For leader, managers, and heads of projects, helping people learn is a
critical contribution to both individual and organizational success. And even in tough times, employers know that job candidates are asking themselves the question, "What will I learn here?"
In between coaching sessions today I received an email request to teach an online class in January. That got my thinking about groups, learning, and design. While the final design will take into consideration more ways to impact learning, here are four that popped into mind.
Four Effects on Learning
Effect on Curiosity: For every action there's a
reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it,
talk about it, and understand what it means to them.
Practical Application: Allow
time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is
where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity
for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the
learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the
information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no
matter how eloquent you may be.
Effect on self confidence: How you deliver and
discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it.
People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all
have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a
Practical Application: Tell
the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you
hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I
don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the
group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be
framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask
a question or offer an answer.
Effect on motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew
who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and
engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And
remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.
Practical Application: Take
some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address
them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a
block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the
content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off
in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.
Effect on Creativity: Unless you're involved in
safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want
to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the
reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective
creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.
Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you
never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.
Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and
delving into the topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the
energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were
making with their co-workers and discuss next steps. When learners sit
passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not
having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really
mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting
"until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.
How about offering up some of your own experiences and some tips for the community?