Check Learning to Verify Knowledge Transfer

“Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.” The idea is  something heard three times is more likely to be remembered.auditorium-pxhere There is a better way to make sure your student learn material and for you to know they learned what you taught. Conduct checks on learning during and at the end of your training. Checking learning ensures they heard and retained what you taught. Two simple ways to check learning are simple exercises and questioning.

An exercise that allows students to work through a problem using information provided verbally or in writing allows them to develop skills from their new found knowledge. A short story with a series of questions to answer modeling your lesson reinforces your teaching. Students work alone or in cooperative learning groups and report back to the the class their results. The exercise can be harder by asking students to work through a problem without the prompt questions. For example they are given a scenario. They are expected to explain which widget is the best for the situation and why. They also are expected to explain how they would use the widget. The back report reinforces the lessons with the whole class one more time.teamwork-pxhere.jpg

The easiest check on learning is questioning. Ask the students a group of questions. They parrot back the correct answers if they memorized the material. Ask questions that require students to explain concepts like, “Who can tell me when a widget is the best choice?” or “What is the best way to use a widget in the following situation…?” require students to think about their responses and apply what they learned in their response. These questions demonstrate understanding versus simply knowledge.

A spin off of the questioning check on learning model requires each student to write a question about the lesson on one side of an index card and the answer on the back. Use the cards as questions in a quiz show like review at the end of class. Student contestants will be able to challenge the ‘correct’ answer provided on the card. Award bonus points for the team if they successfully challenge the ‘correct’ answer. This process allows the class to correct misunderstood information and research correct answers further embedding new found knowledge and skills.

Relay-pxhere.jpgStudents and trainers come together for the purpose of transferring knowledge and skills to students. Each has a responsibility to enable learning. The trainer’s responsibility is to ensure the knowledge and skills are received, understood, and usable when students leave the training. Checks on learning completed throughout the lesson provide necessary feedback on the success of the transfer. Conducting a review at the end of class by repeating what you previously said is easy. Completing an in-depth check on learning as a review is harder, but shows what has been learned. Students and instructors can leave the training environment confident the new knowledge and skills have been passed and are ready to be used upon returning to their daily assignments.


Photo Credits

All photos from pxhere.com a website offering Creative Commons Zero License images.  No photographer information was available for any of the images.

The Right Questions

You just finished briefing your boss on the latest proposal. You and your team spent hours hashing over details. You ensured you presented the big picture, highlighting critical points for understanding. You ask for questions and find your boss has plenty. schoolofathens.jpgYou wonder where you went wrong. The truth is you did a great job. Your boss understands the importance of asking critical questions about everything in the organization. The knows to verify things that appear to be one thing to ensure they are not something else. With experience, the boss learned the right questions to ask related to a host of issues and situations.

Using questions to stimulate discussion and analysis has been called the Socratic Methodi. The questions focus on learning information in areas of interest for the questioner. Quality answers are supported by proof in the form of an accepted fact, expectations based on analysis, data from test results, or another accepted proof. Challenging proof and conclusions occur next in the Socratic Method.

Puzzle-OlgaBerrlos.jpgSocratic questions that stimulate discussion and analysis may include:

– What is the risk related to that decision?

– How do we reduce the risk?

– What proof exists to demonstrate risk reduction?

– What impact will the decision have on … ?

– How does the organization deal with that impact?

– What other ideas did you explore and why were they not presented?

– What is the most important consideration and why?

– Are there examples of following a course from history; if so, what happened and why?

– What are your measures of success and how did you determine those measures?

– What are the costs in terms of money, influence, credibility, etc.?

These are only ten possible questions inspiring critical discussions and analysis issues or topics. They are a starting point. Use critical thinking questions to test your theories before presenting an idea to others. Ask someone to challenge your assessments with the Socratic Method. The more you practice, the better your assessments. Your ability improves by responding to challenging questions asked by others.

Experienced leaders develop core questions used in every analysis. Core questions stand the test of uncovering important information repeatedly. Experienced leaders develop questions for particular situations. Sometimes they are developed as the situation unfolds or come from preconfigured questions developed for different situations.

PuzzleSolved-OlgaBerrlos-mod.jpgWhether you are developing a course of action to market a new product, or deciding where to go on your next vacation, learning to ask the right questions helps you make better decisions. Questions that challenge conventional thinking allow decision makers to identify alternative courses of action and determine if they would be effective. Allowing others to challenge your conclusions with Socratic questioning improves your logical thinking. As you step into your next leadership position, or prepare a briefing for the boss, take time to think about questions to uncover the best solution to any situation.

Endnote

ihttp://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/socratic-teaching/606

Photo Credits

School of Athens by Raphael, 1509-1511 – photo by Frans Vandewalle from Flickr.com

Puzzle Pieces by Olga Berlos from Flickr.com

Puzzle Assembled ibid (modified by author)

Leadership Reflection

Reflection-Theophilos_Papadopoulos.jpgReflecting on past mistakes and successes teaches leaders how to adjust behaviors improving successful.  Few new leaders understand the importance of reflection.  As a result they do not understand which traits lead to success so they can repeat them, nor which actions impede them preventing them from avoiding similar actions in the future.  Leaders achieve effective reflection by following some easy steps.

Record what happen.  In another piece, I described how and why to conduct post event reviews (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/review-action-record-results-learn/).  Another example of recording what happened is a leadership journal.  Use a few minutes every day to write down something you learned, someone you helped, how someone helped you, an important task you must accomplish, or anything else you feel you may want to remember.

Document how you can use what you recorded.  Think about and write down ways to modify your behaviors to improve success.  How you can implement a lesson learned?  Decide which behaviors you helped another person.  Identify behaviors of others that were both effective and not effective.

Path-J-O_Eriksson.jpgPeriodically review your reflections to adjust your course.  Taking time to figure out where you are is an important step in the goal achieving cycle.  Reviewing things you allows you to consider the path to achieve a goal.  You may see a lesser traveled trail is more effective.  You may realize a new behavior provides access to the express lane.  Either way failing to apply what you learn unnecessarily lengthens time of achievement.

Recording reflections on successes and mistakes allows leaders to become more effective.  Using a leadership journal is one way new leaders can improve their reflective skills.  Writing down key ideas on your journey ensures they are captured for future use.  These lessons and ideas help leaders adjust course seeking to accomplish goals.  A few simple steps, and a little bit of time, allows improvement of success for leaders through reflection.

————————————————

Photo Credits

All Photos are from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.

Reflection by Theophilos Papadapoulos

Path by J-O Eriksson

 

Review Action. Record Results. Learn.

Nat-Grd-TownMeeting-NGB.jpgTake time to review actions at the end of project or events. This action enables leaders apply lessons learned the next time. The military thoroughly reviews and documents actions after every key event. As they begin their next planning cycle, leaders revisit those reviews to identify how to apply lessons learned to repeat effective actions and avoid repeating mistakes. Learning to analyze an event and gather important lessons is easy.

There are several principals to conduct post event reviews. Have all the key people at the table. Honestly document what was supposed to happen and what really happened. Analyze why the things that went well went well, and poorly; and why those things happened that way. Participant judge events, not people. Check egos at the door. File the review so it can be found and used later.

All the Key People OutdoorMeeting-USAID.jpg

Key people does not mean everyone unless the event was small. Key people include the crucial leaders, contractors, organizers, observers, and key people from your red team. You want the people there who have the ability to make decisions during a similar future event that affect outcomes.

Document What Happened

This sounds simple but is not always easy. During this step top leaders may learn what

they wanted to happen is not what others understood was supposed to happen.  When you talk about what was supposed to happen, you may have to break it down into several levels. What really happened is also not so easy. Not everyone saw the same thing for a variety of reasons.WhatHappened.png Things may have gone well in their part of the project because the logistics section fixed a problem before others know about it. If others did not see it, the problem still existed and should be documented and analyzed.

Analyze

Analysis during the review is nothing more than answering a bunch of relevant questions. What went well and why? What problems cropped up and why? How well did communications work? How did leaders make decisions at critical times? How well did the decision making process work? How did leaders solve problems? What things went well that could have gone better? How can we prevent the wrong things from happening in the future? These questions are just an example series, but a good start to any analysis.

Judging

When judging good, bad, success, and failure, focus on events and decisions, not people. If a leader made a poor choice at a key event examine why. The group may learn the leader lack important information, or had a poor understanding of the situation. PieJudge-Sarah R.jpgFocusing on why the leader made the decision allows him to learn from mistakes, identifies potential problems in processes outside that leader’s control and reduces defensiveness improving learning.

Egos

People do not like criticism. The offense perceived is proportional the size of the ego. The learning from observations that look like criticism is inversely proportional to the size of the ego. Avoid the problem; check egos at the door. This rule needs to be posted and enforced by the group facilitator. When an individual becomes defensive during discussions related to decisions or actions she made, it is an indicator she brought her ego with her. Stop the conversation. Restate the rules. Focus on the actions or decisions. These measures ensure maximum participation and learning occurs.

File the Review

File post activity reviews so others can find and learn from them. Taking time to review and identify lessons achieves nothing if filed forever. Dig out those reviews when you begin the next project planning cycle and learn.

A post activity review is an important process in any learning organization. Conduct reviews with all the key players after every major event or project. Identify what was supposed to happen and what really happened. Analyze the good and the bad of each event, action, and decision during the activity to identify important lessons. Judge decisions and actions to avoid offending and shut down learning. Check egos at the door to ensure everyone learns and participates. Adding a review at the end of every project or training event ensures lessons learned are available for use when a similar activity occurs next time.

_________________________________

Photo Credits

All photos were found on flickr.com and used under a Creative Commons License.

Capture

U.S. Government photo-National Guard Bureau

U. S. government photo-USAID

Cars: Modified from two photos.  Limo by caccamo.  Small Car by Hsing Wel

Pie Judges by Sarah R

 

Student Engagement

Ask, Pause, Call

Good instructors engage their students during the training.QuestionMark.byme.png Inexperienced instructors struggle to learn ways to involve their students. A simple, yet effective method is Ask, Pause, Call.

Every instructor has experienced the long silence after asking a question about a point he is sure the students know the answer. The teacher knows understanding this point is necessary before presenting the rest of the information. He stands in front of the room wondering what to say next.

The Ask, Pause, Call method provides a means for instructors to engage their students and ensure the class is receiving and understanding the information. The first step is as simple as it sounds; ask the question. The next is to pause. This allows the students to think about the response to your inquiry. Next ask a particular student to answer the question.

Use this model from the beginning of your class for greatest effectiveness. When used from the beginning of the class you establish the model as the standard. Students will expect you to use Ask, Pause, Call through out the class and will expect to participate.

Pause.byme.JPGAsking questions through out your training helps students pay attention. They never know when you will call upon them to answer a question. It allows them to make connections to other learning and experiences. Their answers let you know if they are receiving and understanding the information, or if you need to represent the information using a different approach.

You want to know that all your students are learning. It is important to call on everyone in the class, not just those who always raise their hands. Every class has a few students who hang back and chose not to participate, however the only way to know if they are tracking the information is to engage them too.

An effective method to drag those shy students out is to reverse the model. First call on the student by name. Pause to ensure you have their attention. Ask the question.

Asking a question that only requires a yes or no response is a good way to begin. After you receive the answer, follow up by asking the student a why or how question. If the answers are what you expected, finish up by summarizing raisedhand-steven-lilleytheir answers to make the learning point. If they are a bit off, follow up with leading follow up questions that tends to suggest the correct answer.

Ask, Pause, Call is an effective model to engage students in discussion during training. Selecting different students during the training ensures you know all are tracking the important information you are teaching. Asking questions of your learners through out the training keeps them engaged improving retention and understanding. Including students in the lesson allows them to connect the information you present with prior learning so it make sense for them. The next time you teach, ask a question, pause for thought, then call on someone to answer.


Photo Credits

Question Mark and Pause Button by Author

Raised Hand by Steven Lilley at http://www.flickr.com under a creative commons attribution license.

Overcoming Hurdles to Change

I recently listed to a short piece on my local public radio station from the TED Hour (http://www.npr.org/2015/02/06/379184277/what-s-the-antidote-to-political-apathy). The speaker talked about getting people to the polls and ways to overcome apathetic voters. As I listened, a light bulb appeared over my head about a way to improve training. If you want to changed behaviors based on what you train, you need to issue a call to action to the participants. When students leave, they need to know what to do, the excitement to change, and ways to find help when they run into road blocks.

hurdle.melinda.huntlyIn this TED talk, the speaker noted in an unscientific study he conducted that in local publications, the editors would include information about how to contact a local charity, the hours of a new eatery, or the the phone number to the box office of a show they reviewed. The reader know how they could learn more.

When the local periodicals ran political pieces they often present information in a fair and balance way. They explained the issues about the topic. They did not include information about websites, phone numbers for involved organizations, or other information to make the reader take action on that subject.

Often trainers and leaders behave the same way. They call for changes. They show people one way to do something that works in the classroom. They may even provide some sort of high energy event that fires up the students and employees so they feel motivated. When they return to their cubical, they hit road blocks and because the trainer or leader provided no information about where seek help, the change they and their proteges hope for starves on the vine.

The fix is easy. After providing students their call to action, provide resources to use for follow up. When students return to their offices and run into a roadblock, they know where to find more information to help overcome the road block and successfully implement the desired change.

Provision of follow up resources requires more than a short bibliography at the end of your note-taking guide or a sheet tucked into the back of a participant folder. The trainer should call attention to the resources. He should provide screen shoots of the websites. He should point out email addresses and phone numbers of people who are willing to help. He should also provide a short sales pitch for each of the follow up resources provided so the student understands help really is there.

At they end of your next training, issue a call to action for change. Motivate students to implement what they have learned. Sell them on the resources available to help them over hurdles after the training ends. When you do, change will happen.

————————–

Photo credit: Melinda Huntley, flikr.com  https://www.flickr.com/photos/piratepix2/4540203839/in/photolist-7VcJqx-GY8o3-8hDo4J-z3Akfw-7Laq5N-7VfYnb-84VQLx-eonsYx-bER96W-rkfoWv-9HcTG2-fEQaXu-4gXG8H-aoi8Ah-fdTQxU-82taWc-dgMHan-bmHArb-bzCtcn-6SH1c9-dAxF2t-9MMqtH-dAxEk4-bTKTPZ-rhcUEV-m5EDBX-xmhWs9-84VWcY-8hDfW9-H9y4B-8hDpi3-dAxExk-8hA7mV-8dTP4e-dAxEqM-r3PBRy-r3NJrC-rkfqt8-rkfpsF-8hA6ZV-82LnjE-my6DVw-eefeA1-6EPXjR-2AwKvD-rtAXvb-7Aw3ZS-ie4JrZ-7Aw4sU-pyEHWJ

Training New Leaders

As the new organizational leader, you have taken the time to recruit the right people to run your group. You worked hard ensuring they occupy positions where they will excel. You know they need training, but what do you teach them?

ISCTE-IUL.HugoAlesandreCruzNew leaders need to learn the basics. Planning, controlling, operating, resourcing and leading are five functional areas all managers need to master. Often leaders are selected for reason other than their ability to manage and lead increasing justification to train them. It does not matter whether the new leaders are related to important people, knowledgeable about their part of the organization, or bring money to the table to obtain their leadership position, all need to understand all five functional areas to help your organization succeed.

Planning is the process of assessing what the future brings, how you want to respond and preparing for it. New leaders need to understand the planning process. During planning, leaders assess to establish where the organization is, what the group wants to accomplish and what lessons can be learned from earlier projects. Leaders establish goals and mile stones so they can set a course and make adjustments as the project progresses. Developing task steps enables supervisors to measure workmanship and progress.

Controlling is the process of both measuring progress and accountability of resources. On any project leaders plan to evaluate progress based on appropriate information or data. The standards are established during the planning process and are used to adjust course if necessary. Accountability controls are imperative to ensure resources remain available to complete the project and remain available if necessary for the rest of the organization. The newspapers are full of stories of people in positions of trust running off with the organization’s because of poorly implemented controls. Quality controls prevent such problems, or identify problems before the group is broke.

Operating is the process of executing a plan. It includes the planning process, and ensures controls are in place and being used. Quality operations ensure success of the project and organization. Good operations aline with the groups mission and guiding principals.

Resourcing involves providing stuff. What stuff? Everything needed for the project to succeed. People, money, food, parts, space are all resources required to ensure successful completion of any project. Leaders ensure the stuff is where is needs to be before or at the time it needs to be there. Potatoes delivered the day after a fund raising dinner fails to help the organization feed those who support it. Likewise if resources are delivered too early storage and other problems become issues.

Leading is the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission of the organization while operating to improve the organization. Many argue that leadership cannot be taught; you either are born a leader or not. Because leadership is a process, anyone can learn that process. Leaders possess character, and acquire knowledge and skill. They understand how to accomplish things and make sure the right things happen.

Training new leaders is important for every organization. Every new leader must know the five functions of management: planning, controlling, operating, resourcing and leading. Learning the basics is easy. Learning the finer points takes a life time. The Chief Executive of every organization is responsible to train junior leaders in each of these functions. There is no point enticing the best and brightest people to lead your group if your training plan involves tossing them in the water to see if they can swim. Develop and implement a leader development program for your new leaders.


Photo credit:  ISCTE-IUL by Hugo Alexandre Cruz.  CC license from flickr.com