An interview with smith & beta’s Director of Learning Experience Dr. Lori Kent. At smith & beta, Lori ensures programming is appropriately tailored to meet the developmental and contextual needs of diverse learners. She is an experienced higher education professor with a passion for evolving workplaces to compete for more future-focused work.
What originally drew you to teaching?
After undergrad I did not consider myself a teacher. I worked as a designer for eight years. But I was always a curious individual. Eventually, my casual observations of the world around me---human interactions, environments and tendencies--- led to more formal educational pursuits. In 1993, I committed full time to teaching and educational research.
What are your favorite topics to teach?
Ultimately, when you peel back the formal degrees, jargon and dense theory, I care most about creative thinking in adults.
Very few people bracket out the time to formally study creativity, but I did. I find that people, especially professionals, want to be “practical” and assume that anything worth spending time on is measurable, useful or clear. What I hope to teach in this biased climate is the ability to intentionally and practically question. While I do teach varying topics, more importantly I teach ways to think and create.
What is the value of teaching to you?
Though teaching is often perceived as a “giving” profession, in my experience it is more nuanced, layered with motivations and rewards. Teaching allows me to share my perspectives with others so they can develop their own opinions, positions and approaches. By teaching others to think critically, I am pushed to question, and subsequently improve, my own understanding.
Can anyone teach or be a good teacher?
Yes and no. Everyone has stories and expertise to share; however, teaching is more involved than just knowing information. To be a successful teacher, it is not enough just to be an “expert.” Exceptional teachers are able to empathize with novices, deconstruct and question their own expertise, and communicate clearly.
How does teaching in academia compare to teaching professionals?
Academia and corporate spaces are surprisingly similar, except for one glaring, and important difference. While both are constructed spaces intended to foster productivity, the major difference, which is an egregious misstep in corporate culture, is the ways risk taking is assessed. In an academic setting, experimentation is understood as a natural step on the path to improvement. Conversely, in most corporate settings, failure is unacceptable, despite the fact that experimentation regularly results in failure.
In my experience at smith & beta, I have noticed it is often incredibly difficult for marketers or advertisers to accept failure as productive, even though lost revenue today can lead to increased earnings tomorrow. Breaking down this unproductive mindset is one of the biggest obstacles to teaching professionals.
Is anyone too old, seasoned, or experienced to be taught something new?
No! Successful people never settle. Instead they embracing the fact that there is always more to learn.