Category Archives: VCU Adult 606 Design and Delivery Fall 2013

My Final Post, But Not My Final Reflection

As I reviewed my final program design to turn in, I was struck by how much I have actually learned over this past semester. While I have continuously found throughout coursework while in the Adult Learning program that I didn’t know just how much I didn’t know, I entered into the bulk assignment for this semester’s learning adventure in Design and Delivery assuming that my task would be enlightening; but didn’t truly realize just how much so.  I have always prided myself as someone that will consider the needs of the learner while in the classroom.  I will look for non-verbals, listen to responses, probe for understanding; all to ensure that they are getting as much as I possibly can give them in that moment.  And yet I, like perhaps others, stand at the front of the room and watch them leave hoping that their inspiration will not waiver and that I may have made a difference in their perspectives in just a small way.  A question that drove me to easily choose the topic for my program design this semester.

While many were designing programs from start to finish, and ideally I probably should have done the same, I find myself contemplating the added knowledge that I may have gained by using one that was ‘tried and true’.  The course on Building Positive Relationships @ Work was one that I had delivered in shortened and full length versions to multiple audiences at the hospital over a period of several years.  And while I would be remiss not to acknowledge that some have changed as a result of the small amount of awareness that I may have been able to bring about through the class; I also would be remiss not to mention that still others left inspired, but perhaps not enough or in the right way.  And yet it was still requested, still needed and still a desired topic for the employees that I serve.  So for this reason I knew that I wanted to look at this class and find a way to change it.  I wanted it to stick, to really make sense, to really help them understand the why and want to make that change they so desired or needed to make.

And so as I look at the printed document that I am about to turn in, I am struck by just how much my perspective on the class, its delivery and the audience has really changed for me.  The rationale piece and its inclusion of a learning needs and resources assessment caused me to re-look at how I know, or think I know, what it is that I want to provide them.  The goals statement and list of program objectives was difficult for me, as I have grown accustomed to only the one level that is prefaced typically with “today we will…”  This particular piece caused me to pause a bit more on what my overarching purpose of the program truly was.  I will not say that it truly changed much when assessing it using the influences of Vella and Caffarella, and yet I cannot say that this new perspective did not color the remaining work as I went on in its redesign.

The next design piece began to set the stage for the evaluation of the learning that I so desperately sought.  Not truly realizing it yet, assessing each piece and part of the program and what I planned to do to accomplish its ‘what’ was the beginning of the answer to my ‘how’.  The final piece of the design assignment was where it really came together for me,  perhaps my most valuable moment, and yet it truly was the most difficult for me as well.  I read and re-read the examples and the syllabus, and I struggled to create a table that would display just how much I truly thought the program could accomplish if delivered in just the right way.  It created a bit of a new lens for me from the perspective of looking at my program task by task, ABO by ABO to decide (or discover?) just how powerful it could truly be for some and others that they can influence, including our organization.  Analyzing the choices I was making in not only the delivery of the content, but also the tasks I was choosing to facilitate the learning, really made me consider what it was that I thought the learner should, could and would do with it once they left.

So as I sit here and close the cover on my program design, ready to hand it in, I pause and consider if the quality of the program I have now produced through this redesign would have been what it is without this class.  I paused over so many things that I may not have noticed before.  I paused over my reasoning, assessing what I was truly trying to accomplish and, perhaps most importantly, whether or not the learner’s needs were truly being met.  Where did I hope they would go with this information once they left the classroom, and had I ever really thought about how much of an impact I wanted to make on the organization before?  An appreciated awareness has developed in what we as educators may be capable of providing for those individuals that step into our classrooms.  To plant the seed is truly only just the beginning, when the program has been designed well.  And with that thought, I cannot help but consider how much this semester’s assignment (or learning tasks) has changed the way I reflect and practice moving forward.  Was this in our professor’s ABOs and evaluation plan I wonder with a smile as I chose the title of this blog.  For this may be my final post for this class, but it is without a doubt not my final reflection on what I have learned in the past few months, as well as in the collective.

ABO’s-My Most Eye Opening Experience This Semester?

While this is not my final post, I could not help but wonder as I typed a comment to a fellow blogger a few moments ago…did others struggle with creating their ABOs as much as I did? And while I could attribute my struggles to a natural reasoning of attempting to measure behavioral change, I can’t help but wonder if others had similar experiences and ah ha moments?   For what I DID find as I made my way through cell by cell on my ABO table is that I began to really look at the content from the perspective of how powerful it could truly be for some.  Analyzing the choices I was making in not only the delivery of the content, but also the tasks I was choosing to facilitate the learning, really made me consider what it was that I thought the learner should, could and would do with it once they left.  Because I was so adamant about wanting to make the class a hybrid so that they could make it more applicable for them, I think that this particular piece of the design was definitely the most difficult, but perhaps the most valuable as well.  So in this short post I am truly attempting to validate…or query….what did others feel?

Sometimes You Must Take a Step Back to Take a Step Forward

As I read our text, How Do They Know They Know, I couldn’t help but pause on a statement on page 32, “additional improvements can be made by paying attention to the daily work environment of the learners and the personal characteristics and motivation of the leaders.” As many may know, I have chosen the topic for my course work this semester based on an offering that has already been created and conducted several times. It’s a popular topic and one that many continue to request, but I can’t always guarantee that the empowerment or motivation that I sense as they leave the classroom continues once they return to an environment that has not had the enlightenment or feeling of inspiration to change as they have. Without any real way to evaluate whether that motivation continues or whether the learning opportunity has really created a change in behavior, it leaves me to assume that the session has made a difference.

But instead of assuming, I’d like to really know. I’d like to create an opportunity to discover just how much of an impact the session really made and, if any, obstacles they may have encountered when they went back to ‘the real world’. I’d like to really consider the impact that their daily work environment has or may have had on their learning. While the topic that I facilitate is not necessarily life changing, nor is it rocket science; I’d like to think that creating awareness in a few people about how they can establish and maintain better relationships in the workplace can impact more than just that person. I’d like to think that it can begin to also build a better culture, create a better environment to work in and, ultimately, create a better organization for employees and the patients that we serve. For a smile can certainly brighten someones day, a caring heart can create the feeling of warmth that is so desperately needed in our darkest hour, and a helping hand can be the strength that we need on our toughest day. From a higher level, these things can also create the culture that empowers us to do well in our workplace, motivates us to go the extra mile and inspires us to be the team player that contributes to the team’s (departmental and organizational) overall success.

So often we fail to realize just how much our actions can impact others, and I’d like to not only help to create awareness of that fact, but to also inspire employees to change those actions. So have I been doing as Vella described and really looking at our environment for the possibility of change to my own program? I’d like to think that without that step back, I would not have had the inclination that there may be a need for this step forward.

Who’s Passion Do We Seek to Explore? Are We Sharing Our Own or Building on Theirs?

As I read the assigned chapters in our Vella text, I was struck by the idea of structureless teaching.  Not so much from the standpoint of walking into a classroom with no agenda or framework for your session, but perhaps structured – yet, without involvement.  While the examples she gave on pages 13 and 14 were relatable, it also brought me to realize that at times perhaps the structure I create is based on what I think I want or should tell them.  But do I always consider what they may be bringing to the table already?  What drove them to come in the first place?  And how does that feel to those students that have been lead by their passions or situations to attend, but yet the structure does not speak to what it is that they were hoping to come to know?

I consider a conversation I had just today as a fellow instructor set up for a class; an all day course that includes difficult conversation and multiple opportunities for students to begin to change (or decide to change) their behavior.  Learning opportunities perhaps that could be even more so enhanced simply with a little pre-knowledge of your audience.  A fact that was recognized as we discussed two of the attendees and what we knew of them as she considered the best group assignment for them, and perhaps ensuring that they did not end up together.  While this speaks perhaps more to knowing their personalities, we also considered their knowledge, experience and individual needs in hopefully ensuring the best learning environment for them and those around them…..And yet, how often do we truly get to know our participants like this?  But how beneficial can it be when we do?

And I’m not saying that we should begin to host a spaghetti dinner at our house before each class, but even a simple email to reach out when we send out our reminders?  Or when they call to sign up, ask them a few questions to really see what they are bringing to the table and what they are hoping for.  As I contemplate these thoughts, I find myself more eager to discover what these “seven design steps” are as I turn the page to chapter three.  How often am I truly living up to the structured design that Vella speaks of, or am I instead structuring it more based on myself  and what I think they need instead of simply…asking?  After all, asking does not form the course – as Vella points out- it really only informs (and perhaps enhances:) it.

“Designing means preparing a flexible structure for inviting and enhancing learning by explicitly naming who is present, what the situation is that calls for this learning, the time frame and the site for the event, the comprehensive content and learning objectives (…) and finally, the learning tasks and necessary materials.” (Vella, pg 31)

Is it Dialogue Education as Vella Would Describe It?

This blog post is written as more of a question than a statement….a question of whether or not a session I have been facilitating on team building is perhaps structured in a format that is more conducive to what Jane Vella has described in her text, On Teaching and Learning, as ‘dialogue education’ without perhaps having the label to place upon it at the time I began to try it out.

Vella points out in her preface (page xv) that we tend to “teach the way we have been taught until we stop long enough to examine how we are teaching and decide to do otherwise.” I went back to this quote in reflection later on in my reading. So often I had structured and conducted my sessions or classes following the guideline of creation or design that I had been shown when I first took the position. It was not a bad way to design, and in fact appeared to often very effective. But over time I noticed, especially in the topics that I facilitate, that discussion could be very powerful when time was allowed for it in the design. I found people would become passionate about the subject, would seemingly connect or question the concepts more as they felt validated perhaps, and would often cite on their evaluations that the dialogue was the most helpful portion of the class.

So perhaps it is with these findings in mind that I decided to try something different with my Team Building bi-weekly session. Or perhaps it was also more about not wanting to do the same old thing? Regardless I thought about the power of the discussion in other classes and my own VCU based learning centered on the learner and what they already bring to the table. And I decided, why not see what they know? Why not ask them the questions about how each concept may relate to their world, why not attempt to lead them to the link between the ideas that we’d like to present to them while helping them make that connection to what they already know?

So as I cleaned up the game I now use one day after the session, I reveled in what connections they had made that others had not brought up, what new things I had learned from them and the concepts that they nodded in agreement to as I shared with them my piece of the puzzle. “Thank you for letting us share what we know and what we think for once instead of just telling us” someone said as I closed the box. I smiled understanding that while the message at the end of the day was the same, I did still cover all of the important things in my ‘lesson plan’, perhaps the learning was so much more than it used to be simply because I asked them instead of telling. Is this what Vella means? I’d like to think so. Because if it is, I can absolutely see why she emphasizes its power and importance in our field.