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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Marketing and Teaching… not all that dissimilar

A few weeks ago I posted an update on my LinkedIn page that said, “Are there similarities between Marketing and Training & Development?  Both aim to affect behavior and can lead to personal improvement.”  I wondered at the time if I was just trying to justify my career transition to myself. 

As I was writing my first reflective paper for this class about why I want to teach as part of my career, I also touched on the notion that there seems to be similarities between the goal of marketing and that of teaching.  And then yesterday, as I was listening to an American Marketing Association webinar entitled StorySelling:  Telling and Selling Your Brand’s Story, I found myself drawing comparisons between what the speaker was saying about telling meaningful stories and what we talked about in class recently about what makes learning significant.  Is this just me continuing to justify my career change?  Or is there something to this?

The premise of the webinar was that telling stories was one method you could use to sell your brand.  Rather than relying on a linear creative brief (which from my experience is rarely “creative” or “brief”) to develop a unique selling proposition on which to base the marketing plan, a company can use a story to stand for something meaningful rather than simply factual.  The presenter even stated outright that “stories are how we learn.”  Making a story meaningful is how prospects and customers connect with your brand, and he talked about different levels of connections ranging from a shallow connection to a deep connection.

Anyone else picturing Bloom’s taxonomy?

Just as there is a time and place for the Four Ps of marketing – product, price, placement (distribution), promotion – to convey the fundamentals of a marketing plan, similarly there are proper uses of transmission techniques such as lecture to transfer knowledge to the learner.  Then as you move along the spectrum, you start to develop integrated marketing plans to reach various audiences, much like you would use a blended teaching approach to connect with various learners in your audience.  Knowing which marketing tools will resonate with which prospects and customers is very much like understanding which learning strategies and techniques will provide the best opportunity for your learners. 

Effective assessment is another area where the two fields share similarities.  If you haven’t set clear objectives at the start of your program, you won’t know what to measure to determine if you achieved your goal.  Based on what you glean from your assessment, you should be adjusting your marketing tactics to reach a larger audience and/or develop a deeper relationship with your prospects and customers – or from a teaching perspective, adjusting learning strategies to reach more learners or create a deeper level of understanding of the content.

I’m really excited to see that what I at first thought was a hard left-hand turn down a completely new path is not such a departure from the first 20 years of my professional life.  Now I just need to convey that in my resume.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

What is the role/responsibility of the teacher in meeting individual student learning styles?

I’ll be curious to see what I think of this blog as I get further into the program and as I have more experiences in the training field to pull from.  I think that’s why I’ve struggled so much with the blog this week.  I’ve been having trouble coming up with instances I could relate to this question.  Therefore, the thoughts I express here are shaped heavily by the readings and the discussions we’ve had in class more so than by what I’ve experienced first-hand, but here we go.

There seems to me to be merit in Weimer’s idea that “how faculty teach is intrinsically a function of what they teach and how students learn in that discipline” (p. 14).  First and foremost, the teacher should present the content in the manner in which it – the content – is best-suited.  This provides a sort of “natural” learning environment that should help most students grasp the content.  For example, to teach how to solve an algebra equation, you wouldn’t lecture on how to solve for ‘x’; instead it would be more natural to work it out step-by-step on the board. 

 For something less concrete, say teaching the art of negotiating, the natural setting for learning might be role-playing to help students understand how to react in certain situations.  The teacher can demonstrate the role-play with one of the students and then have the students interact with each other, changing partners to get different experiences. 

 In both of these examples, teachers have the responsibility for introducing the content and explaining the learning goal.  That shines a light on what students then need to take as their responsibility to make sure they achieve that learning goal.  So going back to the algebra equation, the teacher can say, “Today, we’re going to learn how to solve quadratic equations.  At the end of class, you should each feel comfortable solving an equation on your own.”  Then the teacher can proceed with walking through the steps to solve the equation.  The responsibility then shifts to the students to self-identify what parts they don’t understand and to ask for more explanation. 

 Uh-oh… I can already see where this is going to break down because some students will not want to reveal that they don’t understand something.  All sorts of theoretical “soft” ideas come to mind such as the ability of the teacher to create a “safe” learning environment where students aren’t afraid to ask questions, but I’m imagining my 7th grade Algebra class and remembering days you couldn’t have paid me enough to admit I didn’t get it. 

 Last week we talked about how teachers tend to teach in the manner they were taught or in the manner in which they learn best.  They naturally teach from their comfort zone.  However, I feel that teachers need to take the responsibility to recognize when those approaches are not working.  Weimer says they should “manage a repertoire” (p. xiv) of instructional techniques that create a “coherent, integrated approach to teaching” (p. xiv).  In other words, teachers should know more than one way to skin a cat.

 My sister is an instructional designer, and she talks about “blended learning”.  I could look up a technical definition of the term, but I imagine it would go something like this – theory of incorporating multiple teaching techniques to reinforce the learning process.  This sounds like a good start toward addressing multiple (although maybe not individual) learning styles.  (It also sounds like good step toward creating significant learning because it presents the information and/or gives students the opportunity to consider the content in different scenarios.) 

 In an academic environment where teachers have a longer period of time to get to know their students, they can attempt to identify their learning styles and aim to create teaching activities through a blended approach that fits the majority of those learning styles. 

 But in a corporate environment, trainers may not have any prior knowledge of the students’ backgrounds or have any time to identify their learning styles during the training period.  In that case, they should probably rely on the most natural learning environment for the content and using the learning style – or blended style – that seems to have had the best outcome in previous sessions.  If there is (and there should be) follow up after the training, that assessment should help guide any modifications or enhancements the trainer makes to the learning style(s) for future presentations of that material or to that particular group.

 There will always be those students who don’t fit neatly into the learning style of a class, but if teachers do as Weimer suggests and “position themselves alongside the learner and keep the attention, focus, and spotlight aimed at and on the learning process” (p. 76) they should be able to identify what’s working and who’s not getting it.  However, Weimer also says that a “student cannot be forced to learn, and a teacher cannot learn anything for a student” (pp. 78-9).  I believe the teacher has the responsibility to present content in the manner in which it is most easily accessible to the majority of students and has the responsibility to identify, either through observation or assessment, those students who are struggling.  But students also have a responsibility to admit when they are not learning and, along with the teacher, discover the learning style that will work for them.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

Validation

I had the chance to talk with Kendra Hemmingson (Sr. T&D Coord. with VA ABC Board) last week and mentioned to her how much I’m enjoying the Learner-Centered Teaching book.  I have to admit I was surprised by the obvious sign of recognition on her face.  I guess I was thinking the learner-centered approach was more academic in nature, but how nice to have validation that  it’s being used (or at least some are striving to apply it) in the “real world.”   That’s giving me a new framework to think about as I’m reading more in the book.  The examples in the book illustrate how the ideas can be applied in a classroom (usually college) environment, but I’m trying to think through how they might be applied in a corporate training environment.  A bit of a stretch since I’m not yet in that field, but I’m trying to relate to my own training experiences, both when I was the learner and the “teacher”.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

Off to a good start

Okay, so I know I have “extra” time these days (just passed the 7 month mark of unemployment… ugh!), but I hope I can maintain decent study habits even after I start working again.  (I WILL find a job eventually!)  The chapter on content I read last night (put Blaze to sleep again) got me thinking about how I learned best in college, and I have to admit, there is a lot I crammed in the night before an exam and then promptly forgot as soon as the exam was over.  I did well enough, but sometimes I wish I’d really learned some things better.  There are a lot of things I know I USED to know.  Guess it wasn’t significant learning.  Speaking of… still more to read before class this week…

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2010 in ADLT 603