Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Anyone want to share?" Discussion pitfalls and how to avoid them

Image from: https://pamstanton.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/presentation-skills.jpg

"Who wants to share?"

No facilitator enjoys the quiet sound of staring right after they have asked the group to share comments. Creating an environment that is conducive to discussion can be a challenge, but there are strategies for minimizing awkward moments and increasing the quality of comments.

Discussion prompts are only one part of an engaging discussion.

Your learning activities can also minimize discussion as much as a poor question prompt.

For the sake of this post, I'll assume that you have activities built into your learning experience that gradually build and integrate topics (see an earlier post on the DEAL model for inspiration).

Where do discussion prompts fail?

Some of the ways I have failed as a facilitator to promote discussion include:

Give two prompts at once.

  • Example: "What did you share and what did you like about it?"
  • Why it doesn't work: Generally, people will only answer one of the two-parts. Usually, they will focus on the second part of the question because it is the last part they heard. If the first part of the question is more important to building the activity rather than the second the facilitator has inadvertently focused attention away from their learning goals for the discussion.
  • How to remedy it: Ask one question at a time. Then, either ask the individual your second question as a follow up or let several people answer the first question and then use the second question as a follow up for the group to respond to.
Ask a long rambling question that has thoughts and questions intermixed.

  • Example: "I've talked about XYZ topic. For me, I think that... [etc. etc.] And I had an experience once with XYZ... What about you?"
  • Why it doesn't work: Additional facilitator commentary can take away from the learner's focus and create confusion about what is expected of them. If you share your opinion first, participants could also view that if they have a contrary opinion they have misunderstood or are wrong. The group may go silent if they are unwilling to challenge your expertise as the facilitator. Whatever opinion you share will model for the group what you want in response.
  • How to remedy it: Ask the discussion questions first and allow the learners to speak. Then, provide a summary of the group's comments and add your opinion.

Ask closed and leading questions
  • Example: "Does this work for you?"
  • Why it doesn't work: "Closed questions" refer to questions that can be answered with a single word, like yes or no. Closed questions are helpful when used intentionally, but in general, they do not encourage discussion. "Leading questions" direct a participant to answer in a very specific way. For example, if our example question "Does this work for you?" is asked with a sarcastic tone, the facilitator may lead the participant to feel that he should say no. Leading questions, again, minimize discussion.
  • How to remedy it: Rephrase closed questions for open questions using "what" or "how". If you want a very specific answer from your audience make a direct statement rather than asking a leading question.
How do you ensure the conversation keeps moving?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Learn St. Louis | ATD STL 2016 Annual Conference

Team Esteem


ATD is the Association for Talent Development (https://www.td.org/). The Saint Louis chapter hosts a variety of events throughout the year related to all aspects of developing people. They also have a number of free events around specialized skill sets, like a Special Interest Group for Captivate users. You can view all of their events on their website.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

7 Ways to Develop Yourself for Free...or Near Free

Image from: http://www.cpointllc.com/tag/cost-reduction-consultants/

Professional development doesn't need to cost you an arm and a leg.

I recently led a workshop with supervisors and had someone ask, "What do you recommend as affordable strategies for professional development?" We polled the room and below is a list of what other supervisors shared as well as some of my own recommendations:
  1. Look for free/low cost resources from regional or local chapters of professional associations. Free/low cost resources may include: in-person events, webinars, listservs, job aids, articles, white papers, annual reports, etc. If you find that there is a benefit to becoming a member (e.g. access to "members only" resources, mentoring programs, etc.) propose your department cover the cost of membership. Offer to present a recap of what you learn to others on your team or in your department/division or create a brief, summary handout to email others.
  2. Follow blogs written by major players in your field. For any major players in your field, do a google search to see if they a) have a website and/or b) have a blog you can subscribe to and follow. You will want to use a tool to help you manage and filter content you subscribe to; consider an RSS reader tool (learn more here) or using filters in your email.
  3. Learn about internal professional development support within your organization. Before spending money on learning experiences outside of your organization, look within your organization to confirm you know what resources are available. Ask your internal resources, like Human Resources, for guidance on clarifying what is available. (At SLU, you have access to SkillSoft content through your MySLU tools, University library resources, as well as instructor led training or consulting services from Learning & Development in HR.)
  4. Take free classes through groups like Coursera or EdX. Coursera and EdX partner with Universities, colleges, and experts to create and offer free online courses. You can sign up with as an individual or encourage friends and colleagues to sign up with you and form a study group. Topics vary widely!
  5. Reach out to others who do like work at similar organizations and create your own informal network. Leverage the power of LinkedIn, for example, to find others who work in like-organizations and in like-roles. Ask if an individual or their entire team would like to get together simply to meet and discuss challenges.
  6. Share what you learn with others to cultivate an informed network and promote yourself as a source for professional development. Your sharing strategies may be informal, like emailing interested people, or more formal, like creating a personal blog, posting to LinkedIn, or collaborating with other colleagues in your department/division to create a newsletter to send out.
  7. Mine your job for opportunities to develop yourself. Check out my earlier blog post to learn more: 4 Ways Your Job is Your Best Classroom.
What else would you recommend?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

5 examples of how to use PowerPoint to create unique graphics

You don't need to be a graphic designer to create custom graphics.

PowerPoint has more graphic tools than most people realize. Below are 5 different examples of how you can leverage PowerPoint's capabilities to create unique graphics to enhance your PowerPoint presentation, handouts, website or any other learning resource or marketing piece.

How to Make 3D Pop-Out Photos (PowerPoint Spice)

Color Pop Photo Trick (PowerPoint Spice)


Photo Mosaic Design Animation (PowerPoint Spice)





Monday, January 11, 2016

4 Ways Your Job is Your Best Classroom


Learning isn't something "extra"; it is part of our every day being.


When you work at a University, you may think that learning only takes place when you are in a classroom or enrolled in degree program. However, learning is most often NOT a formal event, designed by someone else.

Below are 4 reminders for how you learn everyday on the job:
  1. When you observe a colleague: When you watch or overhear someone else completing a task. We compare and contrast our behavior with others. Watching others gives us ideas of how to do our work differently or reinforces what we already know. 
  2. Through your work tasks or projects: We also learn by doing. When you take on a new project, you may not consciously think about the skills you will use or build to complete it; however, you may naturally ask questions or seek out resources to help you fill in your skill gaps.
  3. When you ask for feedback from a colleague: Our co-workers are valuable teachers and advisors! You may naturally solicit alternative perspectives or tips from colleagues when you debrief an interaction or consult with them on a project or task.
  4. When you give feedback or exchange ideas with a colleague: Teaching someone else is a powerful learning experience for you. Share what you learn with others to reinforce the concept and to build up your own confidence and comprehension.
How do you know if you are leveraging your learning at work?

Here's a quick, non-scientific self-assessment. Do you...
  1. Consciously pay attention to how others approach their tasks and projects?
  2. Write out the skills you build through your work tasks and projects?
  3. Give yourself credit for the skills you build through your work tasks and projects on your Performance Evaluation or on your LinkedIn profile?
  4. Have a colleague(s) or a peer group to give and share feedback and ideas (informally or formally)?
If you answered no to any of the questions above, you may have a new goal to work on!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Build Up Your Learning Knowledge: 4 eLearning Blogs to Follow

How do you stay up-to-date with ideas and fresh perspectives?

My method of choice is to curate and check in with a few different blogs. While I primarily teach in face-to-face environments, I have found that resources for online teaching and learning have fruitful insights for creating effective learning experiences. E-learning perspectives can help you reconsider the design of your materials, the learning activities you chose to use, and how to best leverage the tools you do have for either online or in-person learning experiences. Here are a few blogs and websites that help me continue to develop my knowledge and resources.

Cathy Moore: http://blog.cathy-moore.com/
She is design focused with an eye for increasing learning through engaging and meaningful learning experiences.

Rapid eLearning blog: http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/
Helpful, practical tips for designing learning assets and online learning experiences. Connected to Articulate elearning authoring tool. Great tips on how to leverage powerpoint.

eLearning Heroes (Articulate community forum): http://community.articulate.com/
Free assets (see “downloads”) and food for thought about designing learning materials and experiences

The eLearning Coach: http://theelearningcoach.com/
She shares about science of learning and how to design meaningful learning experiences. She has a graphic design background.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Use Critical Reflection to Deepen Learning with the DEAL Model

Image from iRevolutions

Critical reflection helps to deepen the learning experience.

Patti Clayton and Sarah Ash write about critical reflection within the academic environment; however, their DEAL model (Ash & Clayton, 2009) for designing reflections is applicable to any learning experience. With the workshops or other learning experiences I design, I aspire to integrate reflection as a closing experience; and I have found their model to be a useful framework to achieve this goal.

About the DEAL Model

The DEAL model stands for: Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning. The first stage, Describe, engages the learner to write an objective description of their experience. This phase answers "what happened?" The second stage, Examine, engages the learner to examine their experience against the learning goals of the class in order to help the learner articulate the connections they see between their experience and new concepts. Lastly, the learner Articulates Learning by sharing the significance of their learning experience and articulating how they plan to use their new insights for the future.

Ash and Clayton provide many useful sample questions in their article. I have used their questions to create reflections that I integrate at the end of each workshop. As an example:
  1. What assumptions about [insert class topic] were challenged or supported today?
  2. What was most meaningful to you about today’s session?
  3. What have you learned about yourself today in regard to [insert class topic]?
  4. How will you use your learning from today?

How to integrate critical reflection into a workshop

While time is precious in any learning experience, in the face-to-face environment, I find that participants are highly motivated to write out what they are thinking and feeling at that time. Often we rush to include content up until the very end. I have evolved in my design of in-person workshops to end any content or other application activities with 15 minutes left in the workshop. I then will allow participants 5-7 minutes to answer reflection questions, and share with a partner their reflection. I will end the session by asking participants to share with the group what they have learned. If I am short on time, I will ask them to shout out in a word or phrase, what they will take away from the day.

How will you help your learners reflect?

Ash, S. & Clayton, P. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. The Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1, 25-48. Retrieved from https://www.missouriwestern.edu/appliedlearning/journal/