I start out each morning with the greatest of intentions. I tell myself that I will work on my next book for 90 minutes. I will then work on the curriculum that I owe my client for the next 90 minutes. I will then have a 12 minute lunch and spend 75 minutes working on the competencies draft I have been slogging through. And then two minutes before my son is due to walk through the door home from school, I tell myself that I will have completed all my bookkeeping for the month. As you probably guessed, none of that happens as planned. I usually end up dealing with Stuff That Comes Up - my son's forgotten lunchbox; a call from a former colleague; a slew of new paperwork that a client for whom I completed a project three months ago demands I complete if I want to get paid this year; a meeting with a potential client who wants to interview me on my past work for an hour. You know - Stuff.
I end up working late into the night several days of the week but really that's when I get my best work done. All my clients are asleep or having proper social lives; my son is tucked into bed; my husband is doing his late night work 20 feet from my own desk and well - that's when the flow is so perfect. No interruptions, no calls or meetings or demands on my time other than what I set out to do. This time is golden and my most productive. It's my best mode for learning and productivity. I think to jobs that require people to be in a certain spot to do their job and really, the indicated spot to 'work' is not always where our best work can be done.
This makes me think of training activities where we pull together people out of their work space to teach them some new knowledge or skill which we then expect them to apply back in the very workspace we took them out of. This uprooting should be a growth experience where people can learn new skills and behaviours simply by working with others who have fresh ideas or different ways of looking at something. They have to work harder to accomplish the set tasks because the people around the table are new to them and thus do not know their work habits. It is such a rich opportunity to learn collaboration and problem-solving as well as the new set of knowledge and skills being taught. Sadly, I continue to observe painful death-by-slidedeck lectures where even the presenter is bored. Or I click through a shiny new e-learning course which periodically asks me to parrot back the text that was presented in the previous screen. At least with the e-learning, I can turn off the machine when I am bored to tears.
The field is suddenly awash with people calling themselves Instructional Designers who simply add pretty pictures to those same, boring slidedecks. Or who copy and paste material from a print manual into an online interface and call it (and bill it as) e-learning. I welcome these self-proclaimed Instructional Designers to the fray on the condition that they make training- in any format - worth their learners' precious time - time that their learners took out of their carefully planned day, time that they otherwise could be attending to Stuff - to sit and hopefully learn something new. There are loads of opportunities out there for new IDs to learn how a curriculum needs to be appropriately written and designed appropriate to different formats. It should be noted that very little of a solid course curriculum framework has to do with shiny, pretty pictures. It's all about understanding how children or adults best learn different types of content - and applying those principles and methods appropriate to your audience and your context. That's the whole shebang. Now go learn it in whatever mode best suits you and apply it.
I get it, I do. Most non-educators that I work with in designing training and teaching events all proudly tell me that they plan to administer a pretest at the beginning of the training event. They have been dutifully taught that pre-tests are the only way to measure learning that they are about to impart to their participants or students.
The pretests that they show me are usually long, complicated, and intimidating forms asking the testee very specific knowledge points that all the participants specifically came to the training to learn. The post-test is almost always the EXACT same test as the pre-test; the only difference between the pre-test and the post-test being the headings PRE-TEST and POST-TEST boldly typed in imposing font at the tops of each test.
I will usually counter with my arsenal of brain research about how people best learn new information. I talk about how we do not wish to make the learners feel threatened in the very first hour by prompting them with big scary tests asking them about information that we already know they don't know. Pretests usually result in learners feeling threatened or embarrassed or frustrated or even fearful because by administering pre-tests, we imply that somehow we expect learners to know information that they don't yet know because we have not yet taught them. I explain that when learners feel threatened or embarrassed or frustrated or even fearful, their fear/rage response is triggered and well, all learning simply comes to a screeching halt. And then when the trainer or teacher collects the pre-tests and starts to teach, they have already diminished the group's ability to learn significantly. Not a great way to start a teaching or training event.
And yet, when those same trainers and teachers administer that same test - this time with the POST TEST heading - they can show significant gains in participant knowledge. Well yeah, that's because the trainers/teachers actually taught the information to the participants. No big surprise that there will be gains when you compare results. I believe strongly that if you don't administer that intimidating pre-test in its present scary form and test for prior knowledge in a more authentic way, those post-test results will be even greater.
I love this cartoon. That 'then a miracle occurs' part is what I do for a living - I try to make miracles happen. No easy feat. That kind of miracle requires buy-in from the supervisors of the people I am trying to create miracles with and well - supervisors are a busy lot who often think of training as a reward for star trainees, a parking place for trainees that they aren't sure what to do with, or a way to burn money in a budget. sigh. Ahh, but when the miracles do happen - it is nothing sort of magical. When the trainees are motivated, when they receive proper encouragement and reinforcement, when the skills and knowledge are taught in a way that they are retained accurately and the pièce de résistance - when the learning is transferred back to the workplace - it makes me as a trainer want to come back for more. And so I will...
An educator nomad traveling and teaching her way around the world. Fun stuff.