesn’t make you smart it will teach you to memorise things from books. Real knowledge comes from experience”

So, if you’re thinking of expanding your knowledge – I encourage you to do it, but I would ask that you first think about what experience you have within your organisation before committing yourself to an external source – and realise your inner talent.

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9 thoughts on “Does the classroom make you smarter?

  1. Andy I really enjoyed your blog post (and not just becuse I get a mention! – Thank you).

    I would agree that the Prince2 course is good for introducing a way of thinking about project management and you could get that from just doing the Foundation. It would be better if the course was 5 days and at the end you gained Foundation status (from the learning not an exam) and then provide workplace examples to pass modules.

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    • No problem, Barry.

      I totally echo your thoughts, I’d much prefer that the emphasis of the week be on the learning of PRINCE2 rather than the exam element – the content seemed to get lost as a result as you’re so focussed on mock examinations and how to ‘navigate your way around the book’!

      Hopefully our feedback will help shape future course content, both internally and externally.

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  2. Great blog Andy, I did a degree in Law and Business Admin and it didn’t really suit me. The business was OK but Law was stripped of all fun and creativity so only the bare boring bones of legal history remained. It all comes down to individual preference to what kind of learning works for them, I quite like the traditional academic route but my problem with academia is that I find it often stifles creativity. You know how I write from my blog, but if I was to write like that in an academic essay I’d fail every time, it wasn’t the actual study that didn’t suit me, it was how it was tested and what was considered to be a good piece of work. To me a good piece is all about writing something engaging that the reader understands and enjoys whereas a good academic essay is just writing something with as many sources as possible, you aren’t allowed an opinion unless someone else has had the same one first.

    You can learn from books and you can learn from experience, it’s about getting a nice balance and concentrating on the method that works for you.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Thom.

      I absolutely agree that everyone has different styles of learning and different interpretations of what is good, bad and indifferent. My biggest takeaway from the week (PRINCE2 aside, as such) is that if we want to develop more and progress further, should we be pre-occupied with qualifications and certificates or should we instead focus on what it is we want to learn about and see who it is we are best to learn from? I guess it is the experience that will tell us that!

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      • Yup, I always find it surprising when anyone cares about my degree. I don’t know whether that’s because I’m used to it not usually getting me anywhere in this post 2008 recession world or that I know that intelligence and how good someone actually is in the workplace barely ever correlates to their qualifications. All the coolest, creative, most innovative people I know graduated with 2:2’s or didn’t even graduate. A qualification is useful for both the student and as a guide for employers but its definitely not the be all and end all.

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  3. Interesting blog mate, I fully agree with you and respect anyone that has a qualification or degree because I know how hard you have to work to gain that, I on the other hand have gained a lot more life experiences and work too but not many qualifications to show for it but that’s not to say I haven’t learned anything just because its not on a piece of paper… I believe you gain a lot from life experiences, work experiences, also studying and learning experiences. We should all be open to giving advice and exchanging our skills and experiences which we can gain a lot of knowledge from.

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    • Thanks for your comments Chai. You’re right, some people have qualifications in abundance and I too have nothing but respect for them – but we should never underestimate the value of experience. I for one am grateful for the new experiences that I gain each day and how they have shaped me into the person that I am today.

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  4. Excellent blog Andy, I agree completely. The school I went to everyone was pushed to go to University and to get a degree just for the sake of getting a degree, not because they necessarily had a career mapped out that made use of that degree. I felt differently and went straight into the workplace and into Bromford, the three years have given me a lot more here than they would have done doing a degree I didn’t really want to do!
    I do love to learn though and think you should continually be learning, but not always in the classroom – I think most people learn better from learning ‘on the job’ so to speak. I have really enjoyed my NVQ in Customer Service as I can apply it to my role when I complete the modules, it’s not all about exams.

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    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Gina, I’m glad that you enjoyed my post.

      It’s a good point you make about schooling and I’m so pleased to hear that you broke that trend to cement yourself in a job that you truly enjoy and gives you the support to continue to develop your learning.

      Congrats on your NVQ!

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