It Depends

Well, I’ve been playing around on facebook, and have connected with some of my professors from my time at Penn State working on the PhD (never finished, but that’s another story for another time). I’d like to share some of the best advice I got from one of them. On my first or second day there, I was asked a question and Kyle Peck piped in, “The answer is always, ‘it depends.'”

Through the years, I’ve shared this bit of advice with many students and colleagues, and it has held true. There are very few absolutes in life, and these hardly ever come up in the classroom or at work. We spend an awful lot of time teaching our students (or faculty, for those of us who do professional development) that there is ONE way to do things. And while there may very well be one way that works most of the time, there’s always that exception to the rule.

Not everyone is ready for “it depends,” though. They may not have climbed high enough up Bruner’s staircase of knowledge to understand why they might want to do something different, or why they should do something different, or even that there is something different to do. As experts (for better or worse, if you’re a teacher, educator, trainer or whatever, you’re the expert), we have to make some pretty fast decisions about what our learners can handle and how to help them get there. Meeting them where they are is important.

In the classes I teach and the trainings I conduct, I hope to help people do what they need or want to do better than they were doing it before. That might mean more, new, faster, efficiently, effectively, whatever. But once you get past the basics, the answer always seems to come down to, “it depends.”