Facilitating the Shift from Passive Listening to Active Learning

On the one end of “The Learner Participation Continuum” is lecture which is a one way communication and requires very little participation.  At the other end, we have experiential learning and now immersive learning environments with the introduction of 3D graphics, virtual simulations and augmented reality.

In the middle of the range are effective “lectures” and alternate methods such as:

  • Demonstrations
  • Case Study
  • Guided Teaching
  • Group Inquiry
  • Read and Discuss
  • Information Search.

Shift one step to right to begin the move to active learningNow before you insist that the SME as Facilitator move to the far right and conduct only immersive sessions, a word of caution is in order. It’s really about starting with the learners’ expectations and the current organizational culture and then moving one step to the right. If they are used to lectures from SMEs, then work on delivering effective lectures before experimenting with alternate training methods. The overnight shift may be too big of a change for the attendees to adjust to despite their desire for no more boring lectures. Small incremental steps is the key.

How is this done? Upfront in the design of the course materials. The course designers have spent time and budget to prepare a leaders guide that captures their vision for delivering the course.  SMEs as Facilitators (Classroom SMEs) need to study the leader’s guide and pay attention to the icons and notes provided there. These cues indicate the differentiation from lecture, to an activity whether that be self, small group, or large group. While it may be tempting to skip exercises to make up for lost time, it is better for learner participation to skip lecture and modify an activity if possible.

During the knowledge transfer session/ discussion with the course designer and/or instructor, Classroom SMEs make notes of how the instructor transitions from one slide to the next and how s/he provided instruction for the activity. This is a good time for Classroom SMEs to ask how to modify content or an activity if certain conditions should occur. Especially important for SMEs to ask is what content is critical and what content can be skipped if time runs short. It is always a good idea for the Classroom SME to mark-up his/her copy of the materials. And then again after the first delivery to really make it their own leader’s guide. -VB

Speaking of personalizing their leaders’ guide, SMEs may want to experiment with different ways to “open a session” to get experience with a variety of techniques and observe which ones yield better results.

Moving from Lecture to Delivering an EFFECTIVE Lecture

While lecture has its merits, today’s learners want engaging content that is timely, relevant and meaningful. Yet, most SMEs tend to suffer from the “curse of too much knowledge” and find it difficult to separate the need-to- know from the nice-to-know content.

Presenting for them takes on a lecture style format. The thought of facilitating an activity gives most SME a case of jitters and anxiety.  So, in the HPISC. “SME as Facilitator” workshop, attendees are encouraged to step away from the podium and use their eyes, hands and voice to engage with their audience. Easier said than done, yes. That’s why the course is designed to allow them to take small steps within the safety of a workshop environment.

But rather than trying to pull off a fully immersive session, SMEs as Facilitators are introduced to techniques that “liven up” the lecture. They are shown how to move back and forth from passive (sit, hear, see) to active involvement (write, construct, discuss, move, speak). This requires the ability to:

  • follow a well organized design plan
  • capture and hold attention of learners
  • use relevant examples and deviations if possible
  • show authentic enthusiasm
  • involve audience both directly and indirectly
  • respond to questions with patience and respect.

Great presentations are like great movies. They open with an attention-seeking scene, have drama and conflict in the middle so you stick around long enough to see the hero survive and they close on a memorable note. Using the movie analogy, a SME as Facilitator can open the session with something more than his/her bio. They can pick a notable career achievement that most folks aren’t aware of.  Keeping the interest alive, the SME can then draw the connection of content to the audience and address the WIIFM question on everyone’s mind. (WIIFM = What’s in it for me?)

While we don’t need to add to anyone’s stress load, overcoming conflict makes for great story telling. Case studies, major CAPAs, deviations and audit observations make it real life. Use of visuals especially diagrams is visually appealing to learners and keeps them engaged. (CAPA= Corrective Actions Preventive Action Investigations)

Thoroughness in the preparation reflects care and thoughtfulness. Learners appreciate the personal desire to deliver a more lively lecture. Therefore, I like to use the concept of a lecturette; 10 minute blocks of time to chunk up complex topics. Interspersing a 10—15 minute lecture segment with an activity whether self, small group or stand up at the flipchart, gives learners the opportunity to engage with new and/or more complex content in smaller doses.

Stepping away from the podium forces the SME to take action and allow the learners to “get up close” with the SME as Facilitator. This in turn is reflected in the learners desire to respond to questions and dialogue during a facilitated discussion. The rule of thumb for lecturing is approximately 20 minutes max. But with today’s technology buzzing away at your fingertips or on the tabletop, I’d say more like 10 or 15 minutes max if you are an engaging facilitator.

difference between a novice and wise teacher

Remember, the goal of a session is to maximize retention of the audience, not just tell them the content. Attendees learn more if the SME as Facilitator can focus their attention on the topic and deliver content that is relevant to their work situation. Involving the learners in a variety of ways is the key to effective lectures and great presentations. – VB

You might also want to get up to speed with current trend for SMEs – check out the blog post – Are your SMEs becoming duo purposed? Comments welcomed.

Moving from Presenter Controlled Training to Learner Focused Facilitation

The more trainer/instructor driven the course is, the less participation is required from the learner. For example, the instructor makes all the decisions about the course objectives and content, develops the course, delivers the course and conducts the assessment.

As you move along the Learner Participation Continuum, the
learner is required to participate more and the trainer does less “talking”. The learner acquires knowledge and skills through activities that s/he experiences with the assistance of a “facilitator”.  The facilitator is focused on helping the learners meet their needs and interests. It is through these first hand experiences and facilitated dialogue with other learners that thoughtful analysis and interpretation can become the focus of the instruction. The end result is that learners take full responsibility for decisions, actions and consequences.

Moving to a more Learner Controlled approach shifts the focus of the design from “deliver this content” to facilitate learning transfer for performance back on the job; which is after all the end goal for a training event. The new program includes opportunities for group participation, utilization of participants’ expertise and real life problem solving.

Learners are prompted to openly discuss issues and problems within the “learning lab”. Trainers become empathetic listeners as they create a climate of trust and safety. They become a Facilitator.

Of course, this shift also requires that site leadership and local management not only support the facilitated learning lab concept, but follow through on issues and concerns that surface. Failure to do so undermines not only the facilitator’s credibility but the entire training program. Wow, won’t this take longer to design, you ask?  Yes, in the sense that the design is now from the learner’s point of view. This means that the designer will need to research examples, collect data, and develop a story from an incident, a deviation or significant CAPA, etc.

The reward is that the Classroom SME stops talking and gives employees more engaging learning sessions. So learners become more accountable for participating and guess what – the SME’s session is no longer a boring podium speech. — VB

Silberman, M. (1990). Active Training: A Handbook of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples, and Tips.  Lexington Books, New York.

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

“Learning on the fly” or is this what they meant by the Agile Learning Model?

When Rapid Design for E Learning found its way into my vocabulary, I loved it and all the derivatives like rapid prototyping.  And soon, I starting seeing Agile this and Agile that.  It seemed that Agile was everywhere I looked.  When Michael Allen published his book, LEAVING ADDIE for SAM, I was intrigued and participated in an ATD (formerly known as ASTD) sponsored webinar.  It made a lot of sense to me and “I bought into the concept”.  Or so I thought …

 

A few weeks back, I joined a project that was already in-progress and had to “hit the ground running to get caught up to speed”.  The element of urgency was the anticipation of a post FDA visit following a consent decree.   If you’ve experienced this “scene” before, you can relate to the notion of expedited time.   As part of remediation efforts, training events needed to be conducted.  I learned during a meeting sometime my first week, I was to be the trainer.  Okay, given my background and experience, that made sense.  Sure, in a few weeks when we have the new procedure in place, I’d be happy to put the training materials together, is what I was thinking.  Wait – in two weeks?  Are you kidding me?  I’m not the SME and I don’t even have the software loaded on my laptop yet.  Well, some cleaned up version of those words was my response.

 

But what about all that buzz for rapid design and prototyping I’ve been reading about?  In theory, I totally bought it.  But, this is different I argued with myself.  This is compliance with a quality system for a company who is undergoing transformative change as a result of a consent decree!  I teach GMP Basics and conduct Annual GMP Refreshers several times a year and preach to audiences that you must follow the procedure otherwise it’s a deviation.  And in less than two weeks, I am expected to teach a process that is changing daily!   Yet on the other hand, how could I teach a work instruction that is known to be broken; is being re-designed and not yet finalized?  Stay tuned for a future blog about how I overcame this dilemma.

 

My bigger issue was to get out of my own design way.  I’m classically schooled in *ADDIE and with 25+ years as an instructional designer, very comfortable with how to design, develop and deliver training.  All I needed was more time and it hit me!  I was so focused on what I needed, that I was missing the urgency of the learners’ needs.  It was time to put theory into practice and take the agile plunge into the domain of the unknown.

 

By shifting the prioritization away from perfectly designed classes with pristine training materials, I was able to diagnose that the need was to get the learners into a live classroom.   They needed to see the database software in action and “play in the sandbox”; the training materials could follow afterwards.  I shifted my role to facilitator and found the true SMEs to navigate the software screens and explain how to complete field transactions.  To my surprise and delight, trainer-wannabes volunteered to paste screen shots into participant worksheets so they could take notes.  I became a scribe and worked on sequencing these pages for the next round of attendees.  Together, we all collaborated to meet the urgent need of the learners.   And we documented it!  Once they had the tour and sand-box time, the learners were paired up with a buddy for guided instruction of real entry into the live system.  The following week, the department was able to go live with a project plan that focused on a series of interim roles, changed roles and transitioning responsibilities within established roles.  The project launched on time to meet commitments promised to the agency.

 

It was energizing and empowering for the learners. A truly collaborative experience for the SMEs and the biggest surprise of all was that they thanked me.  Me?  I did not deliver the training; I was not the SME nor did I provide perfect training materials.   If I had pursued my classically trained ADDIE technique, we’d still be waiting to deliver those sessions.  However, I’m not ready to throw ADDIE over board yet.  She has served me well and continues to be an appropriate technique in most of my training needed situations.

 

My lesson learned was this: when the need is for speed and the design is not the key focus, I need to give up control to the SMEs and Learners and focus on facilitating the best learning experience given the daily change challenges and system constraints.   Is this “learning on the fly” or agile learning in practice?  You decide.

 

*NOTE: ADDIE = Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Deliver – classic phases of Instructional Systems Design (ISD) Technique.