Peter Henschel, RIP

Peter Henschel, shown here addressing the eLearning Forum in March 2001, died last week of a heart attack. I will miss him.

Peter and I first met at TechLearn several years ago. He was trumpetting a favorite theme -- that learning is social and that 80% or more of corporate learning is informal. He put that meme in my head, and it influences my work to this day.

After TechLearn, Peter and I met at the Institute for Research on Learning (where he was executive director). We hoped to coax eLearning vendors to embrace and leverage informal learning -- but our timing was not right.

To get a flavor of Peter's view of the world, read his article in LiNEzine from Fall of last year.

This is a day of rememberance throughout the land. Allow me to commemorate Peter by restating the Institute for Research on Learning's famous seven principles.

Seven Principles of Learning
From extensive fieldwork, IRL developed seven Principles of Learning that provide important guideposts for organizations. These are not “Tablets from Moses.” They are evolving as a work in progress. However, it is already clear that they have broad application in countless settings. Think of them in relation to your own experience.

    1. Learning is fundamentally social. While learning is about the process of acquiring knowledge, it actually encompasses a lot more. Successful learning is often socially constructed and can require slight changes in one’s identity, which make the process both challenging and powerful.

    2. Knowledge is integrated in the life of communities. When we develop and share values, perspectives, and ways of doing things, we create a community of practice.

    3. Learning is an act of participation. The motivation to learn is the desire to participate in a community of practice, to become and remain a member. This is a key dynamic that helps explain the power of apprenticeship and the attendant tools of mentoring and peer coaching.

    4. Knowing depends on engagement in practice. We often glean knowledge from observation of, and participation in, many different situations and activities. The depth of our knowing depends, in turn, on the depth of our engagement.

    5. Engagement is inseparable from empowerment. We perceive our identities in terms of our ability to contribute and to affect the life of communities in which we are or want to be a part.

    6. Failure to learn is often the result of exclusion from participation. Learning requires access and the opportunity to contribute.

    7. We are all natural lifelong learners. All of us, no exceptions. Learning is a natural part of being human. We all learn what enables us to participate in the communities of practice of which we wish to be a part.

Posted by Jay Cross at September 11, 2002 08:23 PM | TrackBack

I had known Peter for about 20 years. We worked together at Alameda County's Office of Program Evaluation before Peter joined Rudy Nothenberg's office under Diane Feinstein in San Francisco.
Peter loved music more than anyone I've ever known, and his love translated into service, for Chanticleer and all the other organizations and enterprises he supported.
And more than music, he loved life, itself, everything from single-malt scotch to bagels with freshly smoked salmon, sculpture, Lake Woebegone, civil liberties, and his beloved Timber Cove. He lived so fiercely because he knew that his heart might not last long.
I feel I have lost a brother, all too soon.
Jim Sorrells

Posted by: Jim Sorrells at September 15, 2002 02:19 PM

I knew and worked with Peter for several years. As friends have noted here, he lived with great gusto and embraced life right to the last second. We first connected in about 1991, and my Lab at Nynex funded IRL for several years prior to my joining IRL for a couple of years in 1996. I always appreciated the way he focused in on the whole life of people around him, and his excitement when he had turned someone else onto opera. I will miss the way his energy embraced life.

Posted by: Patricia Sachs at October 1, 2002 05:32 PM

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