March 25, 2012
Design Principles for 5-Star Learning
When a workshop’s emphasis is on facilitating participant learning instead of delivering the presenter’s information, a very different exchange of value occurs. It is this value-added payout that every presenter should strive for in a session Here are five simple principles to help you do so.
L everage the knowledge and insights of participants in the session.
It is important to facilitate peer-peer learning and idea exchange whenever possible. Ask for participant lessons learned and success stories. Do simple “show of hand” or cellphone polls to gauge your audience and their efforts. Create a Twitter wall where people can contribute ideas or insights or have people physically post them around the room and invite participants to take a "gallery walk." Invite individuals to share ideas that complement your suggestions or that provide completely different perspectives. One of my favorite activities to do with smaller groups is to invite an individual to stand and announce something they want to learn or a challenge they are facing. I then ask everyone who could help that person to stand up or raise their hands. Such a simple technique helps people immediately see the peer power that they can connect with during breaks, meals, and after the session.
E ngage individuals in meaningful reflection and practical application of the session content.
Ideally this occurs not only at the end of the session (one of its logical placements) but also throughout your program. Periodically ask people to distill what is being discussed and to identify the most relevant points for their future efforts ... in other words, the so what and now what of the content. Doing so can help increase the amount of content transfer. Here's a simple way to do so: Ask individuals to note on an index card one idea or insight from the session and how they are going to use it. Now do a rapid read and pass where people trade cards and read others' takeaways. Then engage all participants in some brief large group facilitated discussion.
A llow sufficient time for participants to interact with and apply the session content through group discussion, interactive exercises, case studies, and other engaging formats.
The level of participant engagement for any teaching technique can always be increased. Example: a lecture with fill-in-the-blank handouts is more engaging than straight lecture. For every content segment in your presentation identify multiple ways you can bring that content to life. Then examine the mix of techniques you are using and ensure a healthy level of engagement throughout your program. Here is a simple design grid I use for creating my own presentations. Thiagi's free monthly newsletter is also a great source for interactive teaching techniques.
R egularly help participants move from theory to practice to theory, offering not just nuts and bolts pointers, but also the concepts and questions behind them.
Participants want quick fixes and easy-to-use solutions. But without understanding how the answers were derived, they have only a short-term solution for a specific situation. Ensure your session content regularly travels the continuum between principle and practice, as well as single-loop and double-loop learning. Provide both practical ideas for immediate use, abut also the questions and concepts that will serve participants well over time if you help them understand how to adopt, adapt, and apply them.
N ever fail to offer examples and ideas inclusive of the diverse needs and experiences of session participants.
You can’t treat everyone the same if they truly are different, and chances are, participants in your session will be diverse in many ways. Make sure you offer a mix of examples ... for different types of meetings, for different types of organizations, for different job functions, etc. Commit to quoting and referencing diverse individuals and organizations as well. The latter requires that you conduct an affirmative search for more diverse content sources, not just default to the most popular or most easily discovered.
Need more tips? Here's an article that summarizes my overall approach to presentation design in more detail. On August 20, I'll be doing a very hands-on design workshop based on this article in Washington DC. Complete this form to receive registration information in early June.
I once did many things for many people: strategy, speaking, program development, workshop design and more. I still do so in limited quantities while on an extended writing sabbatical writing, Say Yes Less: Why It Matters and How To Do It..