Duncan Graham has applied Let Me Learn theories for more than ten years at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. This July, he will take the position of Vice President of Academic Services at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, a job that LML insights helped him attain.
Graham spoke with us in a recent interview about his experience with LML and its value in interviewing for jobs, in building an effective workplace, and even in day-to-day personal applications.
How were you introduced to Let Me Learn?
I was introduced to Let Me Learn in 1998 when Dr. Christine Johnston came to Foothill College. What first attracted it to me was that it really gave the students responsibility to know who they are as learners.
What were your scores in the Learning Connections Inventory (LCI)?
I’m a 19 in Precision, 18 in Sequence, 33 in Technical, and 30 in Confluence. So whatever I get involved with needs to have relevance for me. LML really appealed to me because it wasn’t just something the faculty was doing for students-there was a shared responsibility. Also, once a student learns their patterns, they’re really empowered to apply it to any class they’re taking, whether their instructor knows about the LML process or not.
What were some ways you were able to apply Let Me Learn as an administrator?
When I became the Interim Dean of Fine Arts and Communication at Foothill College, I found that [my administrative assistant and I] were struggling with our communication. So we took the LCI and compared our scores, and saw that she was high in Precision and Sequence and lower in Technical and Confluence. We were really divergent in how we learned and thus how we worked. It became clear that for her to do the job, I had to change the way I communicated with her. I had to give her far more information and detail than I would naturally give, and she had the responsibility to call me on it when I didn’t give her enough information.
So after we figured that out, we had a very good working relationship for the next four years. Then she retired, and when I went to hire a new division assistant, I thought, “Boy, here’s my opportunity to use the LCI in a very intentional and meaningful way.” So I used it as part of my hiring process.
When we narrowed it down to our top eight candidates, I worked it into their interview process. I gave a lot of thought to what kind of person would be a good match for me. Somebody who was so high in Precision and Sequence and low in Technical and Confluence might not work as well. And I knew I didn’t want somebody just like me because we’d be working furiously, separately, and probably redundantly. So what I settled on after a lot of thought was that I really wanted a strong-willed learner. Somebody that can work independently and be okay without a lot of information. One of the three finalists that we had was in fact a strong-willed learner, and that’s the person that I hired. And it was great; we had a great working relationship. So that’s how LML has helped me at Foothill.
Has Let Me Learn helped you on the other side of the job interview, when you were applying for a position?
I’ve been looking for senior-level administrator positions in community colleges for the past two years, during which time I’ve probably had eight interviews. I was also going through Accelerated Training [in the LML process] during this time as well, and that’s when things started to click for me. I realized that I intentionally used LML as I was preparing for interviews. I don’t interview well-I’m not the best cheerleader for myself in any way shape or form. So throughout my eight interviews, each time one didn’t go successfully, I reflected, mulled, and really used LML in that process.
What I was finding was that even though I thought I was prepared for an interview, I wasn’t really rehearsed. Part of using LML was not just about myself, but also about your audience. If your audience is educators, most educators are high in Sequence and high in Precision. They want a lot of information, they want detailed information, and they want it laid out in a logical manner. And being in high in Technical, it’s not my nature to do that. I really had to forge my Precision and my Sequence in preparing for the interview and during the interview itself.
When I get into interviews, what pops up is my 30 in Confluence, and we’re off to the races. I would get inspired by a question and immediately go into brainstorming and creative mode, because that’s where I’m the most comfortable. So in preparing for my last interview at the College of the Sequoias, it dawned on me that I had never rehearsed the really basic, easy questions-the questions I know I was going to be asked. For someone who is high in Sequence and Precision, this is a no-brainer. But for somebody like me, I was never just nailing them out in a sequential, logical manner. So when I was preparing for this last interview, I spent a lot of time writing down answers to these questions. I rehearsed the questions that I knew I would be asked. How I let my Confluence go was in the delivery of those answers. I know I’m can be a dynamic speaker when I’m prepared and when I rehearse, so that was how I satisfied my Confluent pattern-in the actual delivery of my answers.
Do you have general job interview advice for people of any learning pattern?
I think number one is that if there’s any way you can find out who your audience is, do so. Who’s going to be on that committee? So once you know what they want in terms of their learning patterns, that will help give you a perspective and some potential parameters around which to prepare. If people don’t interview well, like myself, use the LCI when you’re reflecting and mulling over what worked and what didn’t work about the interview.
Do you think Let Me Learn has strong applications to group work in workplace situations?
I think it can be very very powerful. A couple of weeks ago, I used the LCI in a team meeting situation. I gave them a puzzle to do and 5 minutes to do it. None of the groups got the puzzle finished. We talked about it and look at it in terms of their patterns. I used things I had learned from the Accelerated Training. We talked about the learning patterns each person brings to the group, what they need from the group, and defined their roles and their function in the group. They tried the puzzle again, and this time we had two of the six groups actually complete the puzzle. The other ones came close, or at least said that this was a much better and more gratifying group experience than the first time through it, or that they had experienced before.
Are you planning on using Let Me Learn in your new position in the College of the Sequoias?
Yes, I absolutely do. I’m currently at the Achieving the Dream institute in Austin, TX, working with a team from the College of the Sequoias, and the topic came up. So I took off talking about LML, the power it has in the classroom, the power I think it has in working relationships-among supervisors and their team, as well as in a group situations. So I’m very anxious to introduce it to administrators at the College. We have also just written it into a Title V grant that we applied for that will go toward our first-year experience program.
Have you seen applications of Let Me Learn in personal life?
I understood why my mother-in-law made me crazy. (Laughs) She’s about a 31 in Precision and a 28 in Sequence, and maybe a 15 in Confluence and 20 in Technical. I was making spaghetti sauce, and she said, “What are you doing?” And I said I’m making spaghetti sauce. “How much ground beef?” I wasn’t sure. “How much tomato sauce?” “What kind of herbs did you put in?” She was making me nuts! I’m a Technical learner-just leave me alone, I’m happy to work by myself. And with my Confluence, I went by taste and by sight. She was making me crazy. But reflecting back on it, she wasn’t trying to make me nuts. She just needs to know. She has a great desire to know. And once that fell into place for me, then my frustration level went way down. I would forge my Precision and show her the recipe, and show her the guide I’m working from. And it just helps a lot. It helps a lot.