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Day of rest

August 19, 2009

Adult educators call ‘thinking time’ the critical reflection stage of the transformative learning process. Transformative learning theory in part says that humans, especially adults who are exposed to new skills have the ability, via critical reflection to transform simple or rote knowledge into something they can more broadly apply. They hear or see the new skill, and then need time to to assimilate the skill and put it in their own words. The process of converting the new knowledge into their own words is the key to critical reflection which is the first step in transformative learning.

Amy Ammen, who has trained dogs from four different groups to an AKC Obedience Trial Championship and who runs Amiable Dog Training in Milwaukee WI, gave a number of seminars in the 90s. I was fortunate to go to one held locally at Cornell by Ithaca Dog Training Club. In my notes from that seminar, I wrote down this quote: Shut up, and let the dog think.

The quote from Ammen came while she was discussing trainers who chatter at their dogs every second of a training session. They are so busy giving their dogs what they consider ‘feedback’ that they instead prodcue white noise — and rather than be effectively coached, the dog tunes out. Ammen’s point was that in constant chatter, the dog can’t do his own situational processing. The dog can’t convert the information provided in the training situation into something to which he can actively respond. There is no transformative learning without processing time for critical reflection — for people or dogs.

M. definitely benefits from down time and time off and scheduled breaks in our training plans. Most of the time I aim for maximum M-processing time by practicing different major skill every day, and only repeating a skill practice two or three times per week. On that randomly rotating schedule, she and I both stay fresh (and this training log helps keep my poor brian cells on track.)

But now and then, we take the whole day (or a couple days in a row) off completely. We take regular walks and I expect M. to listen to my whistle — but we don’t work heeling, recalls, stays, directionals, weaves. We are just human and dog, enjoying each other’s company. We recharge. I process what we’ve been working on, and based on her reactions during our next practice, M. processes what we’ve worked on, too.

Transformative learning has more to it than the critical reflection part of the process, but from down time can come a definite upswing in skill familiarity and processing. So tonight we took some time off from organized skill building…and spent a little time cuddling.

Because in this house, there’s always time for one more cuddle.

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