While I have not been blogging throughout this semester, I have been thinking a lot about what I would write in this final assignment. I had written down several “random thoughts” over the last few months, and many of those included a notation to “see previous blogs” as I remembered having similar thoughts during previous classes. So as I sit down to write this reflective essay, I am thinking back not only on what I’ve learned in this course, but on how what I’ve learned in this course has brought up some of the themes I’ve been thinking about over the last two years.
What I Learned about Design
As with many things in life, what you get out of something depends a great deal on what you put into it. I explored this in my blog during my first semester. “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” (https://joanneeven.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/marketing-and-teaching-not-all-that-dissimilar/). In other words, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know if you got there? And while it is important to know where you are going, it is equally important to know why you’re going there.
In On Teaching and Learning, Jane Vella writes, “Getting an honest answer to the Why? question… controls your responses to all the design questions that follow” (pp. 33-34). She goes on to say that “Inattention to this step in the design can result in inappropriate or irrelevant content” (p. 34). Wow, I can’t think of any faster way to have your entire program fail than to have irrelevant content!
Writing my program rationale was relatively easy because of my intimate knowledge of the organization and first-hand experience with some of the issues that created the need for this program. I realize I will not always have the luxury of being so personally involved in all the situations for which I will design training, but I hope my experience designing this program will help me to think of the right questions to ask of those who are close to the issues and lead me to create a clear rationale for those programs.
The program goals, on the other hand, were much harder to write. I knew what I wanted the overall outcome to look like – a smoother adoption process – but it was difficult to put into words, no, make that put into actions, exactly what that would look like This, I imagine, to be a common struggle of program planners, regardless of how close they are to the issues at hand. It’s easy to point to a problem; it’s harder to figure out what pieces need attention to bring about the desired change.
Struggling with writing those goals was well worth the effort. I can honestly say that the program goals I wrote guided me throughout the rest of my planning for the SEVA GRREAT workshop. When writing the instructional design, I referred back to the program goals to make sure I had included relevant content for each one. Then again, when I was writing the evaluation plan, I went back to read the rationale and goals to make sure I was measuring what was important, which was not always an easy thing to try to measure, but if I didn’t have an instrument to do so, how would I know if my program was successful?
What I Learned about Development
The first course I took in the M.Ed. program was Learning Strategies for Adults, which has since been rolled into this Design & Delivery course. One night we were discussing the responsibilities of both the teacher and the student in terms of making sure learning actually takes place. In my reflective blog post for that class I wrote,
…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… . 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 (https://joanneeven.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/what-is-the-roleresponsibility-of-the-teacher-in-meeting-individual-student-learning-styles/).
I had yet to be introduced to Jane Vella or her four Is, but I see hints of achievement based objectives (ABOs) and a reference to an input exercise here! Later that semester, I did have a brief introduction to Vella’s ideas (https://joanneeven.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/me-myself-and-i-i-i-i/), and the step that struck me most then was the integration as I was wrestling with making the connection between my learning and my then-current job search.
As I learned more about Vella’s ideas this semester and put those four steps into practice for my workshop, it was the implementation steps that tended to be the hardest ones to write. In some ways, they should have been the easiest because they were directed by the ABOs that I’d written for each session. However, it was difficult for some sessions to determine how to simulate a situation that would be simple enough to recreate in the training environment yet realistic enough to be useful. As I wrote in that earlier blog post, implementation “is the time when students get to ‘try on’ the new information and see how it feels, how it works, and what questions it raises” (https://joanneeven.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/me-myself-and-i-i-i-i/). If the implementation exercises weren’t effective, then it would be difficult for the learners to ask those questions or determine how they could implement the learning in their work for the rescue.
I have become a big fan of Vella’s learning task. It appeals to me because it provides just enough structure to get you started in developing your instruction, but it affords plenty of room to be creative and flexible with your approach. As I was developing the instructional plan, I would find myself thinking while driving to and from work about what questions I could pose to draw out the learners’ previous experience (inductive work), or how I could design a task that would be fun and useful (implementation). While out walking the dogs, I would think about ways to transfer the learning beyond the workshop (integration). It was much more than sitting down at one time and listing out the information that I wanted to impart to the learners. As Jane Vella so boldly illustrated during her Skype session with our class, developing effective learning is not just about covering the content.
Which brings me to the comments that I received on my facilitation of a small portion of the SEVA GRREAT workshop that I adapted for the class. It was encouraging to read the positive comments people wrote about my presentation, and yet there was a definite theme to the constructive criticism comments. My classmates pointed out that my content piece was a little heavy, and I had forgotten one of the tenets of adult learning theory – that adults bring their own set of experiences to the table into which they need to integrate the new information. And they were right. As I looked back at my input section, there wasn’t much built into it for learner interaction. In On Teaching and Learning, Vella says that “teaching involves much more than handing over information” (p. 64), and oddly enough, I had made a note under that paragraph that learners should interact with the content while it is being presented, and yet I had not built that into my instructional plan. I have since revised that input section and was careful to design interactive input in my other learning tasks , too. Point taken, and lesson learned.
What I Learned about Delivery
I have often wondered how an instructor can teach the same course over and over and over again, year after year, and still make it new and fresh for each class. Well, at least the good instructors do! What I learned this semester is that, for the good instructors, it’s never really the same course.
Going back to my blog post from the night I was first introduced to Vella’s ideas, I wrote, “Maybe what makes a good teacher is continuing to be a good learner” (https://joanneeven.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/me-myself-and-i-i-i-i/). Each time you teach a class or facilitate a training session, there are new learners in the class who bring new experiences and thus new opportunities to work with the content.
I explored what this might mean for me as a teacher in a blog post called This Class is Our Class:
I’ve often heard teachers say “this is YOUR” class, but never “OUR” class. That’s an interesting idea to ponder as I walk this thin line between being a student and wanting to become a teacher. I like the idea of “our” class because it implies that as a teacher, I’ll learn something, too. Maybe I’ll try to work that into my course objectives so that not only do the students know what they will learn, but they’ll understand what I hope to learn from them and from teaching them, too. (https://joanneeven.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/this-class-is-our-class/)
While not explicitly stated in the program goals I wrote for the SEVA GRREAT workshop, the facilitators will undoubtedly learn from the discussions in their sessions, and that learning will be incorporated into the revisions of the foster and home evaluator handbooks.
As a teacher, I will also have the opportunity to learn from each session in ways that I can use to rework the program for the next time around. I realized this even after my short presentation to the class. I had been careful to plan my session without the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, and yet I realized (and received comments on) how I might make use of a flip chart or handouts to assist visual learners who may struggle with a session that is “all talk.”
Delivery is just the outward presentation of a whole lot of work that goes on behind the scenes both before and after class. In her book Planning Programs for Adult Learners, Caffarella describes twelve parts to the Interactive Model of Program Planning. While not all twelve steps may be necessary for every program, I would wager that at least half are involved in the development of any good program. That’s six steps that happen before you even get to delivery, and if those steps are not well thought out, even the best presenter won’t save you.
It’s been interesting to see how several themes in my blog posts have come back around in my learning in this class. I am anxious to see if and how these themes expand over my next two years in this program.