Often when we are approached to design a session to help others learn, we are provided with a topic. As in, we need a session to help them learn project management.
We could produce a class that had discussion and activities based upon that topic. But we would be doing a lot of guessing.
Here are a few questions that can increase our success in designing and delivering a session that will produce learning and behavior change:
Answers to these questions help us provide the right information, the right activities and the right resources, as well as the right timing for the training to occur, if that's an option.
Answers to these questions increase the success of learners walking out of the session with useful information and skills to apply in their work.
We've got a great discussion going in a class or meeting, lots of people providing great comments, but now we realize we are running out of time.
First, congratulate yourself on facilitating a lively discussion : )
Next, try some of the tips below, which will manage the time, while respecting participant input:
Be specific about how many responses you want to a question.
Name the individuals in the order they offered to respond.
Set a time limit for the discussion.
Manage the frequent contributors.
Do you grow "roots" when you're facilitating? Plants set down roots where they are most "comfortable" and sometimes we do that as facilitators. Our roots are next to the laptop/computer or the flipchart. If we become rooted in one spot, we miss out on opportunities to engage our learners by moving around the room.
Set up your media before class.
Keeping learners' attention can be a challenge when facilitating a virtual learning experience. Making good use of the technology as well as your primary connection to the learners - your voice - will help you keep learners engaged.
We've all had those situations as facilitators when some of the learners in our classes just don't grasp the content. While we could point to those learners who do understand and say we've done all that's possible, have we really? What are some of the things we should do to ensure that everyone understands the content?
Clarify the learner's questions about the content
In your preparation to facilitate a class you find out that approximately half the learners have a good deal of experience with the topic and the other half of the learners might recognize the topic name. The class is required for all the learners and scheduling requires they all be in the class together.
How will you keep the experienced learners engaged? How will you prevent the inexperienced participants from falling behind?
Now - what if you are in this situation of varying experienced levels, and you have only two to five learners in your class? Oh - AND they are in different roles and will apply the content differently? Certainly some of the tips above can apply, but here are a few other tips:
"Informal" and "social" learning are hot topics in the training world.
Informal learning is described as taking place without a conventional instructor and is controlled by the learner, therefore highly individualized. An ASTD/i4cp study shows 56% of the organizations surveyed expect an increase in informal learning.
Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner, in a recent ASTD presentation based upon their book The New Social Learning, define social learning as "Participating with others to make sense of new ideas". Over 85% of people surveyed say their organizations are planning on increasing the use of social media in the learning function.
What is our role as facilitators in the informal and social learning trends?
Certainly we need to understand the trends as learning professionals, but we also can ensure that learning happens. Without a framework for learning, one could say that informal and social learning as defined could result simply in a conversation. With a framework like experiential learning that drives us to share and reflect on experiences, develop conclusions and best practices and plan for future application we turn those conversations into learning.
So our role as facilitators for informal and social learning can be to provide that framework for learners to share and discuss what they've learned. By providing questions to consider, monitoring discussions on social media and providing guidance when appropriate, facilitators can add value to informal and social learning.
Click on the image for sample GroundRules.
We'd like to think that everyone is prepared and eager to learn the moment they arrive in the classroom or sign on to the virtual learning environment. Of course that is not the case for a variety of reasons that we all can relate to: our rush to leave home, our commute, the work we need to get done or the unanticipated situations that arise.
You can help your learners prepare by establishing "Guidelines for Working Together" or "Groundrules".
These guidelines can be posted before the class or created collaboratively with the learners.
These guidelines work best when:
Activities are important to engage learners and help them apply their new knowledge and skills.
In order to accomplish this, the activities must be well planned and explained well to learners.
In order to ensure your learners know why and what they are supposed to be doing during an activity, have the instructions posted somewhere for reference, as well as explain in detail the activity. Another tip: make sure the activity is explained first, before dividing learners into groups or you will lose their attention!
Click here for an example of activity instructions.
Carol Delisi is Chief Learning Consultant of her company, Facilitating by Design. She has been helping adults learn for 20 years.