"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

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One Funeral, Two Learning Tasks

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On February 1, 2018 my colleague and friend Karen Ridout died suddenly and unexpectedly. When I heard there would be a prayer service a few days later to honour and celebrate her life, my husband and I jumped on a plane to join family and friends to pay our respects and celebrate her life. Karen was a beautiful person and deserved this honour.

What I was not expecting was to see and feel her Dialogue Education influence on her own church service and the church she helped to establish, Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina.

During this prayer service, everyone present was invited to participate in two learning tasks – yup, you heard me: two learning tasks at a funeral! With a smile, the rector Stephanie Allen shared, “We can’t possibly have a prayer service for Karen without learning tasks!” Indeed.

Here’s how it went:

Learning Task #1 (in the middle of the service)

Sometimes those we love are ill for many months or years before they are taken from us. In this time, we are able to have final conversations and share things on our heart that we were not able to share until we knew our time together was short. When leaving this earth is a slow process, our loved ones (and we!) have time to close loose ends and finish the uncompleted; closure can be experienced.

However, this is not always how it works. Sometimes those we love are taken from us quickly and without warning. This was true with our dear friend, colleague, mother, sister Karen.

So in our time together today, I would like to invite you to have that final conversation you were not able to have, say the things you didn’t have time to say, or share with Karen what you didn’t have a chance to share. Indeed, she was taken far to soon.

Your invitation is:

Take a small sheet of paper and pen from those being passed around. On your own, take 5 minutes to have that final conversation with Karen. What do you still want to say to her?

If you are wondering what we will be doing with these completed sheets of paper, let me explain how this will work: If you are an EXTROVERT you will have an opportunity to share all you wish after we finish this prayer service; if you are an INTROVERT, you don’t have to worry; be assured that these papers will not be shared with everyone here but are for you to keep and do with as you wish. [These instructions were met with loud laughter – yes, Karen taught them well.]

Learning Task #2 (at the end of the service)

As we finish this service and you leave this space, I offer you one final learning task (in a way that Karen taught us so beautifully): take a small piece of paper from the table in the hall and write one thing that you are most thankful for about Karen and who she was to you. Write this down and place it in the glass bowl you will find there. These papers will be read by her children and then placed with Karen as she is cremated.

The family is deeply grateful for all that you share and all the ways you have been blessed.

I have never experienced learning tasks that were more important and more meaningful. I was moved to tears in that final conversation with Karen and so were many others, and joyous to have the opportunity to share with her all the ways she had impacted my life.

Thank you, Karen, for teaching your church and church leadership so well, and challenging my thinking about what a funeral should be.

How has this challenged your thinking of where we can use (or should use) learning tasks?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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An Approach that Invites Connections

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One thing that a learning-centered approach helps learners do, is connect. It is with this connecting that learners can more fully and easily learn. It is with this type of connecting that we maximize the possibility of real change.

Below are three types of common connections when using a learning-centered approach and for ensuring learning.

Connect with self. Learners need to connect new content to existing knowledge or experience. They need to compare it to what they already know and do, and decide how it lines up and if they like it. They need to weigh it again what they believe is right and true, and see how it feels. They need to imagine it in their lives and ask themselves “Do I want to start using/doing this?”

Connect with others. Learners need to share their stories, experiences, thoughts and questions with other learners. They need to hear what others think and debate it. It is through this testing and trying with others that learners can discover new meaning and understanding for themselves. It is by seeing ourselves in others that clarity is sometimes found. 

Connect with the content. Learners need time to examine the new content they are learning. They need to decide how they feel about it and how it compares to what they already know. If they are learning a skill, they need try it out. Learning is in the doing and deciding, and this need time.

Which of these types of connections have you found especially helpful in learning?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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A Conference to Remember

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Recently, NeighbourLink North York hosted “Bridging Generations,” the third intergenerational conference in the series “Let’s Get Connected.” Their goal was to invite 50 youth and 50 seniors to come for a day of learning and fun. At the start of the day everyone was partnered with someone of a different age, and then invited to experience the entire day with that partner. At the end of the conference they reflected on this intergenerational experience – it was powerful!

NeighbourLink is a charity located in the suburbs of Toronto and works with seniors. Increasingly, they want to share the importance of volunteerism and the value of doing this intergenerationally. At this conference, they did this in two ways: an intergenerational panel and interactive workshops.

The question was: How do we ensure people learn while they are having fun?

With the help of Global Learning Partners, they offered two tip sheets as well as guidance on maximizing learning.

  1. Tips for Speaking on Our Panel – (click here)
  2. Tips for Workshop Facilitators – (click here)

Wow, did this ever make a difference! The steps for success included:

  1. Emailing the tip sheets to panelists and workshop facilitators a week in advance
  2. Calling each panelist and workshop facilitator a few days before the event to answer their questions, checking in and offering support
  3. Meeting with each group before the start of the conference
  4. Introducing the individuals in each group to each other before the event and ensuring time to connect.

NeighbourLink North York is confident they will host this sort of event again and is grateful they now have more tools to support their volunteer presenters and maximize learning for participants.

How do you ensure learning at conferences?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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A Dialogue Approach Transforms Corporate Training: A Spectacular Example

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Global Learning Partners-certified practitioner Margaret Bean recently reflected on her years as a leader in the Learning and Development department of 7-Eleven. From her reflections, we extracted Six Tips that are helpful for all of us as we bring dialogue-based learning principles into new settings.

#1. Expand your company’s understanding of what training is.

When Margaret first arrived at 7-Eleven, training, telling, and job aids were often seen as interchangeable. While patiently and effectively designing job aids as her first assignments, she also gradually transformed the view of training from that narrow definition to a broader understanding of training as a dialogue-based, hands-on learning experience.

#2. Build communication between training designers (developers) and training facilitators (deliverers).

As is often the case in corporations, those who developed 7-Eleven training and those who delivered it were two different groups of people who rarely communicated with each other. As lead developer for operations training (which takes place in training stores all across the US and Canada), Margaret knew how critical it was for her to understand what the deliverers experienced in the field and the importance of having continual dialogue with them. This change in communication led to a robust collaboration over the years with a core group of volunteer trainers. All facilitators and their supervisors felt a new ownership, which led to consistency in training across the US and Canada, and better-trained store operators and field leaders – resulting in reduced cost and increased profitability. It also resulted in Margaret being awarded the 2014 Gold Award by the international Brandon Hall Group for Best Learning Team.

#3. Expand the design skills of everyone involved in training.

Margaret thoughtfully strengthened the design capacity of deliverers so that they 1) could offer valuable input into the design of what they were teaching (consultative voice), and 2) could more effectively adapt the training materials to unique contexts without losing the integrity of the original design. [At GLP, we’ve found that the principles to practice framework is a great way to talk with both developers and deliverers about their distinct but complementary roles.]

#4. See every training program as a living thing.

As Margaret so wisely says, “a training program is living and breathing, so it always needs to be iterated and updated.” Margaret and her team took a 2-year-old operations training program that had been on its deathbed and revitalized it. They updated it every quarter by gathering feedback and analyzing indicators of participants’ learning, their transfer of their learning into practice, and the impact of this transfer upon the company. Examples of this impact were:

  • 75% reduction in required reading in favor of hands-on practice
  • 20% decrease in participants’ time to complete training, leading to over 70% decrease in training costs
  • 7% increase in sales
  • 2.5% improvement in operators’ performance.

Rather than push to create “finished” products, Global Learning Partners encourages companies to continually gather learner feedback as well as data about the results of your training efforts. It is important to create processes to periodically update to newer versions so that your training responds to patterns of feedback and to the current context.

#5. Embrace the axiom: Less is More.

When Margaret took over the design of the operations training, the materials consisted of two huge binders that users struggled to read, and then set on shelves. Through a thoughtful and collaborative process, Margaret’s team trimmed down the materials by 75% in favor of hands-on practice and application. Both trainers and users were much more satisfied with the training, and, as we’ve seen, it was much more effective.

#6. Keep your eyes on results.

As a for-proft corporation, 7-Eleven understandably needs hard financial data to evaluate the effectiveness of their operations training efforts. Not suprising to Margaret (or others of us who specialize in a learning-centered approach), the results of this new approach were convincing: training was more efficient, and graduates showed increased performance and profitability!

These are just a few of the many tips and insights that Margaret had to share from her years bringing a dialogue-learning approach to this corporate setting.

What tips and insights would you share?

​*****

Margaret Bean (margspiel@gmail.com) was a Senior Instructional Designer for 7-Eleven, working in the company’s corporate office in Dallas, Texas, where she was responsible for the design and content of their operations training. In 2014 she won the Brandon Hall Best Learning Team gold award for building and developing a cross-functional team to collaborate and consult in developing, implementing and continuously improving this training program. She also used to design trainings for leadership, employees, and national conferences. 

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

Meg Logue (meglogue25@gmail.com) is a freelance designer and communications specialist. She has worked closely as an assistant and consultant to Valerie and GLP since 2017.

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The Importance of Asking WHY

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We ask the why question before determining the appropriate content and learning objectives.

– Jane Vella

In the online training world, there are interesting obstacles to designing for a learning-centered event. Some of these include, how to incorporate interactive dialogue, affirmations, feedback, and group work. These challenges seem to work themselves out to some extent, and can be managed, handled and even supported by building a good design. However, some training content is easier to navigate and deliver than others in an online format.

While designing for an online Early Childhood professional development course in positive interactions between caregiver and child, I was a little stumped in how to deliver content on interactions in an asynchronistic format - or self-paced learning setting. The challenge has always been how to incorporate Dialogue Education into this seemingly impersonal environment, but this posed further challenges for me. Though the instructional designer on my team assured me that we could make it work, I lacked complete confidence.

Historically, this course has been offered as a face-to-face learning event in which participants are interactive and use dialogue and group work to meet achievement-based objectives. I had facilitated this training before, but it was designed years ago by another team. Would it be possible to simply recreate the face-to-face training into a virtual setting? I started looking at the design and considered how it could be converted. In doing so I had simply skipped ahead in designing, only to find that the face-to-face design was not working and would not work in an online format. So, what was the point of this training? What was the underlying cause for this information? What was the content that I needed to use, and what could be left behind?

Having just returned from the Advanced Design and Evaluation retreat with GLP, I remembered a learning task around the need for evidenced-based rationale or reasoning in our designs to support accountability and transfer of “information.” One of the accountability principles that Kurt Levin speaks of is, "It takes more than just firsthand experience to generate valid knowledge." I could name the skills or knowledge needed to improve interactions between caregivers and children but was that valid enough? I couldn't really answer beyond my own firsthand understanding of this training. I began to wonder, where had the previous team taken their content from?

So, I went back to the beginning, and began by really slowing down my design process. Initial questions were:  Who was going to participate in this online learning course; who was going to establish or verify that the learning event had occurred, and who was recommending or requiring this learning event for the participants? In my discovery, I could name that this course is recommended for all early childhood educators and required for educators in certain early childhood programs participating in a Tiered Quality Rating System. Naturally, I asked why.

The Why? What is the rationale or reasoning for this recommendation or requirement? This question was a good place to really pause and consider the skill, knowledge or attitude shift that a learner would be making in this course. Was my assumption correct? Our state system sees positive interactions and experiences between caregivers/ educators and children as an indicator of quality early childcare. Our state views quality early childhood education as an important foundation for all children. Our state is constantly striving for quality improvements that support the families and children in our communities. Again, in this discovery, I could name a general reason, but still could not define “quality” or how this would be measured, observed or recognized; but because I could not name the evidence that defined quality, I was not done establishing a solid rationale.

I began to research the definition of "positive interactions.” I started by referring to a book the face-to-face course is built on and reviewed the research the authors started with themselves. This was the first time I had spent so much time with the content. It was fascinating. I ended up with 5 evidence-based sources for this training that began to highlight what the rationale and reason was in having “positive interactions" in early childhood settings - and the path became clearer: two articles, two assessment tools and a statistical data that looked at educator/ child interactions over the course of a day. This step took time, but it was well worth the stop.

Jane Vella speaks to this “Getting an honest answer to the Why Question controls your response to all the design questions that follow." (On Teaching and Learning, ​pp 33-34) This statement makes so much sense now. I feel like I was able to hone in on specific information that builds skills and knowledge, simply based on the research I uncovered by asking Why. This rationale was where I started my accountability to the learner through this design. What I was presenting was built on solid evidence; there is honesty in the design.

The research named the skills and provided the knowledge base for quality interactions with children, and the data supported the need for all educators to adapt this skill set into their practice. The intended change came into view, based on the research and the data. I was able to move quickly through the rest of the steps for this design, naming content that was applicable to a self-paced learner but that still would achieve the same outcomes as the face-to-face learner.

What has this left me with? When including this evidence-based research and data to establish Why, I had a sturdier foundation to build upon; a stronger footing to establish achievement-based outcomes and could show how verifiable tasks could meet the intended change. Both in the learning event, and in the transfer learning events to follow; each helping to support and sustain quality practices in early childcare. 

What has your journey been like when moving a face-to-face course to the virtual space, or from an online course to an in-person setting?

​*****

Jesica Radaelli-Nida (jes.nida@yahoo.com) is Program Specialist UNM Early Childhood Service Center.​

 

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