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Category Archives: training

About my Whereabouts…

Dear Readers of this Dear Blog-o-mine,

In the recent times, you haven’t seen many new posts on this blog (fine…I stand corrected. You haven’t seen ANY new post in a while!) I am sorry for my inordinately long absence. However, I’d like to present my excuse for your assessment. I’ve been kept busy by Creative Agni – the eZine for Instructional Design and eLearning and Creative Agni’s two Instructional Design Courses.

I invite you to click the following links to see what I’ve been busy with.

You can visit the Creative Agni Home page here.

I am organizing a Free Instructional Design Workshop on January 29, 2012. Click the following link to read about the workshop.

I will write more regularly now because if I don’t, my mind will explode with all the Cognitive Psychology stuff I’ve been reading. The only way to save my sanity would be to share what I learn, and so I’d be back soon:)

Best Wishes,

Shafali

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Creative Agni eZine, Sloth & Froth, and Some ID Fiction.

The Creative Agni eZine notification was sent out today. I know that it should’ve been done earlier, but I just couldn’t get down to wrapping it up until this morning.

If you haven’t subscribed to it, you can do so here.

I should say that there are two posts (among many others) that I would really love to share with my blog-readers.

  1.  A Short Story – Dushyant & Shakuntala – Why Love kills Logic?
  2. Sloth & Froth Comics – Teamwork Training and Decision-making

While you are there, you can also explore rest of the site and also meet Coffeebeans the Pup.

 

 

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Announcing the birth of the Creative Agni Instructional Design and eLearning eZine

I’d like to invite the readers of this blog to the Creative Agni eZine site. It was designed in my after-work hours. Those extra hours took their toll on my neck and shoulders, but when I was done, I felt that  it was all worthwhile 🙂

The Creative Agni eZine has the following five sections.

  • ID Fiction
  • The IDEAL
  • ELearning
  • The Creative Lounge
  • Sloth & Froth

Do visit the eZine site here. If you like what you see there, subscribe to the Creative Agni eLearning eZine 🙂

 

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Walking the Tightrope between Structure & Flexibility – from Design to Implementation

In my previous post, I raised a question that was inspired by an IDCWC Online Course Participant. The question was, “Is Design an Inhibitor?

I received a detailed thought-provoking response to that question from Tricia Pottratz. You can visit her new but promising blog “Tricia’s Teacher Toolbox” here. Thank you, Tricia.

Here are Tricia’s thoughts.

Having designed many classes myself, I understand where you are coming from.  Curriculum seems to take on a life of its own.  Once written, it becomes what the instructor deems it to be.  I think a big part of that comes from two sources: who you are designing for and what your objectives are.  I work for a multi-million dollar for-profit corporation with campuses all across the United States.  Before our small campus was purchased, instructors had the academic freedom to modify curriculum to meet their needs while still teaching to the objectives. The key was in keeping the objectives simple and few.

Since the buyout, the curriculum has evolved.  The first revision was similar to the original, but the coming revision is vastly different.  Sadly, the objectives are many and room for changes is few.  The idea is to create uniformity across the company; however the result is that the company’s curriculum does not leave much room for interpretation or regional flavor.

The solution depends on the parameters.  If you have any flexibility or say in the curriculum, I would suggest creating simple objectives, which leave the instructor the room for interpretation.  A really good article at http://itdl.org/journal/sep_05/article03.htm suggests that to be effective at brain-based learning, instructors should incorporate 4 basic things: memory and retrieval, learning styles, attention, and emotion (Clemons, 2005).  I find that in order to accomplish those goals it is important to offer a variety of media and classroom activities that vary in size and scope.

The other two-edged sword in education is the rubric.  As an instructor and as a student, I love the fact that it sets specific parameters.  The dilemma is still the same: the more specific the objectives, the less creative the project.  I have found that the only way to overcome this is to allow for students to develop the rubrics themselves.  After all, if you give a template, they will only follow the template.  This line of thinking also works in the classroom: if the students design the projects (based on the learning objectives) they become more emotionally involved and willing to go further with the project than I would have ever expected.

A friend of mine also suggested going with a tiered learning system. Her argument is that it gives options for the students while still ensuring the quality of the project is within the set parameters.  My problem with tiered learning systems is that it is not always feasible and can create conflict in the classroom.  I am more for offering options with a similar difficulty level instead of varying the levels.  In that way the “slower” student does not feel like they are being singled out and the “quick learner” is not feeling like it is unfair in the classroom.

Have you ever had any luck with tiered learning in the classroom?  If so, I would love to hear about it.

Sincerely,

Tricia Pottratz, BS, LMP

I attempted to address Tricia’s question by sketching a paradigm with two basic assumptions. 1. The learners are all adult learners. 2. The learners constitute a heterogeneous group, especially in terms of their existing skills and/or their ability to learn.

I believe that the answer has to be chiseled out from the goal of a training program. What is it that you want to achieve for your group? Notice that I don’t speak of what the learners want to achieve, but what “you, a representative of the learning provider” wish to achieve.

Let me illustrate through three simple examples:

1. You wish to orient the learners towards a new corporate policy.
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This is a lower level goal of awareness generation. You might want to use a tiered system here. You can create your learning groups on the basis of individual motivation and learning ability. At least everyone would take away something. As you won’t be grading their performance in this sort of program, you will possibly see a lot of happy faces at the end of your training.

2. You wish to train the learners on a specific role-based skill so that they can do their job proficiently.
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I don’t think that a tiered system will help you achieve you goal in this case. You need everyone to reach approximately the same level in the new skill. Eventually everyone might not reach the desired level, but then you’d like to see the distribution of marks and ensure that only those who reach the required level of competency are certified to do the job.

However if your program is flexible enough to accommodate the slow learners by allowing them additional practice/time, tiered learning may work. (We should also review the impact of this on learner motivation and individual egos.)

3. You wish to train the learners for a skill that demands accuracy and precision (for instance: a career in medicine?)
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Attempt to take all the learners to the same level, and use the rubrics wisely to grade the post-training skills. Sometimes the assessments have to be done against very specific objectives. I think that creativity is related more to the content-type than to the specificity of the objectives – especially when you create the learning and reinforcement activities.

I should also mention that I completely agree with Tricia’s belief that allowing the learners to participate in the creation of the assessment rubrics is a double-edged sword. I think it could work well with a group of mature and motivated participants, but not otherwise.

I know that heterogeneous groups are a reality and this reality contradicts the dream that every trainer and instructional designer has, which is 100% learning effectiveness.

A Note for the regular readers, who might’ve been wondering why my previous two posts have been replete with ATDs:  I guess my excuses are the same as the ones given by everyone else – I was too tired and a little ill, and then I was busy trying to meet the deadlines for my deliverables and delivering on my promises – but then, excuses don’t help, do they? So, I spent some time going through whatever I had written and removed the ATDs …thanks to a cup of coffee and the zoom-in capability of my new laptop. I prefer not to get my stuff edited (for better or for worse, this is how I write,) so bear with me…and ignore the bad to focus on the good 🙂

 

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Social Influence – Part III – How Social Influence can be Applied by a Trainer?

This is the third and the final post in this series on Social Influence.

Our discussion so far tells us about the existence and impact of Social Influence. In a classroom, it can become a debilitating force when exerted by a disruptive participant. It can also alter the behavior of the participants for no “apparent” reason, thus, making it important for the trainer to understand the social under-currents in a classroom to ensure learning effectiveness.

Let us look at the six important factors of SI, once again; and review them from a trainer’s viewpoint.

  • Charisma
  • Reputation
  • Manipulation
  • Peer Pressure
  • Emotion
  • Authority

Of the six factors of SI that we learned about through the previous post in this series, Charisma and Reputation reside with the trainer, and the trainer can use them to exert a positive, directional influence on the class. The trainer needs to aware of Manipulation, Peer Pressure, and Emotion, so that he or she may identify their presence in a classroom and take appropriate measures. Authority is a factor that is always present with the trainer, but the trainer needs to use it with care.

Here’s how each of these factors could work in a trainer’s favor.

Charisma:

In the previous post of this series, we discussed the charismatic participant, who automatically begins to exert a certain influence on the other participants in the class. Now, let’s see how charisma becomes a trainer’s ally. If you are already a trainer, chances are, you already possess a certain charisma. This charisma could be a product of your good looks, your quick wit, your body language, your good dress sense, and/or your ability to tastefully and subtly make a statement of affluence.

Hidden in the above statement are clues to enhancing your charisma. If you think that you don’t look good, work on your looks. Reflect upon the possibility of a gym-membership, or a visit to a beauty parlor! If you think you aren’t quick-witted enough, read up anecdotes and practice them upon your unsuspecting relatives. Dress well for your training programs, improve your posture along with rest of your body language, and of course, don’t look like a pauper when you walk into the classroom. You must be a cool dude, who prefers to wear Bermudas and who sports a tattoo on his neck, you might want to wear tee-shirts to the training program – resist your urge. Wear good clothes, sensible shoes, a formal watch; and women trainers, please wear the bare minimum of jewelry – make an impact! Be charismatic!

Reputation:

This is simple to understand, though somewhat difficult to apply. Build your reputation – not so much as a trainer, but as an expert in the area in which you train. For instance, if you are a Communications Trainer, you should be considered an expert in that area. Expertise will help you exert a very strong influence on the class. The cognitive dissonance will be reduced substantially, if not eliminated completely. Your expertise will help you make your training programs more efficient.

If, however, you are not an expert (nor have willingness to become one – especially in the current era of multi-skilling,) bring the “knowledge of experts” to your classroom. Learn about the subject, and what the experts have to say about it. It will lead to similar though not equally strong influence.

Manipulation, Peer Pressure, and Emotion:

I am taking them up together, because I don’t think that a trainer can do a lot with these factors, but I believe that their awareness could help the trainer reduce friction and improve harmony in the classroom.

The first step is, of course, identification.

Try to identify:

  • the possible manipulator.
  • people who’d given to peer-pressure and groupthink.
  • People who might have an emotional connection with one another.

Now,

  • Restrain the manipulator, by taking charge and letting the class realize that your SI is greater than the prospective manipulator’s.
  • Raise the confidence levels of people who might succumb to peer-pressure. Motivate them to ask questions for seeking clarifications.
  • Establish physical distance between people with emotional connections.

Authority:

As a trainer you are always equipped with Authority. Authority is the greatest of influencers. Wars would never be fought if it weren’t for authority, terrorism would vanish from the face of our dear Earth, if not for authority! On the other hand, no organization would be able to create value in the absence of Authority.

Thus, with Authority, the issue has more to with its usage. How should you use the authority that comes with being a trainer?

I’d recommend staying aware of the flip side, and reviewing the feedback to determine whether your authority is being received positively or not.

Authority will make the participants do what you ask them to do (remember the Milgram Experiment?), but whether or not they do it willingly is a question that you need to answer…and then ask yourself, whether unwilling participation is better than willing non-participation!

I guess that there’s a lot a trainer can achieve by understanding and then using Social Influence correctly.

 

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Social Influence – Part 1 – Definition, Explanation, Factors/Forces!

This is a 3-post series on the nature of Social Influence and its impact in a Classroom.

As classroom trainers, we could make our training programs more effective if we could find the answers to questions such as the ones listed below:

  • Why some people become leaders and other followers?
  • Why a bully might be capable of disrupting a classroom full of adult learners?
  • Why it’s difficult to regain lost learner engagement?

There’s a long list of whys that can be answered only if we understand the concept of Social Influence.

So,

What is Social Influence?

Before I fall into the trap of defining it in a crisp and concise way and lose your attention in the process, let me take you on a trip into your past.

  • As a teenaged girl, you wouldn’t step out of your house in something that went out of fashion two years ago.
  • As a teenaged boy, you had to be part of the cool-dude group in your college.
  • As a daughter, you had to comply with your mother’s rules about the time you got home.

These or similar experiences happened because we were “socially influenced” – by the group of girls in the college, by those uber-cool dudes you were friends with, and by your own mother!

Social influence – The Definition:

Thus Social Influence can be understood as the influence that society (social groups, friends, family, and others) exerts either deliberately or unintentionally, and which brings about changes in someone’s behavior.

Social Influence – Factors / Forces:

As it’s clear from the above definition, Social Influence has many dimensions and it factors in different forces.

Some of these forces are:

When we as individuals come across such forces, we change our behavior.  Let us take some examples:

Charisma as a Factor:

A charismatic person (the religious guru, the motivational speaker) might be able to influence our thought process by saying those very things that we’ve been hearing all our lives but never paid heed to.

Authority as a Factor:

Similarly a person who has some kind of authority recognized by the society (a policeman, a teacher, a doctor) can make us do things that we would probably never do if we didn’t know of their authority.

Groupthink as a Factor:

Members of group often begin to accept the majority view (despite their own views being different) because they don’t want a conflict.

Reflect upon the other three factors – it isn’t difficult to see how they influence the behavior of people, all the time:)

I’ll discuss more about these forces and how they manifest themselves in a classroom in my next post. Until then, keep an eye on what’s happening around you. I am confident that you’ll find many examples of social influence strewn around you as you navigate your way through your day.

 

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Post-Training Stress, The Need for Perfection, and an Absence of Self-Acceptance!

If you think that I am over-stepping the boundaries of Cognitive Psychology and entering into the realm of Clinical Psychology, you are mistaken.

I am here – right where I belong. I am standing amidst trainers, content writers, and other learning professionals – I am where I belong…and yes, I am talking about Stress and Self-Acceptance.

I am talking about it because these are the realities of our lives.

A trainer who trains others to handle work-related stress experiences loads of it herself. The normal stress-busters don’t apply to her – her stress originates from something else…and unfortunately she has to face it after every training program she conducts. Her stress is repetitive, and hence a lot more damaging. It can quickly result in fissures, which can suddenly give way, rendering her completely helpless.

My focus today is the stress that every trainer experiences post-training.

Let us begin by understanding two terms:

  • Stress
  • Self-Acceptance

Stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain,”  and it manifests itself as a disorder when it begins to cause physical problems such as palpitation, perspiration, muscular tension, constipation, excessive hunger…and so on.

Self-Acceptance is “an acceptance of yourself as you are, warts and all

Now if you’ve got the two terms right, let us define our problem, determine its root-causes, and try to get rid of all the training-related stress that’s been plaguing our lives.

Important:

If you are a trainer, and if you are experiencing any of the physical symptoms listed above, you should go through this article.

Let’s first see why a trainer experiences stress!

Why Trainers experience Stress?

The trainer:

  • is uncomfortable with the act of delivering trainings and doesn’t like to interface with people.
  • doesn’t know the subject well and conducts the training in fear of not being able to deliver.
  • has a morbid fear of hecklers and while he trains he obsesses about one or more of the participants turning hecklers.
  • assumes that there are people in the group who know more than he/she does of the content, and that he’d be laughed at behind his back.
  • is a perfectionist and fears the possibility that a few/some/many of the participants might not be happy with his training.

There could be other reasons too – but then they’d probably be related to the root causes for the stress.

The Two Root Causes of Stress among Trainers:

Let us understand both these root causes:

  • the absence of Self-Acceptance and
  • the denial of diversity in the audience.

When we step into the shoes of a trainer, we aim for perfection. We want to be the best of trainers. We don’t want to go wrong. Unfortunately we aren’t God. We are humans – and as humans, we have our own set of “perceived” deficiencies. Here are some examples:
See if you can connect with any of these.

  1. Vocabulary issues (I don’t have a huge vocabulary)
  2. Posture issues (I slouch)
  3. Candidness issues (I can’t mince words)
  4. Temperament issues (I lose patience)
  5. Content issues (I don’t know the content)
  6. Personality issues (I hate being a trainer)

Though the list can go on – do you see that in this short list, the first five can be improved upon, the last can’t be (at least not with ease.)

So, you aren’t God but then what’s new?

How could Trainers Eliminate Stress from their Work-lives?

Accept your shortcomings and move forth. How about not worrying about them (the first 5) until you get past them. I slouch too – but I don’t think that it makes a difference to my training programs. I am working on my posture – some day I might have a better posture, but until then, don’t bother me. And the fact is – I don’t remember anyone having ever complained about it either. Cheer up! Nobody there is noticing those shortcomings, except you my friend!

But if you don’t like to connect with people, you might consider changing your career tracks – because your inner-self isn’t going to change in a month or maybe an year – it’d take more time…you won’t be able to keep the stress at bay for that long…so move on, dear – stress is a sadist – it kills you slowly…don’t be a trainer if you don’t like to stand there and talk. Just check out.

The second cause is simpler to understand and also to accept.

Remember that people are different. You can do your best, you can kill yourself bettering your best, but each individual is different from another – and though there would be 9 people out of 10 who would be normal and who would learn from you and appreciate your effort; the tenth might either not learn or might not want to appreciate you despite learning a lot! Don’t kill yourself for those nutcases.

And remember,
There are three kinds of learners:

  1. Who want to learn,
  2. Who are indifferent and would learn if you tried, and
  3. Who don’t want to learn!

Focus on the first two kinds – leave the third kind alone. You can’t force-feed learning. And yes – when I say leave the third kind, I say wipe them off your mind-screen! There feedback doesn’t matter – Aim to educate, train, teach, and enable 70% of your audience. If you are able to do better, consider it a bonus. Don’t aim for perfection, because perfection doesn’t exist. Remember that those who are interested in learning shouldn’t be penalized for those who aren’t.

So don’t let anyone stress you out – neither the perfectionist who sits inside you, nor the non-motivated heckler who sits outside. You are precious for people who really matter to you – save yourself for them.

Important Concepts Discussed in this Post:

  • Stress
  • Self-Acceptance
  • Perfection


 

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