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Archive for the ‘Competencies’ Category

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Uploaded by mikebaird

So what’s a guy on a surfboard have to do with measuring learning?  I mean other than surf pictures are already great.  Well first I’d say he’s proficient.  I might even say he’s a high performer. 

What makes him so is not all the individual competencies like balance, physcial condition, position on the board, knowledge of the waves, etc.  It’s his ability to put all these elements together without having to think about each part.  In education and training it’s easy to get into the trap of breaking everything down into it’s pieces and parts and forget that they have to fit together in unique and different ways.  You can test all the competencies and still find someone that doesn’t perform well.  You’ve probably seen people who are good at tests and bad in real life.

What I recommend in measuring learning, education or training (I’ll do a post soon on the difference), is to look at creating a proficiency statement.  This is a statement that combines three elements.  First, you look at results.  You can do it in terms of how much, how good and how fast.  A proficiency for our surfer might be the number and variation of the wave’s he can handle or it might be the different tricks he can do.

Second, you look at independence.  Is this something you can handle on your own without asking lots of questions.  Sometimes it shows up in terms of being able to take initiative.  For our surfer it might be something on wave selection or decided when to surf. 

Third, there’s a level of confidence.  This appears in a fluidity of motion, a fluency of language and an ability to focus.  Confidence is usually directly observable.  I think our surfer looks confident.

Sometimes you can get to proficiences by listing out all the competencies and then regrouping them by how they are actually used.

Now you have a set of measures that are directly observable or produce measurable results.  In some cases like reading it goes from a test where you get a short reading assignment and then answer questions to see what you got out of it with a test of, here read this to me…know tell me what it was about.  I guarantee you that the second test is more effective.

Once you have a clear measure of proficiency, then you’ll find it rather easy to determine and measure time to proficiency.  One thing that time to proficiency will tell you is which teaching or training method actually works the best.  If two teachers, teach the same thing to a group of 30 but use different methods, the one that got to proficiency faster has a best practice that others should copy.

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Uploaded by WisDoc

Education traditionally focuses on knowledge acquisition and retention.  However, it usually misses a key element.  That’s the element of speed.  In other words, of fast can you recall information and how fast can you apply it. 

While there is usually a time limit on tests, it’s usually not at the speed of rapid recall.  You usually have ample time to think of the answer or to figure out the answers based on how the test is written.

If you really want to know who knows their stuff, try cutting the time you have to take the SATs in half.  Try cutting the time allowed for a multiple choice test to the time it takes to read all the questions and circle the answers.

So why the concern for speed?  If you have a fluent knowledge of something, it shows itself in terms of speed.  Think of learning a foriegn language, you have to get to the point where you know all the words well enough to keep up with a conversation especially when others start to speak quickly.  In fact, keeping up with a conversation is a good measure of how fluent you are in a language.  The same can and should hold true for other subjects.  With speed comes competences or vice-versa.

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I’ve corresponded for serveral years with Dr. Carl Binder partly because I like to know if it’s raining in Seattle and partly because of his expertise in the training and performance improvement world.

 He does a great workshop on how to build fluency that is really a key component of learning that most people leave out.  Think about fluency as the speed and ease by which you can do something.  Can you answer a series of math questions given enough time to work them out or can you respond in a rapid fire way with confidence? 

In the second case, you really have to know things a lot better.  You have reached a state of performance where everything is natural and easy.  I think I’ve posted before that someone who gets 700 on their SATs in half the time is actually more knowledgeable and fluent than someone who takes the entire time.  This is not a difference in style but a difference in fluency.

So how do you add fluency to learning or education?  You have to set up practice sessions that contain timed activities.  Not just once but many times.  You can go to Carl’s website http://www.binder-riha.com to get lots of good ideas.

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So what’s a picture of Mike Tyson have to do with education anyway?

 Mike Tyson is a great philosopher.  He said, “Everyone’s got a plan…until they get hit!”

All the practice and role plays in a classroom setting try to prepare you for real life but it’s simply not the same.  The first time you try out your new customer service skills on an angry customer is just like being hit for the first time.  That’s when the real learning starts or people say, “that classroom stuff just doesn’t work, I’m going to try something else.”

Even as simulations get better, you don’t have the same level of pressure that comes with first hand experience.  What I recommend is that whatever you do in the classroom needs to extend to live practice.  This live practice also needs good coaching to help push through the potential loss of confidence with the first problem or crisis.

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There’s always a lot of controversy about our public school systems.  Part of the crisis comes from the fact that it’s part of the political system where the money goes to the loudest squeeky wheel.  All the focus goes to failing schools instead of the stand outs.  There’s also a lot of nostalgia.  “The old days were better.”  I think I heard this outside the second little red schoolhouse.

 Anyway, I’ve put together a short list of questions I have about schools.  Maybe you’d like to add a few.

  1. Why is k-12 the only time in your life that you’ll spend all your time with others of the exact same age?
  2. Why do we have k-12 instead of some other number of years?  I know the historical reasons, but haven’t things changed?
  3. Why do we teach subject by subject, in silos, rather than cutting up and sorting what needs to be covered in other ways?
  4. Why are teachers basically at the top of their profession the day they start?  (There’s a very short career path for teachers.)
  5. Why are schools all inclusive, one-stop shopping?  Couldn’t kids go to multiple schools at the same time?
  6. Why don’t schools teach life and work skills? 
  7. Why do we have homework instead of having kids finish their work in school?
  8. Why do schools need to have their own buildings?  Couldn’t they rent out space in the community?
  9. Why do schools promote a social system that is so clickie and unlike what people experience out of school?
  10. Why is it so hard from one school to learn from and adopt the best practices from others school?

I think asking a lot of whys is a good process.  In fact, that process may be more important that the actual questions.  I think a lot of the answers to the “whys” are, because that’s the way we’ve always done them.

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True and false, multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching and even essay tests for the most part evaluate knowledge and comprehension.  They’re easy to write.  Easy to score and easy to compare one student to another.

However, knowing and doing are two very different things.  That’s why there is often very little correlation between how employees do on classroom tests and how they perform on the job.  Unless you’re training academics, there needs to be a more meaningful way to do testing.

It’s actually fairly easy.  You ask an expert to watch the student work or perform a required task.  That expert will be able to tell you a lot about what that student knows and doesn’t know.  Most experts tell me they’d know in less than five minutes. 

You can then ask the expert what he or she is looking at.  What are the key inidicators?  Now you have a good evaluation checklist that you can use to train others on this type of evaluation.

This type of evaluation doesn’t favor those who are “good test takers.”  It also tests the links between a range of tasks and knowledge.

Unfortunately, this type of test isn’t very easy with elearning unless you can do some very sophisticated simulations.

Here’s a reading test that any school system can use that is guaranteed to be better than what they use today.  Give a student a book.  Say, okay read it to me.  After five minutes, ask, “what did you just read?”  Any good teacher will know where this student is on their reading ability.  You also won’t get anyone through high school who fakes their way through without learning to read. 

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We offering two more dates for thos who want to learn how to dramatically reducing the time it takes to ramp up new employees.  The webinar give an overview of the concepts from the Learning Paths book.  This site gives an overview of the book and the whitepaper provides some important background.

The dates are December 19th at 10 CST and January 10th at 1 CST. 

 To sign up, simply send me an email at learningpaths@gmail.com.

 For more info, you can also go to my website at www.learningpathsinternational.com

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