“Know your audience” is the first rule of learning. When designing a learning experience, it’s not only helpful to know something about learners’ skills or backgrounds, but also their frame of mind. How invested are they in learning, especially if they need to work together? Do they seek solutions to challenges, or do they tend to take a more passive “wait and hope” approach?
Recently I facilitated a workshop with a group of preschool educators. I chose the Ladder of Accountability metaphor to help guide our discussion about peer coaching and team-building.
We started with an activity in which the participants completed a simple task together. Although on the surface the exercise seemed easy to accomplish, it was actually deceptively difficult. They attempted to do the task several times together, only to discover that the result was exactly the opposite from what they expected.
The group was permitted to talk to each other to solve the challenge. It’s amazing how differently people respond! Those who have not completely bought in to the experience will often make excuses, blame and complain, or just wait for someone else to figure it out. And those who are allies in the experience tend to own the situation. They seek solutions…they find constructive ways to make it happen.
So what do you do with the information you discover about people on the Ladder of Accountability? Knowing where your learners stand on the ladder will greatly inform the approach you take to build a meaningful curriculum or modify one to better suit the audience, no matter what type of learning experience you’re creating.
Posing a challenging activity is a great way to find out how accountable your learners are. It’s about awareness of where people are coming from. Obviously the ladder is there to be climbed. If you find yourself hanging around on a lower rung with others who make excuses or wait and hope for a solution to materialize, think about stepping up to a higher level to make more of a team effort.
I introduced a three-part process for giving peer feedback: Describe the situation, the behavior and the outcome. I was so impressed when one of the clients demonstrated her new coaching skill when she flew a paper airplane toward me. Inside it simply read “Great job Jillian.” She then used the Situation, Behavior, Outcome model to tell me specifically what she liked about the training, and how she would be applying it in her job.
After the session, other participants reported that they felt emotionally engaged, that they enjoyed the physical activity as a complement to the more academic content we discussed, as well as the opportunity to practice solving a challenge together.
To me, this feedback supports an important phase in the IdeaLearning Group’s process that we use to frame our curriculum: Think, Feel, Move. We believe in supporting a variety of learning approaches, from jumping right in to reading instructions first. We believe humor is an important part of the learning experience. And we understand the strong connection between movement and learning.