Well Designed Learning – Part 2

Well Designed Learning - Part 2

You take your kid out for a party and at the dinner table, a lady guides your kid how to fold a napkin, something you haven’t taught yet. You just watch how she tutors; and how the kid learns and practice. What will you do next time your kid’s at the dining-table – tick as many:

1 remind about the session with that lady?
2 most likely, you would’ve forgotten about that session?
3 make fun or ignore if the kid’s trying to replicate that session’s learning?
4 appreciate if the kid’s trying to replicate that session’s learning?

You see, it’s about the nourishment you provide to get the desired behavior from an individual. Just enrolling them (not only kids but also adults) to a learning event is not enough. It has to be supported with some chain-reactions aka follow-ups and reminders as you not only save the efforts made earlier but you also discover more.

PS: options 2 & 3 above are bad choices.

Some ways to embed the learning are:

1 Ask the learner to share the lessons in a forum – can be documented too.
2 Give project based assignments – encourage creativity here.
3 Design assessments – spread these over a period of time.
4 Ask the learner to share more ideas – to upgrade existing content or for next steps.

And most importantly, initiate competency based learning designs, otherwise like Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “if you don’t have a destination to reach to, all the roads are the same”!


Well Designed Learning – Part 1

Image Courtesy - dexigner.com

Image Courtesy – dexigner.com

As promised in my previous post – Cheerless Hands at Work – here’s some bits of thoughts to ‘designing a learning intervention’.

One of the most prevailing practices as part of Learning Needs Analysis is asking the employees about the kind of learning workshop they wish to attend. This exercise is mostly done annually, administered till senior middle management and could be for behavioral or skill development purposes.

Typically a list of most celebrated workshops is circulated and employees are requested to select the most appealing options; a standard list contains:

1 Work-life Balance
2 Time Management
3 Interpersonal Communication
4 Performance Management
5 Change Management
6 Decision Making
7 Language Skills
8 Others

The list could be longer and the workshop-names may vary.

Of course, this exercise seems like a fair one because the employees are getting a chance to select what they wish to learn.
But this exercise is like buying a book without reading the preface or the table of contents!

I.e., this exercise is flawed because there’s no indication that:

1 – why a workshop has been selected
2 – what challenges the employee is facing
3 – which aspects will be part of the workshop-content

To summarize, there’s no clue that why a workshop should be done and how; and the result is a potpourri of whatever!

If an exercise such as this should be conducted at all then it should be supported by more features such as:

1 the employees can express the challenges they are facing – best done face to face and an appropriate batch-wise workshop should be designed.

2 an effectiveness evaluation to be executed – could be a pre/post evaluation for learning and behavioral changes or a project based assessment for the batch-mates.

3 to further notch it up, you may regularly conduct case-study based assignments for the workshop(s) they attend – this is just to keep the momentum flowing.

When the employees go through such a condensed and focused workshop; the learning is lasting and the environment fun!

Look forward to Part 2 of Well Designed Learning!

Cheerless Hands at Work!

Cheerless Hands at Work!

The deadline has been met, the follow-ups are being done, the file has been submitted but still you, the boss, senses that the work is sloppy. There’s lack of energy, improper/age-old updates, not enough insights to name a few; no cheer in the work done.

What do you do now?
A – Ignore
B – Reprimand
C – Wait for the next review
D – Are you looking for an option that says, ‘it depends’?
(I have rarely seen a well-constructed mentorship program, so skipping that here!)

These four options are primarily damaging behaviors at work.
Let’s consider an example – India is cricket crazy and more so about Sachin Tendulkar (if only he could continue) but there was a time in his career when he had sloppy hands at cricket. This was the time when he was the captain of the Indian cricket team. It took a few matches to realize this and to put him back to his original role of individual contributor.

We all realize deep down that not everybody can do everything, we can’t do everything, at least not flawlessly. Just that, if we still need to (and we still may fail), we must go through a well designed learning intervention. An intervention that converts cheerless hands to cheerful ones in this new financial year.

What’s a well designed learning intervention now?

More on this in up-coming posts; meanwhile, suggest reading – Beware the Busy Manager by Harvard Business Review.

Fun and Learning

Image Courtesy - funeducationalapps.com

Image Courtesy – funeducationalapps.com

When you close your eyes and think of the word ‘FUN’. Do you picture yourself as:

– Trekking on Himalayas or the Alps?
– Some amazing family or friend’s time?
– Sitting on a beach with a drink in one hand and a crisp in the other?
– Anything else (it’s your idea of fun, you can think of something else)?

Now who doesn’t want to have such fun in each moment of their conscious life and in fact, if each moment were fun, who would want to sleep at all?!

Additionally, as seekers of fun, humans have created some amazing and blaring ways to have fun. It’s an essential part of our progress-chart.

We want to stay in fun and be with fun; this idea of fun is so contagious that it has percolated down to the way we learn. And why not, if we are going to change or upgrade our knowledge, skills or attitude, it should be fun.

But in this blind-love for fun, we by-pass the essence of learning because what we become interested in is the non-stop engagement of mind. The facilitator of the learning is looked upon as an entertainer and a person who can humor people for those few hours; (unfortunately) playfulness is constantly sought.

It’s very important here that we re-visit the adult-learning principles by Malcolm Knowles, a fundamentalist influencer of learning theories:

• Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
• Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
• Adults are goal oriented
• Adults are relevancy oriented
• Adults are practical
• Adult learners like to be respected

Yes, such people do exist and they exist in all of us!

Getting lost in irrelevant gimmicks, humor or activities is as bad as facilitating no learning at all. The more contextual the learning is and the more it is designed keeping these principles in mind, the more progressive the environment will be – now that’s fun!

So here are a few things you can ignite the atmosphere with:

• Debates
o Top tip – be a sharp moderator

• Role-plays
o Top tip – have an eye for de-brief

• Team-tasks
o Top tip – brief and de-brief; practice, practice and practice this

• Self-assessments or case-studies
o Top tip – don’t copy, create one

Could be many more; do share your thoughts in the comment section!

Effective Presentations

Image Courtesy - Art110.Wikispaces

Public-speaking is an art; and engaging and influencing the public is a skill. It’s important for a presenter to not only be clear of what they are saying, but also to include and evolve the audience with the content.

In my last post, Setting the Context, I highlighted the importance of including and evolving the audience at the very first step of presentation, i.e. by sharing the objectives of the session. Here’s more to it…

One of the rules of brilliant presentations says that your presentation should consist of – 10% demonstration, 25% discussion and 60% practice! On the contrary, what most we see in presentations is at least 90% of demonstration and rest 10% may be a discussion. (‘Demonstration’ refers to focus on slides, scripts etc. )

Q – Why this rule?

A – You want your presentation to be effective enough so that the audience not only carries back what you said but also practices it for his/her development.

Let’s look at some common phrases that facilitators use:

1 ‘Is that clear?’

2 ‘Are you getting me?’

3 ‘Right?’

The more a presenter uses questions such as above, the more it narrates his/her focus towards ‘demonstration’ and not ‘group-discussion’/ ‘practice.’

Here’s what you can do to make your presentation effective and to inspire your audience:

1 Check their expectations before you start. This will mobilize the brain-cells and it’ll be easier now to share your set of objectives.

2 Expose some facts and ask their opinions; make them discuss what they can do to improve stats etc.

3 Include activities such as role-plays, case-study discussions, debates etc.

4 Welcome questions and instead of answering them yourself, first check the take of other participants and then conclude.

5 At the end of the presentation, check or better make them write their action-steps and share this with all.

Setting the Context

Image Courtesy - http://www.bethaam.org

When you ask a set of people that what made their favourite trainer/coach their favourite one, alongwith “humility”, people will say that the person:

  • explained in most simplified manner
  • gave a direction

You see, it’s the ‘why’ not only a ‘how’ that’s required when you are addressing a topic. And this is what ‘andragogy – science of teaching adults’ also states.

In his extensive research in ‘adult education’, Malcolm Knowles emphasized that the adults need to know the reason for learning something. Moreover, they are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their work/personal life.


It’s not only important to know what you want to achieve from the presentation but also communicating the reason for it.

Consider these three objective-setting statements:

1 “today, I will talk about a, b and c”

2 “today, I will talk about a, b and c and this will assit in achieving x”

3 “today, with reference to the topic, what do you expect?” Write the answers on board and say, “alright, let’s talk about these along with a and b as these will assit in achieving x.”

Now choose your favourite one!

Humor @ Presentations

There’s something common between good presentations and humorous presentations – they both click with the audience!

Every trainer/presenter wants to learn that how can he/she be more humorous (am just being optimistic that all of them already are 😉 ).  Some of the FAQs are –  How do I add jokes and still don’t look like a  stand-up one? How can I use humor and still drive the point or stick to the content? How can I mix fun with some serious stats?

Now with my reputation of writing small articles, will do my best with this subject…

Types of Humor:

1 Incongruity – Refers to two unexpected situations put together. For example – You are on a slide-run, full of stats and words till slide#8 as slide#9 has a funny random pic (hungry dogs, clowns, still-pic of an upcoming movie etc.), say ‘ouch’.

2 Irony – An example of situational irony – once a presenter and her participants were distracted by an attendant who started serving beverages in the midst of the presentation. The presenter paused and said, “now that you know who my husband is and how he distracts me, let’s get back to the objectives.”

3 Exxageration/hyperbole – Example – “by the end of this session, we all shall be enlightened” (wear a halo-expression).

4 Dark/black – deals with serious social/personal matters.  For example –  racism, war etc.  Dilbert, comic-series, classic example of dark office-humor.

5 Satire/innuendo – not as acidic as dark is. For example – “we are always up so dressed at work (stress and pause), didn’t know how to over-dress for this presentation today!”

6 Other more famous forms of humor – pun, PJ, oxymoron.

Personally, I stay away from type 4&5, esp. in a presentation, because it can get serious with them!

When using humor, here are some very important aspects:

1 modulate your voice; (strategic) pauses have a major role to play here

2 use an appropriate, non-over-the-top, body language and facial expressions

3 smile; make and feel comfortable

4 plan some of the above types

5 stay alert

Happy Stimulating!