Posts Tagged ‘instruction’

I’ve been going back to find out where the statistics came from about the percentage breakdown between formal and informal learning.  It seems the origins go back to a 1995 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  But as I looked at that study and some of the more recent ones, I discovered that there really isn’t a uniform agreed upon definition of informal learning.  The line between formal and informal learning is blurred even more as new forms of delivery are developed.

I think it might be more useful to exchange the terms formal and informal for structured and unstructured.  You also might considered learning by design and learning by trial and error.  Take something like on-the-job training.  It can be done in a highly structured way or as informally as go work with Joe for the day.  When you go work with Joe for the day, it’s often highly unstructured and different every time.  It become informal learning.

Interestingly, when you start to add structure to informal learning such as identifying and guiding practice and experience, it’s really more like formal learning.  We think this is one of the fastest ways to accelerate learning.  We like to put all practice and experience on a learning path and then write directions on how it should happen.  This helps eliminate the waste of trail and error learning, and takes time out of the process by eliminating a number of wrong turns.

So what’s the point?  I say dump the terms formal and informal because they are too vague to be helpful and substitute structured and unstructured.  Then try to eliminate all the unstructured learning.

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The biggest challenge for most webinar leaders is that they are getting no direct feedback when they are speaking.  When you are speaking to a live group in a classroom, you at least know they are there and you get feedback from their body language.  When you’re speaking on a webinar, you always have the feeling that you’re talking to empty space.  This is magnified when you ask for questions and there’s no response even in the chat area.  You could be doing a fabulous job and people are quite because they are being entertained or  mesmerized by what you’re saying.

Anyone who has ever lead an audio conference or web conference has experienced this.  So what’s the answer?

The best answer comes from talk radio.  Radio talk show host talk into the ether for hours with a high level of intensity.  What they do is have someone else in the room with them and occasionally engage them with a question.  They might speak for 30 minutes straight but the feedback from that other person live makes it a lot more comfortable.  It also helps them pace their speech.  People on their own talking to space tend to speed up and try to fill all the dead space.  They feel like if they stop talking, the audience will disappear.  This speeding up also makes people more tense and affects their breathing.  So it’s a good idea to consciously slow down and take a deep breath.

Doing a web conference with a co-facilitator is extremely helpful even if they are in a different location.  To make the exchange from one speaker to another more natural it’s a good idea to have a signal when the other person wants to talk.  Don’t just say to the other person, “do you want to say something?”  The second person also makes it easier to handle all the technology and the audience.  It’s a lot like having an engineer in a radio studio.

Video can  help with a small group but it doesn’t give you very much feedback for a big group.  That’s why TV talk hosts have a studio audience.

So look to radio for some good tips and remember to breathe!

Photo by: Angatuba – Legionaire

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Here’s the issue a lot of people face when using a review committee. (It can be an instructional developers nightmare.) When they start to add or make changes to a word document, if you cut and paste them into your master document it can change all the styles and formatting. Here’s the solution. Word 2003 and later all have a protect document feature. It’s a little different in each version of word. But what happens is that it blocks the ability to create formatting. If some clever person figures a work around, when you import their document into yours it transforms their changes into normal style. This addresses the issue that happens when you copy and paste someone’s stuff into your document and all the numbers and bullets change

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ADDIE has been a popular instructional design model for a very, very long time. ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. Very logical and very training focused. However, it’s not set up well to do rapid development, insure quality and gain acceptance.

First, it treats every training issue or assignment as unique and different. When you’ve built hundreds of training program, you see lots of patterns and similarities. An experienced designer or consultant can easily recognize what’s going on. It’s not uncommon for a needs analysis to reveal the obvious.

Second, in the design stage a lot of things should be done based on pre-made decisions, templates, formats and other tools. For example, if you’re creating a design document for instructor lead training, it should be following the same set of established design principles that are used each time and follow the same format for the workshop or seminar. Instead of a blank piece of paper, most of the work should be modifying from a standard or model.

Third, both the implementation phase and evaluation start too late in the process. For example, doing a stakeholder analysis to determine how to implement a program should be done right at the start. There are a lot of steps in the design and development of training that is specially targeted at getting stakeholder buy in. In addition, most people have trouble measuring training because they build the training first and then try to measure it. It works better to start with building the measures and then designing the training to fit those measures. Having a business case at the start of training is the key.

I find that the more experienced you are, the more you can find ways to do things faster and better than the ADDIE model.

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Just continuing to look at the different ways people measure training.  Measuring behavioral change isn’t a bad one.  If you really know what to do look for, you should start to see changes being made after training.  Often creating  behavioral checklists and doing direct observation is a popular way of measuring at level 3. 

Here are the pitfalls.  First, when you divide things into behaviors you can loose how they work together.  You can do all the new behaviors but miss all the connections.  More than likely, participants begin to get better at these behaviors but haven’t yet reached a level of proficiency or mastery.  That takes a lot of time, practice and feedback.

Look at the example of learning to do great presentations.  You can train to a set of new behaviors in front of others during a presentation.  You can then look to see if those behaviors are starting to appear.  You should see some change.  This is a good thing.  However, to continue on to a higher level of proficiency won’t happen immediately.  In fact, the new behaviors can quickly dissappear under the pressure of doing things for real.

The solution is to look at how you can continue to build those behaviors and work on all the subtleties that may not be on the checklist.

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Here’s a new book.  I’m actually a contributor the book.  I’ve only read the section I wrote but the rest of it looks good.  I got a sample copy and it’s really a big..big .. book.

Here’s the write up from Pfieffer.

The Trainer’ Portable Mentor is an easy to use, comprehensive highly accessible resource that offers shares the passions and most valuable key lessons learned from an all-star cast of some of the most respected training professionals in the field. The book covers a range of training topics including designing training, writing training, delivering training, measuring training, managing training, and developing business acumen. is divided into five sections (Designing Training, Delivering Training, Workforce Performance and Learning, Measurement and Evaluation, and Professional Development) and includes over 60 articles and additional resources found on a special website. In addition to wisdom gleaned from top trainers, the guide is filled with helpful checklists, case studies, assessments, and an easily customizable CD. The Trainer’s Portable Mentor is ideal for anyone new to the field of training and development or a veteran who is looking to be vitalized by quick, succinct practical nuggets that can be put to use right away.

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21.     Focus on 100%80%, 90% and certainly 95% are good test scores.  However, that’s a lot of errors and mistakes on the job.  For example, you wouldn’t stay in business long if you got 80% of your orders right.  Also, that’s only one test.  In addition what you don’t get right on one test accumulates test after test.  Just image the sheer number of question a student got wrong from K-12 if they missed 10% on every test.  Instead, it’s important to focus on a 100% and to keep working toward mastery.  It’s also good to make sure the tests are accurate and students are simply missing the trick questions or ones the instructor got wrong.22.     Practice SpeedAn important part of being fully up-to-speed is being fluent and confident.  It’s one thing to be able to answer questions on a sale call if given enough time and another thing to be able to provide answers quickly because you really know them.  One of the best ways to develop this level of competency is to practice with the clock ticking.  See how many answers you can get in 60 seconds.  As you practice, you will get better and better, and any test will seem easy.  23.     Try Speed ReadingSpeed reading is one of many fast learning tools that make everything easier.  Most people learn to read by sounding out words either out loud or in their head.  As they get better at reading, they recognize whole words or even phrases.  Speed reading on the other hand uses visual learning to see whole sentences and paragraphs without sounding out the words.  Since you can see much faster than you can speak, speed reading can easily double or triple reading speeds.  This helps you read more information faster or to reread something in the time you could read it once.  Speed reading in many cases can also improve comprehension.  Speed reading requires a lot of practice which is something few people work at in the traditional way of reading.

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1.     Don’t Forget the Big Picture

All too often education is presented in pieces and parts.  Everything is done as building blocks toward something that is larger.  However, it’s harder to learn without knowing the big picture and how things really go together.  Think about how much faster it is to complete a jigsaw puzzle when you know what it’s suppose to look like when you’re done.

2.     Play a Game

Learning doesn’t have to be dull and boring.  In fact, playing games is not only fun, they can also help integrate a range of skills and knowledge together.  Games also make it easier to spend the hours and hours of practice required to master many skills.  Games that simulate real situations are often the most effective.

3.     Find a Mentor

There’s no reason you have to figure everything out on your own.  That’s really the slowness of trial and error learning.  In many cases, mentors have already made all the mistakes and can help a student avoid them. 

Even just skipping one or two of the most time consuming and costly mistakes can really speed up the learning process.  A good mentor can also help structure experiences so that students learn what they need to learn quickly.  Finally, being a mentor is another way to improve your own knowledge and understanding.  It’s part of teaching to learn.

4.     Think Quantity Before Quality

Building classroom, online or self-study courses can be very expensive and time consuming.  There is usually a trade off between more courses or better looking courses.  Unless all the bells and whistles speed up learning, it’s better to look at getting more done than making things look pretty.

Copyright Learning Paths International 2008

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1.     Blend Hard and Soft Skills

In most organizations hard (technical) skills and soft (people) skills are taught separately.  This is because the experts in area aren’t the same.  That’s why engineers get a bad rap about their people skills.  However on the job, employees need to be able to use all these skills at the same time.  Teaching them separately doesn’t mean students will ever be able to use them together.  A better and faster approach is to teach them together in the way they are used on the job.

2.     Skip Knowledge Tests

In the workplace you often see a difference between test scores and performance on the job.  Many people think this is due to test anxiety or poor study habits.  However, that doesn’t explain why people who do well on tests often don’t do well on the job.  That’s because the job isn’t to recall knowledge.  Even in a job like an answer line, the job is more complex and involves doing several things at the same time.  For the answer line, besides knowing the answer, the employee also needs to ask good questions, interact positively with the customer, use the computer and the phone system.  Therefore, you can cut classroom time by eliminating knowledge tests and get a better idea of what someone has learned through direct observation and feedback.

3.     No More Sink or Swim

Throwing students into the deep end works well for the swimmers.  However, it’s really hard on the sinkers.  In fact, there are usually a lot more sinkers than swimmers.  This is a very popular method for a lot of sales forces.  The training consists of here’s your desk, here’s your phone, go to it.  When you think about the cost of hiring people, this is a very expensive way of doing things.

4.     Add More Reality

The great philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.”  All the role plays, simulations and practice can go out the window when an employee faces the reality of the job.  Take a customer service rep who learns how to deal with problems in the classroom and then faces a real angry customer.  To speed up learning, it’s critical to build in these real situations.

copyright LPI 2008

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I’ve finished some one paragraphy descriptions of ideas to speed up the learning process.  I’m going to post them in bunches.

9.       Teach the Way You Learn
There is usually a big difference the way people are taught versus how the actual learn something.  When you think about being taught, you usually think about someone telling or showing you something.  When you think about how you learn, you usually think about a discovery you made or the hours of practice you invested.
Teaching the way people learn often means setting up learning experiences where others will discovery what they need to learn.  You find these experiences by asking top performers how they learned something and often they will tell you about these experiences.  This also means setting up enough structured practice to ensure that learners get enough repetition to make things stick.
10.       Know Your Learning Style
We all learn in slightly different ways. Knowing your own style or the style of your students and adapting really speeds up learning. Some people will tell you that they need to write things down before they learn them while others have to try things out before they start to learn. Some people learn really well from seeing a demonstration on a video while others simply won’t get what you’re trying to do.
As a teacher it’s hard to adapt everything individually. The answer is to use multiple methods of teaching and experimenting to see what works best. As a student, it’s to your advantage to pay attention to how you like to learn and then seek out that type of instruction.
11.       Focus on Speed
This may seem odd as a suggestion but the longer it takes to learn something the harder it is to keep the learner motivated.  Looking for ways to increase speed actually will increase speed.  As you set up a measurement system for training, try adding a speed measure such as time to proficiency. 
12.       Teach in short segments
People tend to remember the first and last parts of any lesson.  With short segments, you have more firsts and lasts.  Once things go beyond about 30 minutes, you’re starting to lose effectiveness. 

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