The Power of Mindset

A few posts back, I posted a video about “Growth Mindset”. It’s interesting because it connects to a project I am working on for customer service training.

I was researching some different ways to approach customer service training. One of the most interesting ideas I ran into were about building a “service mindset”. A service mindset is customer focused. This seemed perfect to me as one of our values at my company is customer focus.

What really appealed to me about this “service mindset” is that it penetrates all activities. You do not have to deal with customers to be customer focused. Rather, the customer is at the heart of what every actions and choices you make. For an example, if you are a developer, you don’t work tons of hours non stop to get a promotion. Rather, you do it because that work leads to enhancing the product for customers. A truly customer focused person thinks in terms of how your actions and choices impact customers.

Another important aspect is internal dialogues. As with anything, that running dialogue we have in our head can affect how we behaviour. If you have a negative self talk before giving a presentation, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be going in with full confidence. Well, the same concept influences customers service too. If you have a negative customer dialogue, you’re setting yourself up to impact your service.

This idea of service mindset makes me think of our roles as educators. While we are all aiming to help our learners, I think there are many factors where we may not fully hit the mark when it comes to our mindset. Career pressures, different stakeholders, fatigue, and workload can all set us off course. We too need this service mindset. Our students are our customers.

In many ways, most of our practises as educators put the learner at the forefront. Most of our actions are influenced by our learners. Our textbooks and continuing education practises all emphasize the centric position of our learners. We have the impact thinking down pat! While it is woven into our practise, I think we need see this as a mindset, so we can catch any detours that come our way.



Engagement binds everything!

I have been reading a lot of books on classroom assessment and evaluation lately.

When it comes to informal assessment techniques, it is utterly shocking how many resemble student engagement techniques. In many cases, they are the exact same technique. One minute papers, exit cards, think-pair-share are just a few techniques that are both good for assessment and engagement.

I guess this begs the question–what came first? I think it’s engagement. Engagement binds all facets of the learning process. If you don’t have engagement, it is hard to have motivated learners. And it’s hard to have motivated learners if they cannot see the value in learning or their progress. Without assessment, you have learning in the blind. Without progress, it’s hard to have direction. And without direction, it is hard to improve.

Engagement is at the centre of learning. As educators we need to be committed to engagement. But engagement also asks the learner to put themselves at the centre of their learning. We can help them get there, but at the end of the day, only the learner can take the necessary steps to be engaged.

To be committed to learner centric engagement, it’s not enough to only address the way we teach things or the content we select. It also means we need to include learners in the assessment process. This is probably why many assessment techniques resemble engagement techniques.

Traps of Evaluation: Education and Management Intersect

I have been reading “The Art of Evaluation” by Fenwick and Parsons.

Amongst many different topics on evaluation, they introduce 4 traps of Evaluation

  1. Evaluating what’s easiest to measure
  2. Underestimating the learning embedded in evaluation
  3. Unexamined Power
  4. Reductionism

Upon reflecting on these ‘traps’, I realized that these are very similar to some of the difficulties in goal setting and performance evaluation.

Take good old customer service as an example. It is often very easy to report on how many phone calls or customer contacts a representative has. However, it is way more complex to measure the quality of those interactions or customer satisfaction.

In goal setting with employees, all too often we select goals that are easy to measure, rather than what is important or has value. I think this brings in reductionism too. By limiting the goals to what we can measure, we are reducing development to a tiny box. Not only will this lead to missing opportunities, but it can also affect employee engagement. Limiting the options could lead to easy or repetitive tasks and not valuing development in other areas. I’ve worked in these circumstances—it is very demotivating!

Another aspect is the learning in evaluation. All too often training in corporate environment lacks evaluation. This is a missed opportunity. It is an important tool for educators to develop better programs. Also, evaluation is valuable to learnings, as it gives them insight into the direction where they should apply more effort. Without this, it is like working in the blind, which again can be demotivating. One might argue that training is evaluated through work performance, which is fine. But all too often feedback in the workplace is scarce. Lack of feedback without fail is one of the main reasons employees look for other jobs.

Finally, power. Power is becoming one of my favourite topics in education, as you saw in my examination of “Whole Brain Teaching”. There is an inherent power authority in evaluation. Most people have some form of anxiety surrounding evaluation already, but with adults it can be all the more as they may be uncomfortable submitting to the criticism of others. Team this with other factors, such as coercive management or an authoritarian teaching style and you could have some really stressed out learners! With adults, as educators we need to look for ways to limit this unequal power. Transparency in the evaluation is a good first step.

Evaluation, whether employee performance or learning, is an important tool. Personally, I see it as a tool for growth and development. Avoiding these traps is important to keep with that philosophy.

One of my professors sent me a link in relation to this topic. Growth mindset–check it out!



Reflecting on Facilitating Forum Discussions

While I am technically done my instructional strategies course and thus do not have an obligation or incentive to maintain my blog…I…am…going…to try. That’s right one of my quasi new year’s resolutions is to maintain this blog–quasi meaning I made it up right now.

Anyways, I wanted to share a passage from my reflection on facilitating forum discussions. The experience of leading a forum discussion led to some deep insights regarding learning and the role of facilitation vs participation.

One of the things I found very interesting is that the more we engaged in the topic as a group the more controversial the technique became. Some of the first posts were polite with participants indicating they may try that method. By the end of the forum, most people where either firmly for or against the technique. I think this is an important insight about learning. At first learners may have surface reactions/commentary about a topic. However, by probing with questions, the learner needs to reconsider those insights and begins to articulate an opinion. It was quite remarkable to watch this in action, while also experiencing it myself.

This insight also leads to an important insight about facilitation. While the forum is a vey self-directed activity, without facilitation it would not lead to the kind of deep learning I described above. Most people would just state their initial reactions and comments, then move on. Facilitation adds challenge to the learner’s view, so that they reflect more, articulate, and refine their view. Facilitation encourages learners to become more invested in the topic, rather than passively acknowledging the topic exists.

This also highlights the difference between facilitation and participation. As a participant, you have not obligation challenge another participant’s view. Even when you do challenge another participants view, it is usually to put forward your own perspective which may be in conflict. However, as a facilitator you have an obligation to challenge participants. The nature of the challenge is different too. It’s not to demonstrate another perspective or correct, but to lead the learner to think deeper.

This insight is quite important to me, as I have often struggled with seeing the purpose of my role. I am a strong believer in self-directed/regulated study. My most enriching experiences as a learner have been self-directed. I also prefer distance and online classes. And I think the ultimate goal is for everyone to be as comfortable as I am with self-directed/regulated. But doesn’t such a strong belief like this eventually lead to defeating the purpose for teachers?

Yes and No. It changes the role of teachers. The more self-directed/regulated, the more the role becomes one of a supporter/challenger. As a self-directed/regulated facilitator, you are an expert in learning and challenging, not the content or subject.

Before this insight, rather than asking doesn’t my philosophy defeat teacher, I should have been asking “why do I as a self-directed/regulated learner keep returning to institutionalized learning when I could do it on my own?” Hopefully, it’s not because I have to buy my friends.



Needs Analysis: Dead ends become forks

I had an interesting experience recently. I was asked to look into an issue that may lead to either a coaching or training need. The subject matter was in my area of expertise, so as I began my needs analysis, I was finding much of what I expected. Some job aids and a refresher and all should be good.

But then I was chasing what normally should be a dead end. Instead of getting my quick fix like I expected, I discovered that there were actually more stakeholders that should be involved in this project.

We often take fore granted how intertwined departments are within an organization. This is why need analysis is important. Without it, you could be only addresses part of the issue. You could also unintentionally create issues elsewhere in the organization. And worse of all–you could end up creating training that is not valuable or needed.


E-learning Infographic

I ran into a neat infographic today on what people love and hate about E-learning.

Yesterday, I wrote a blog about engagement and e-learning. Engagement definitely plays a role in what people love and hate about e-learning.

One of my takeways from yesterday’s blog was that we cannot forget about the basics of teaching. Demonstrating the learning’s value is still important, regardless of how interactive the content is. This infographic shows the importance of value throughout.

Finally, an interesting point in this infographic is accessibility. Learners are looking for content that is compatible with all devices. However, accessibility can also be a downside, as there are times when we may be away from the internet and thus content cannot be accessed.

interesting thoughts.

Triad Listening

Check out a colleague of mine’s digital project on Triad Listening:

I really appreciate this video’s short and sweetness. Sometimes I find videos a bit too long. Typically anything over 2 minutes, I’m going to be looking for something to do in addition to watching the video or at least something to click on. When I watch a TEDtalk, I’ll generally have some data entry or other ‘low thinking’ task to do while watching the video. I don’t know if this means I have a short attention span, but it does make me a bad movie date.

Or maybe I need to practise some Triad listening! This strategy is one of those strategies that I breezed over when I first read about it. But after reflecting, this would be a fantastic strategy for teaching customer service. We often use role play to practise customer service. What I like about triad listening over role play is the addition of the referee. Not only does this ensure that things stay on track, but it encourages more self assessment via peer assessment, rather than relying on the facilitator.

Definitely going to try this one sometime when I have the opportunity.

E-learning and Engagement

As you’ve probably guessed from previous blogs, I am a huge fan of technology and e-learning. I was born right at the intersection of Gen X and Millennial generations, so I’ve spent most of my adult life immersed in technology. I also work in technology, so it’s ingrained in most things I do.

This means that when it comes to being an educator I’m always looking for ways to incorporate technology. When it comes to education, I also think face time is declining. There are so many factors that make face time difficult. For an example, in my company, our employees are spread across different timezones and locations, so it can be difficult to facilitate anything synchronously. This has led me to bridge more into e-learning development.

I think my predisposal to e-learning may have gone a little crazy. While I’m always thinking ‘is this an interactive project?’ when creating content, I have forgotten some of the basics of teaching–the why and motivation. Sure my content is pretty and interactive, but what ensures learners actually engage with the material? This is a drawback with e-learning.

While I have an LMS that I can track adherence to assignments, I need to spend more time showing learners the value of learning. There’s nothing wrong with the content I’m creating–it is fabulous! But I need to contextualize and vary the methodoly.

I think it can be easy to get lost in the technology. Technology is not bad. It is and will continue to become an important part of our lives. However, we can’t lose sight of the basics. Teaching is more than content creation.


The Question of Power in the Classroom


I’ve been pondering the role of power in the classroom since investigating “Whole Brain Teaching”.

I’m not a fan of hierarchal power structures. Even as a manager, I would describe myself as a servant manager. As an educator, I’m a facilitator or even partner in learning.

I attribute a lot of this to my feminist rearing. But also it’s a very contemporary view not in education, but also management and even economics.

But what sort of effect does power have on learning? Is there any benefit to reducing the hierarchy of the classroom?

Actually there is! There is evidence that autonomy affects level of motivation and mastery. Daniel Pink is a big proponent of the link between intrinsic motivation, autonomy, and mastery, which is described in this video:

So autonomy is important. But can we ever eliminate the hierarchy in the classroom? As much as we try, typically there still needs to be a teacher. To answer this, I think we need feminist pedagogy. Feminist Pedagogy looks to challenge hierarchies in the classroom. I found an interesting article that discusses how to limit the power imbalance in the classroom:

This article acknowledges the power that is inherent in the existence of a ‘roster’, but suggests this can be overcome by introduces democracy to the classroom. Interestingly, this can be achieved with many of the teaching strategies I’ve discussed in this blog. The key is to balance engagement and ensure that all views are heard and that no one person dominates the class.

Feminist Pedagogy shares many of qualities with other contemporary perspectives, such as transformative and andragogy. But it also acts to disrupt hierarchies and dominance, which has many benefits for learning. It makes me wonder why this perspective it is  missing (or just glanced over) from most textbooks on adult learning.



What’s really interesting about the feminist pedagogical perspective is that it shares a lot of qualities with other contemporary views, such as andragogy and transformative learning.

Personality, the Gogies, and Whole Brain Teaching

So who was Whole Brain Teaching made for? Is it more effective on certain personality types (ie. extroverts)? Is this technique suitable for adult learners?

When I saw my first Whole Brain Teaching video, I was pretty immediately uncomfortable. I know as a student I would not be able to tolerate it–I would look to escape or drop the course. As an instructor, I would also be uncomfortable delivering lessons using this  technique. But I don’t necessarily trust my opinion. I am an introvert, so a loud, super quick paced activity like this would be difficult.

Through the forum I am facilitating and sharing the video with friends, it seems the consensus is that this technique would alienate introverts. There is a mix of reactions–some would run like me, while others may ‘play along’, mouthing the prompts much like the back row of a church choir. What surprised me though is that extroverts also do not love this. So there appears to be more than just the loud, quick pace that detracts learners and instructors from this method.

While proponents of this method claim that this technique can be used in any class, I think this is more suitable as a pedagogical technique. You can find examples of uses in the college classroom (I posted one in a previous blog), but this technique violates many of the assumptions we make about adult learners. The big ones for me is adult learners are self-directed. In this technique, the teacher controls almost everything, leaving little room for self-directed or autonomous behaviour. A common reaction from people seeing this method for the first time is that it is ‘childish’, which I would have to agree.

So it appears that the idea audience for Whole Brain Teaching is very narrow. As a class management teachnique, it seems to be created more for teachers than students. To me employing this technique for any extended period, would be a risk.