Twenty questions for every learning program, give or take a few

As learning facilitators we know that questions matter. They spark reflection, spur divergent and convergent thinking and help learners and stakeholders process and apply learning.

Often, the type of question that we ask is fueled by the type of reflection or measurement we are after. Reaction? Learning? Behavior? Results? What do we really want and need to measure?

We can guide and facilitate the conversation about the impact of a learning program by putting some attention on the types of questions we ask in the room, and the type of questions Leaders ask themselves and their team as a follow-up.

We can scaffold our questions throughout each Kirkpatrick level, in a variation of this sequencing:

  1. What did you notice? What stands out? What’s confusing?
  2. What did you learn?
  3. What will you do differently as a result of what you learned today? (How will you apply what you learned to something concrete, actionable, measurable, and specific)?

Many times, we stop at question-type 3. We stop before we get to “results”. Sometimes it is because our learners lack context or understanding of the business case or the results that matter most. Sometimes this is because it’s quantifiable, and trying to qualify it in an open-ended question seems difficult.

This doesn’t have to be the case – especially if we kick off our learning programs by stating up front the results we are after, and continually linking our learning back to these desired outcomes.

  1. How will applying what you learned today positively affect our team, our performance, and our business?

But, let’s not stop there. Ask empathy and motivation driven questions like, “What will be the impact if we don’t apply what we learned?”, or “what could get in the way?”

We’ve got questions. They do have answers.

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What facilitators can learn from Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show debut

Last night as I watched Jimmy Fallon make his debut as new host of The Tonight show, I was struck by the ease, comfort, and safety that Fallon exhibited as he welcomed a presumably new audience to his show.

It was akin to the skill a great facilitator utilizes when beginning a new learning experience with his or her participants.

Though these two roles are inherently different, and stylistic differences are what help make both jobs a real art form, there are fundamental choices Fallon made that educators, speakers, presenters, and facilitators can absolutely learn from:

Fallon helped create psychologically safety and established a dialogue with his audience in these 2 ways:

  • He made his thinking visible – Strong facilitators know how to engage adult learners by showing them the learning path and extravert-ing their thinking. Fallon told us the basic structure of his show, how long his monologue would be, and even where he’d stand when he delivered the opening set of jokes. Though it seemed like a small gesture, it worked to set a new routine and let the audience know what they could expect each night, and how they would get there.
  • Auto-biographical disclosure – This is perhaps the most impressive technique Fallon utilized, and the most direct application to what we do as facilitators. Fallon spent several minutes at the top of his show, introducing himself, his background, his band and his announcer to bring people into the experience, add authenticity and personalization, and put new viewers at ease. As Dr. Stephen Brookfield theorizes, the more an educator or facilitator can use appropriate autobiographical disclosure, the quicker you can bring adults into ‘the learning’. For example, in a class on adult learning a facilitator can use autobiographical disclosure to briefly talk about his or her experience as a learner and how its framed his or her approach. By telling the story of his own history of watching and admiring The Tonight Show, Fallon also exhibited experiential credibility, by letting the audience know that the experiences (and perhaps new-ness) he dealt with are similar if not the same.

Journalists, bloggers and critics are praising Fallon for these specific, ‘smart’ choices — but they don’t need to be reserved for talk show hosts. Think about the last time you felt “safe” in a new learning environment. Chances are your facilitator exhibited some, if not all of these same techniques.

The power of re-framing

Ask someone if they want to learn how to be an Improviser and you may not see too many hands get raised. It is down-right scary for many people and we can spend a lot of time de-bunking the myth of what Improv is or is not.

Ask someone if they want to learn how to think on their feet, communicate more effectively, and heighten their listening skills and chances are their reaction will change. Hands go up because the connection to every-day life is more tangible.

Sometimes, we need to re-frame our question.

If we focus too much on Improv, it’s common for feedback from sessions to land in the Level-1 reaction stage, “it was fun”… etc. Fun is great, but the stronger path towards application and learning transfer is to focus on the result of what these tools can achieve and to practice them right there in the room.

So, what questions are you asking to prompt deeper learning? How are you framing learning initiatives that get to the root of what people will walk away with as opposed to focusing on the tool itself?

Less Teaching…More Learning, via trainingmag.com

It’s no secret, I’m an experiential learning junkie.  Luckily, it falls in line with how adults learn best… through action and reflection. 

Via Training magazine, here’s their 4-pronged approach to Learning and Development – an approach that reminds us (lest we forget!).. it’s all about the participant.

  1. Limit the amount of frontal lecture. Facilitators have many great ideas that we want to share with our audience. We’ve been conditioned by the preponderance of lecture-based workshops to think we’re expected to fill the time by talking—and that the more information we bring, the better. But we know from our own first-hand experience as participants in other workshops that lecture is not the path to engagement. When it comes to lecture, less is more, as long as you make sure to present impactful material. Skip the appetizers. Go straight to the main course. Deliver your content in bite-sized portions. Let the audience chew on them and digest them before serving more.
  2. Include lots of subject-focused action. Note that action for action’s sake alone is not valuable. Ice-breaker exercises such as tossing a ball to fellow participants in order to learn their names has its place, but it does not constitute action related to the subject material. Instead, design exercises that help the nuggets presented in your lectures come alive. For example, if you’re teaching negotiation skills, it’s more important that you have exercises on negotiation than on ice breaking.
  3. Relate the subject matter to the audience’s particular needs. Demonstrate how the workshop will improve their professional lives the moment they leave the classroom.
  4. Teach what the audience wants to learn. Often, facilitators establish an agenda of what we think we should teach. Instead, we should create an environment that allows participants to guide us about what they want to learn and what would be most valuable to them. Ideally, you will have the breadth and depth of knowledge—and flexible disposition—to take the conversation wherever the participants want to take it, so long as it stays on topic. This takes the guesswork out of what to say, and helps ensure that your audience is engaged and walks away with skills they will apply back at their desks.

Last Word: Less Teaching…More Learning | trainingmag.com.

TOOL: It’s all about the debrief… six questions to spark informative answers

How does this relate – is often the debrief question we as facilitators go to, to spark some meaningful answers.

Yes, and we can delicately and deliberately lead our participants to more truthful, reflective and relevant conversation by asking them a series of questions that bring about the golden nuggets of learning — learning that moves you forward as a team, and individual or an organization.

Thanks to training guru Thiagi and a helpful refresher of his methodology last week at the Applied Improv Network San Francisco chapter meeting, here’s picture proof of my six favorite debrief questions.

The Hands-Off Manager: How Questions Can Lead to Success

The Hands-Off Manager: How Questions Can Lead to Success.

“We have been trained by the media, by our families, by our traditions, and by our culture to focus on the negative and try to fix it. We obsess over sins and shortcomings, trials and tribulations. We try to go outside ourselves to change the negative things. Then we try in vain to create an external situation that’s positive. But none of that works, because the positive solution is on the inside. What we were seeking was already in us. No wonder we couldn’t find it out there. And just how do you find these solutions inside you? Questions! Just start asking questions. And then listen“….

What’s the drill – February 24: One game, many applications

“A game is just an excuse for a debrief”, says Thiagi – game and performance training guru.

Here’s a great game to play which will lead to fascinating debriefs regarding leadership development, communication skills training,  and team-building.

“Ball”  is the name of the game, and it’s one any group can play. I first learned “ball” in my Foundation 1 improv class at BATS Improv in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve played ball to begin almost every single improv class I’ve taken.  Beyond it being a ton of fun, it’s also a great physical warm-up and a way to foster a group mind.

To play, all you need is a plastic or koosh-like large ball.

1. Grab your group and stand in a circle so that everyone can see each other.

2. One person starts with the ball and hits it in the air.

3. Each time the ball is hit/touched by a member of the group, the players count together in unison (1, 2, 3, and so on). The goal of the game is to keep the ball in the air without it touching the ground. Everyone must count together out loud, and a player may not hit the ball twice in a row (like the rules of volleyball).

4. If the ball falls, or if a player touches the ball twice in a row, the game resets and counting starts over again at 1.

5. The goal is to work together as a team and see how high of a number your team can get to.

Try this game with your team and see how you do. What strategies did you use? Most importantly, what can this game teach us about leadership, communication skills, commitment, and team-work? Check in Monday for some results.

 

 

 

Three fundamentals of adult learning

One can surmise adults are busier, more stressed, and saturated with more information than ever before.

So, when tasked with creating adult learning initiatives, here are 3 fundamental concepts to keep in mind:

1. Make it matter to them – if you want people to change their behavior, they have to understand what’s in it for them. Make the learning relevant, specific, and directly applicable.

2. Build time for self-learning and self-reflection – Adults don’t like to be told to change their behavior – it is a threat to their status (and one of David Rock’s social triggers). If you want people to change, build interactive learning experiences that lead adults to discover for themselves that change is important, and how they can achieve it personally.

3. I do, we do, you do – If adults have to teach others, they are more likely to do it themselves. Create active (not passive) learning environments and help the learning stick by giving participants responsibility for communicating the learnings to others. Provide adult learners with opportunities to be in charge of their own learnings to build accountability, self-reflection and the new insights and connections that follow.