A Facilitation Win!

This week I was presented with a bit of a problem where I needed to a large number of employees to fill out a form for an upcoming training program. There were a few tricky fields on this form, which I knew would tie up most participants. We were also on a very tight deadline and need to have these forms submitted in a couple days.

Previous situations like this I would email the form to all participants, give them a deadline and let them know my door is open if they need help or have any questions. This usually leaves me scrambling and having to visit most employees personally taping my foot and begging them to complete.

This time I took a different approach. I set up group meetings with all participants as a working session to complete these forms. And it worked! Instead of having to spend a day or two chasing people down I was able to get this done in an hour.

This actually seems like a thing that should occur more often in situations where you need forms or paperwork completed. Not only are you making yourself available for any questions that may arise, but it also blocks time off participants calendars to specifically complete the form, so that it does not end up getting pushed to the bottom of the pile of an endless stream of more urgent tasks. Some of the participants even commented that it was a much more efficient and fun way to get this task done.

Give it a shot next time you have one of these tasks.








Experiencing Teaching

The first chapter of Brookfield’s book “The Skillful Teacher” is appropriately titled Experiencing Teaching .

From the start of this book, Brooksfield has caught me. This chapter talks about how teaching and learning is messy and unpredictable. What works for one topic may not work for another. And what works for one group of learners may not work for another group of learners. Brookfield posits that exploring our experiences as teachers can help us manage the times when are best laid plans well bomb.

Brookfield also talks about some “truths” that he has discovered about his practise through his experience. While reading these, I could not stop yelling YES! YES! This is my favourite “truth” he shares:

I will always feel like an imposter and will never lose the sense of amazement I feel when people treat me as if I have something of value to offer.

This “truth” made me giggle. Each time I get in front of a class, I feel like I’m pretending to be a teacher. This does not just stay with my teaching experience either. As a manager, I also feel like an imposter. In both these roles, I sometimes feel someone will pop out of the woodwork and expose me for the imposter I feel like I am. It is humbling to think that I am not the only person who feels this way.

This brings to mind another experience I had in the PID program: Taking the in class 3220 class. The class was a mix of professionals just entering the teaching field and others who have been teaching for years. One of the commonalities that seemed to run through the group was our anxiety of leading a lesson. We all had varying degrees of nerves, which while we get used to over time, it does not completely disappear.

In my early years of being a leader, I used to blame my imposter feelings on a lack of confidence. The more I think about confidence, the more I realize that it is pretty rare that I feel completely confident. I always thought that if I just get more experience, my confidence will fall in line. BOY was I wrong. I am still rarely confident in the conventional way that I think you’re suppose to be. What experience has changed is how I manage this confidence gap.

My reflections on confidence have lead me to my own truth: I will never be fully confident and this is part of what makes me excel in what I do, both as a manager and teacher. My confidence gap keeps me skeptical. This prompts me to closely examine my actions and performance, so that I can improve. This makes me work just that little bit harder in attempt to mimic that actions and performance of what good confidence looks like, even though my feelings may not be completely aligned.

As a final thought, this reminds me of a TEDtalk by Amy Cuddy:

While her talk is centered around body language, what really sings true and applies to this discussion is that you really can “fake it til you make it.”

We may feel isolated in our anxieties about our confidence or performance, but this in itself balances us in our practise. It can allow us to closely examine our actions and forever seek better ways of doing and improving. And to me, this is what it means to be a good teacher.











Goal Setting: Training and Job Aid

I have been working on this project to develop a performance goal setting process. In association with this process, there will also be goal setting training. The process will kick off during training with the goal setting cycle starting shortly after.

But I got thinking. In my years of business, I have seen goal setting emerge, maintain, and disappear as an organizational practise many times. Sometimes there can be practical reasons for this, such as the cycle being too frequent that it becomes onerous to maintain. Making it less frequent should then make it more likely to be sustainable…right?

I’m not so sure. Goal setting is a skill. If you don’t use it often, it could be easy to forget the best practises. And if backslide and start doling out vague or ambiguous goals, the process quickly becomes meaningless and will be dropped to save morale.

As with many, I follow and teach the SMART goal setting method. Even though this nice mnemonic should guide users to create clear goals, it can be difficult to remember the best practises associated with each element.

So it occurred to me—why can’t the goal setting form also operate as a job aid? Instead of creating a generic form that has spaces to outline the goal and deadline, why not create a form that requires users to fill out each element of SMART. Not only does this help ensure SMART goals are being created, but breaking down the goals like this on the form can help managers discuss and get employee buy in as it’s transparent.

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.


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!



Focused Conversation Model

A while ago, after a few courses requiring the use of the focused conversation model for reflective writing, I wanted to learn more as it seemed to me that it would have some interesting workplace learning applications.

What I did not expect to find was that is actual a model that was designed for the workplace! The main reference book on this topic is:

Stanfield, B., & Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. (2000). The art of focused conversation: 100 ways to access group wisdom in the workplace. Gabriola Island, B.C: New Society Publishers.

This book is a great reference guide to facilitating discussion and meetings using the focused conversation model. Along with a clear outline of the different stages (eg. Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional), it also outlines the different roles of stakeholders in the discussion. It offers guidance, tips, strategies, and advice for facilitating in a wide variety of different workplace contexts. As a reference book, it offers a sample of 100 different types of workplace conversations with suggestions on how to facilitate these conversations with the model.

I have not personally used this model in the workplace yet, but I think it would be a vary efficient way to structure meetings, particularly those meetings where some type of learning needs to occur. I think this would be very useful for analyzing the success/failure of a project. So often when we examine these situation, the focus is on facts only. The reflective component of this model allows for reactions and emotions, which as much as we try, cannot be avoided. The interpretive then allows for both the facts and emotions to be synthesized to an integrated position, with the decisional being a result of this synthesized view.

Management and Learning

Coming from a management background, it never ceases to amaze me how much overlap there is between management and teaching. In some cases, the theories are even the same. For an example, expectancy theory is popular in both fields. Even beyond topics of motivation there is much link between learning and management. Empowerment, engagement, transformative methods are all common between the two fields. While some of the models and formulations are different, there is much overlap between the two fields.

Why might this be?

In one way, you could say the overlap exists because both fields are centred on cultivating certain behaviours to achieve an end. However, this would be applicable to any field that has a social dimension. Personally, I am more interested in whether there is some innate quality between the two fields that results in similar theories and practices. I definitely have not yet found an answer to this.

The role of learning within businesses and organizations has been discussed for decades. Indeed, there are interesting links between business leaders that promote learning and success of the organizations they lead.


This short article discusses the development of organizational learning, starting with Henry Ford in developing the Model T. When researching organizational learning, it is hard to not run into quotes from Henry Ford, as learning was central to his business philosophy.

Similarly, Dale Carnegie, author of the business/sales bible “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, started his career as a teacher. After a stint in sales, he went on to write and delivery world famous workshops on effective communication and leadership techniques. See http://dale-carnegie.ca/about_us/history/

The business world is full of these stories. Indeed, one of the aims of education is to develop essential skills for employment. As skill development is a lifelong learning process this is probably why the links between education and management are so intertwined.




Preparing for Instruction 3: Motivation

Motivation just so happens to be one of my favourite topics. Through my leadership roles over the years, I’ve had the experience of working with different personalities and levels of motivation. Just like personalities, not two people are quite a like. Managing this in the workplace and classroom can be a bit of an art form.

Both in management and training, engagement is key. The lesson connections learners have to material, the less engaged they appear, and eventually that motivation will slowly seep away. Understanding what motivates individuals is important. You can tailor your content to make connections what motivates the learner. Understanding what is interesting and important is just as important, as this can allow you to create engaging material that keeps motivation high.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivators are two key concepts within the field of motivation studies in psychology, education, and even management. Extrinsic motivators are those that are external to the learner. These are external rewards, such as better job prospects or financial rewards. Intrinsic motivators, on the other hand, are internal to the learner. These can be things like ‘learning for the sake of learning’. Social connections can be both extrinsic or intrinsic, as it could both be from an internal need to socialize or for the need of external status recognition.

There is much debate on whether intrinsic or extrinsic motivators are more important in education. Adult learners could certainly be motivated by both at any given time. Any group of adult learners could reveal a mixture of both extrinsic and intrinsically motivated learners. Getting to know your class and what motivates them on an individual level can help you enable the success of all learners.

However, teachers cannot control motivation of learners. They can create engaging environments and material, but this does not guarantee learner motivation. This is the core discussion of the following article:


This article explores the phenomena of low online learning completion rates among adult learners. In some circumstances, completion rates for online classes amongst adults is 30%, while traditional classroom is over 85%. The main reason for this is lack of interaction. In a traditional classroom environment, students interact with the teacher and students. However, there are few opportunities for interactions online. Course designers can attempt to create more engaging platforms—videos, rather than just series of pages, discussion boards—to increase interaction.

Even if course platforms were more engaging, this would not guarantee motivation. Learners will naturally compare their experiences with traditional classroom, so interactions will still come up short. This does not mean the online learning industry is doomed. Rather, more development is needed. In an earlier post, I discussed Coursera and the work they are doing with MOOCs. Engaging and interactive platforms are key and many progressive developments being released constantly.

I was actually really surprised to hear that adults have low completion rates online. I personally love this style of learning. I even find them more engaging. Discussions and blogs are common assignments and I find the discussion more thoughtful and productive than my experiences in some classroom environments. The flexibility of online fits my life and I would have assumed many adults feel the same way.

Anyways, to leave on a motivational note, here’s one of my favourite TED talks of all time. Dan Ariely discusses what motivates us about work. His examples and studies give a good demonstration of the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: