Metasaga Tales

Event Using Metasaga as an Action Learning process
When March 2010
Where Falkirk Wheel, Scotland
Who A group of teachers who facilitate action learning sets for probationer teachers
Led by Lesley Wilson, Dreamcatchers

I met the group of Action Learning Set facilitators at a café close to
the Falkirk Wheel on a cold, slightly overcast Monday morning in mid
March for breakfast and a brief introduction to Metasaga. We explored
how action learning was working in each facilitators group and
identified issues we might explore as we walked and connected with
our environment.

Fed and watered, the ‘explorers of metaphors in the landscape’ set off
for the Falkirk Wheel. Our first stop was the Forth and Clyde canal that
we had to cross to reach the visitor centre. We noticed the impact of
the Wheel on the landscape-it stands out and makes a very definite
statement. It is practical, efficient and also a work of art.

We explored the history of the canal-an amazing feat of
design and technology in its day. We learned that it was built as a
shortcut for shipping to protect ships from the terrible weather of the
coast of Scotland as well as protecting those sailing from maurauding
clans and those from other countries with whom we were at war.
We also learned that it can be easier to sail from West to East as the
prevailing wind from the south west.

Our first questions emerged

When do we go with the flow and when is it worthwhile to challenge the thinking of the group?

How deep are our conversations in action learning?

We moved to the canal basin where the wheel connects the upper
And lower canals and became curious about a range of stone
sculptures. Another question emerged:

What in our personal and professional lives is set in stone?

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We also explored what is important to have set in stone like
touchstones for our values and beliefs and what holds us back. In
terms of action learning, a skill of the facilitator is to know when to
challenge their ALS groups and how best to build the groups capacity
to challenge each other.

The Wheel began to move as we turned to look at it and, for such a
large structure, it shifted soundlessly and effortlessly. Halfway around
the cycle, the Wheel was in perfect balance and it carefully
deposited its barge cargo safely from upper to lower levels.


The conversation in the group shifted to considering the importance of
balance or harmony. Some facilitators spoke of issues raised by
probationer teachers as they struggle to come to grips with
transferring the learning from college and university into practice. The
first year of teaching can be very challenging. Action learning often
addresses these issues and it deals with the whole person and not just
the professional face of the teacher.

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How can we create balance in our professional lives?

How can we move to acquiring the effortless shift around the annual
cycle of learning and teaching?

We walked up the slope to the upper canal and reached a natural
viewing point looking out across the Ochil Hills. Even with restricted
visibility we could see 20miles in each direction. Different aspects of
the landscape caught our attention. For someone it was the church
spire of her village church whilst for someone else it was the windfarm
on a hillside. The longer we looked the more we noticed including the
weather systems moving in on the far horizon. Some issues emerged
for action learning facilitators such as

How do we help probationers pay attention to what is happening
ahead to help them plan?

How do we help probationers have a sense of where they fit in the
landscape of the class, the school and the education system?


The facilitator is likely to have a broader perspective and has skillfully
to bring this to bear when appropriate for the group.

At the high point we noticed the canal at 2 levels, the railway, the
motorway system and above us air traffic from Edinburgh and other
airports. These are all different forms of transportation-some fast,
some slow, some modern and some re-invented. If possible, we choose
our route based on information, timings, costs and preferences. Not all
probationers come to teaching at the same time or take the same
route-journeys differ based on learning style, preferences, experiences
and circumstances. Whilst they need to get to a point at the end of
the probationer period, recognition of differences is important for
facilitators to pay attention to.

We drew our metasaga experience to an end by heading back to the
café. It seems important to allow time for the experience to settle and
explore the experience and what it might mean.

Our closing conversation revolved around how the metasaga
experience felt and how it might be woven into action learning. As we
drew our time together to an end one participant said reflectively

Metasaga-it’s a very personal experience’

and, indeed, it is. It can powerfully and quickly connect people because
values, stories, curiosity and discovery are at its heart.