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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘Will Thalheimer’

What? Or How?

Posted by Ellen on June 19, 2010

Let me say right off the bat that if you’re doing needs assessment (you are, aren’t you?!?), I’m glad to hear it.

If you’re coming up with a narrowed (preferably prioritized) list of topics to cover in upcoming educational programs, kudos and all that.

But you’re only getting started. Take a closer look at your planned topics. Are they formulated around “what” something is or “how” to do something?

Lots of chatter around the blogosphere these days about collaborative learning (Marsha Rea at Acronym is doing a great series on this topic) and getting our events to be more interactive than passive (thanks to Jeff Hurt at MidCourse Corrections for pushing this).

Transitioning your events from passive learning to active learning, transforming your “presenters” into “facilitators” doesn’t have to be complicated.

One way to start the process is — believe it or not — as simple as shifting the focus of their sessions from “what” to “how.”

Here are some examples of general “what” topics:

  • The Benefits of Being a Volunteer
  • What You Need to Know about the Latest XYZ Regulations

And… here is a “how” version of each of those topics:

  • How to Share Your Expertise as a Volunteer
  • How to Comply with the New XYZ Regulations 

See the difference? Sometimes “what” treatments come disguised as “how” titles: “How the Latest XYZ Regulations Could Affect You” is just another information dump. Think “How TO Do [fill in the blank]” to avoid that trap.
Adult learners need to see a use for what they’re learning — the usefulness is where the value in the topic lies for them. If they can’t apply what they’re learning, what’s the point?

So decide what actions you want people to be able to take when they leave your session: what should they be able to do, or do better, than they could when they walked into the room?

Notice that the “how to” topics suggest the types of practice you can structure the event around? Notice, too, that you’ll end up covering some of the “what” — but that the focus has shifted to the application of the “what.”

For example….

  • How would you walk your members through a session on how to volunteer?
    • What steps do they need to take?
    • Is there a form they need to fill out?
    • Where do they find that form?
    • Are there deadlines they need to heed?
    • Can you provide them with a handout (not a Powerpoint printout!) showing all the information they’ll need?
    • Would a checklist of steps help?
    • How about giving them a timeline or calendar with important deadlines or program and meeting dates?
  • The compliance topic might require an initial, quick review of the most important
    regulatory changes so everyone is on the same page.

    • Providing a handout that clearly explains those changes means they’ll have the information in a form they can easily refer to — in the session and later — so they can focus on how what they’ll need to DO.
    • Small group tasks using worksheets and calculators or calendars or resource planning tools can make what might seem a dull session into a highly interactive — and immediately relevant — learning event.

In his “Aligning Learning and Performance Contexts” report, Dr. Will Thalheimer writes: “Our goal as designers of instruction is to determine the boundary conditions of the performance context and align the learning context with those parameters as much as possible.” (13).

What are you doing today to align the training you’re delivering to your members’ working environment? No, you can’t recreate that environment — but you can create tools and activities that make their learning more applicable when they return to their environment.

Starting with the “how” rather than the “what” is as good a place to start as any.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Learning in General | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Remember the Smell of that Cooking?

Posted by Ellen on March 18, 2010

We all know how hard it is to get presenters to abandon the safe familiarity of the podium and Powerpoint slides and become true facilitators of learning, so I was tickled to see so many interactive sessions included in the ASAE Great Ideas Conference.

These three in particular caught my eye:

  • “Speed Learning for Professional Development Specialists,” facilitated by Tony Ellis of NACS and Bill Scott of The Obesity Society.
  • “Cookin Up Leadership[tm],” facilitated by Rhea Blanken of Results Technology
  • “Leadership through Golf: Learning from Life’s Divots,” led by Ron McNally and Reggie Henry of ASAE and The Center, and Tom Pierce of Pierce Management Development

I can tell these were interactive from the titles, the photos posted online (okay, that’s pretty much a dead giveaway), and from the handouts.

When the handouts consist of worksheets, supplemental readings, checklists and other job aids instead of Powerpoint printouts, then I know something interesting must have been going on in that session. Of course it also means that I won’t learn much without the context around them, but that’s okay. Face-to-face events should benefit those who are there, not those of us mining the handouts after the fact (remote learning and face-to-face learning should be conducted differently, you know).

Hurray for these content leaders who dared to be different — who found ways to make their key points interesting and — hopefully — memorable!

Because it’s all about being able to remember what we learned when we need it, right?

Educational researcher Will Thalheimer, PhD, explains why and how the learning environment (from the room you’re in to the noises around you) impacts how learners remember what they learned. If learner’s can’t recall what they were taught, they won’t be able to apply it.

The report, “Aligning the Learning and Performance Context: Creating Spontaneous Remembering,” (54 pp, $295 value) is one of several research resports, articles, and job aids he’s made available free from his Web site. (If you’re not familiar with his work, you should be. Plus he’s available for consulting!)

In it, Dr. Thalheimer writes, “When people are in an environment in which they learned something, the environmental stimuli trigger their memories and thus aid recall of the information that has become associated with the environment. When people imagine an environment without being in that environment, their memories for that environment can still trigger the appropriate memory pathways to aid retrieval of the learned information” (14).

Trying to remember what you learned?

Think about holding that golf club, or the smell of the cooking, or the faces around the speed learning tables.

Ah! Now it’s coming back to you!

Posted in Conferences, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Yes, There Are No Learning Styles

Posted by Ellen on February 21, 2010

According to the Association for Psychological Science, “There is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.”

Their report goes on to say:

An obvious point is that the optimal instructional method is likely to vary across disciplines. For instance, the optimal curriculum for a writing course probably includes a heavy verbal emphasis, whereas the most efficient and effective method of teaching geometry obviously requires visual–spatial materials.

Of course! Matching the instructional approach to the content!! What have I been saying all this time?!?

Many thanks to Will Thalheimer for posting about the report. For more details, read his post and follow the links he provides to the report itself.

ASAE and The Center — isn’t it time you revisited your treatment of learning styles in your PD materials?

Posted in Learning in General, Measuring Results, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »