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:
She is design focused with an eye for increasing learning through engaging and meaningful learning experiences.

Rapid eLearning blog:
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):
Free assets (see “downloads”) and food for thought about designing learning materials and experiences

The eLearning Coach:
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

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learn St. Louis | ATD STL 2015 Annual Conference

Early registration deadline is October 5

ATD is the Association for Talent Development ( 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, September 10, 2015

Learning Resource: "MindTools" for a better work life

How do you continue to learn in your job?

MindTools ( is a great resource to add to your personal library for learning about all kinds of workplace related skills. Their online library covers a wide variety of topics:
  • Leadership Skills
  • Team Management
  • Strategy Tools
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Project Management
  • Time Management
  • Stress Management
  • Communication Skills
  • Creativity Tools
  • Learning Skills
  • Career Skills
MindTools offers a weekly newsletter with helpful content and resources; it is a great complement to the content that is available to SLU employee's through SkillSoft. Regardless of the resource you choose to use, MindTools is a must to include in your personal library for professional learning.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

9 public-speaking secrets to help you "talk like TED"

From the TED Blog

Ever watch a TED Talk and think, “Wow, that is a phenomenal speaker. How can I be that fantastic?” 

The book Talk like TED: The nine public-speaking secrets of the world’s top minds by Carmine Gallo gives you nine insights as to how to emulate the TED Talk speakers’ presentation style.

The book is very organized with three main sections that identify the important areas to consider in your presentation: use emotion, present novel information, and make the presentation memorable.

Here are my takeaways from each of the 9 secrets.

  1. Be passionate. There is a strong emphasis on the need for the speaker to be passionate about their topic. Passion is contagious and without it, it will be hard to inspire your audience.
  2. Tell a story. Storytelling compels the audience to connect with you and it helps the audience agree with you. There are three types of stories discussed:  personal stories, stories about other people, and stories about brand success.
  3. Have a conversation with the audience. To have a conversation takes a lot of practice, as the presenter needs to first internalize the message to be conveyed to the audience. True persuasion happens only after you have developed a rapport with your audience and developed trust.
  4. Share new information. Consider packaging the information differently or providing a new way to solve an old problem.  Remember the human brain loves novelty!
  5. Deliver shocking moments. The best way to do this is to use very concrete and meaningful examples.  The emotion of the event allows the information to persist longer in the brain.
  6. Have some fun. Provide “wow” moments for your audience. These can be props or demos, shocking statistics, images, memorable headlines or personal stories.  Although humor is a risk, humor often makes the audience more receptive to your message and makes you seem more likable. There are several ways to add humor to a presentation including anecdotes, observations, personal stories, analogies and metaphors, quotes, video and photos.
  7. 18 minutes, that’s it! You may not have thought about this but listening is draining and the brain is an energy hog which is why Ted Talks are no more than 18 minutes in length. As quoted in the book, Albert Eisenstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”  The author further explains that the rule of three provides a good structure for a presentation. First, create a Twitter friendly headline. Second, support the headline with three key messages. Third, reinforce the three messages with stories, statistics and examples.
  8. People remember three pieces of information really well.  A message conveyed using both words and phrases increases the brain’s ability to create stronger connections and more accurate recall. It is best to use one theme per slide and also paint a picture with the images you show and the words you use.
  9. Be genuine and win people over. Remember, be your authentic self and speak from your heart or the audience will not trust you. Most people can spot a phony. You cannot move people to action without people trusting you.
A presentation is more than just the content. The speaker needs to focus on how the message is conveyed and knowing who is in your audience. The best way to summarize the takeaway message of this book is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid).

Learn more about Gallo's book here.
About Wendy
Wendy LaBenne is one of the Saint Louis University (SLU) Human Resource Learning and Development Facilitators. She conducts a session on Coaching for Career Development which is focused on assisting managers with having career conversations with their employees. At SLU, she works in the College for Public Health and Social Justice as the Workforce Development Coordinator.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Content Curation: Keeping track of your go-to learning resources

Image from

Keeping your content organized in a way that is useful to you is a challenge given the volume of content we have access to via the internet.

Luckily, many tools have found their way to our computers, tablets, and smart phones that can help us store our favorites. I'd like to share my tools and tips with you!

The tools I use

Over time, my curation process evolved to merge both personal and professional lives.
  • Videos: YouTube. Our office has a YouTube Channel using our generic department account. We use the PlayList feature to curate video content relevant for our programs. This allows us to collaborate as a team and immediate share what we find with others.
  • Books: A personal library program (I haven't used it yet, but plan to). Our office has a number of books, but we are not in the habit of taking them off the shelf to thumb through them for ideas. Most of us go to the internet to browse. Through researching the issue, I found that there is a huge community (primarily of book lovers) who have created different kinds of mostly free, online library programs.
  • Websites, articles, PDFs: Evernote. I have had a personal Evernote account for a long time, and while my account is not shared with my colleagues, I use it to curate content that I find helpful for work.

Strategies for using these tools successfully

  1. What do you want to curate? Take stock of the types of resources you gravitate toward to help you filter which tools are less or more helpful to you.
  2. What do you want to do with the resources?
    1. If you want to collaborate and share them easily with others, look at the features to confirm you can share them.
    2. Check to see if the programs are web-based (meaning you can online access them through an internet browser), downloadable to your computer, and/or mobile friendly and include an app.
  3. How much do you want to spend? Many of these tools are free, but depending on your needs and passions, you may find it helpful to upgrade.
  4. How do you mentally organize and associate your resources? What makes the tools helpful is their capacity to help you save and then easily access your content. Most of this is predicated upon a tagging (or "labeling") system. Your tagging system may evolve over time, but do give some thought into #3 to help you create an initial structure. Here is an example help article about this topic from Evernote.

Sources for content curation tools

A quick google search for "content curation tools" will yield lots of articles with lists of tools. The number and kind of tools available will keep growing. Look for patterns across any lists you see for tools that are recommended by many. If you find one tool that seems promising, but not quite right, google the name of the tool and "alternatives" to see what others have recommended as a replacement or competitor.

It's never too late to curate!