The Importance of Informal Learning: A Conversation with Jon Tota

The 70/20/10 model of professional development suggests that about 10% of what we learn comes through formal means (classes, courses, elearning, workshops, etc), about 20% of what we learn comes through supportive relationships (supervisor support, mentors, coaching, etc) and a whopping 70% of what we learn comes through informal means (stretch assignments, playing with new ideas, talking with colleagues, having coffee with LinkedIn connections, etc).

Jon Tota, founder of Syntax + Motion and host of the podcast Learning Life with Jon Tota, has literally made his living through the “70” part of the 70/20/10 model – by having conversations with other people. Recently, I had a chance to talk with Jon not just about the value of having conversations, but simply how to have meaningful and productive conversations with others in order to learn.

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Experiments in Learning Design: Al + Id + Hn = Surprising Your Participants

On June 29, my book What’s Your Formula: Combine Learning Elements for Impactful Design, will finally be available. I’ve teased this before and I’ll write more about it as the release date approaches, but the gist of the book is that you can (and should) string together various basic elements of learning design (see the periodic table below) to create amazing learning experiences.

Over the next few weeks we’ll explore some combinations of these elements, and I’ll try to find combinations that may not always be so natural or evident. For that reason, we’ll call this series: Experiments in Learning Design.

Today’s experiment: Mixing Al (Adult Learning) + Id (Instructional Design) + Hn (Handouts) to yield a way to grab your participants’ attention from the beginning.

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What are the keys to being more innovative with training design?

Seriously, what are they?

I have my own thoughts, but one person’s innovation is another person’s silly idea. That’s why I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you feel are the keys to being more innovating in training design in the comment section.

Since you’re already here, I suppose I’ll share several keys that I feel are most important in bringing innovation to learning programs.

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The single most important skill of a learning professional

If you look at any job description for any learning and development job, you’ll find a whole lot of items listed under required skills and experience. Instructional design. The ability to be a dynamic presenter. Technical savvy with common software such as PowerPoint. Creativity (which is more of a trait than a skill or experience).

I’ve recorded 66 podcast interviews and I’ve been a little surprised at the trait I hear come up most often, including something that was mentioned by next Monday’s guest (Spencer Wixom will be talking about sales training and the Challenger Sale model).

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What are some of the similarities between training people and training puppies?

Amy Jensen has made a living training people around the world on how to train their puppies. Since 2019, she’s found a way to effectively engage puppy owners of all age ranges, generations and cultures as they learn – virtually – strategies and best practices that lead to well-behaved puppies.

The similarities between training puppies and training people may surprise you.

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A Conversation with Dialogue Education Pioneer Jane Vella (Part 2)

Have you ever had a chance to talk with someone so fascinating that you hoped the conversation would never end?

That happened to me when I had a chance to talk with Jane Vella. On the verge of her 90th birthday, she’s as energetic as ever and her book, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach has been the most influential treatise on learning design that I’ve ever read.

While I find the principles of dialogue education to be important when designing training programs, we left our conversation at the end of Part 1 of this podcast when I posed a question to her, asking if dialogue education was ever not an appropriate approach to learning design.

Here in Part 2 of this podcast, we hear her answer to that question and several others.

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A Conversation with Dialogue Education Pioneer Jane Vella

If you were interested in the NBA and wanted to talk with one of the most influential players ever to play, with whom would you talk? Michael Jordan?

What about if you wanted to talk with a legendary recording artist who changed the face of music, with whom would you talk? Paul McCartney?

I recently had an opportunity to talk with a legend in the field of education whose concept of Dialogue Education built upon her mentor, Malcolm Knowles‘, theory of Adult Learning to further transform the world of learning: Jane Vella. While this is a longer conversation than our typical Train Like You Listen episode – and has been split into 2 parts (part 2 is here), I hope you’ll indulge me and spend some time listening to (or reading) this conversation with someone whose work has influenced every corner of every training program I’ve developed (or written about on my blog) since I learned about Dialogue Education in 2007.

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Dialogue Education: Arguably the most important offshoot of adult learning theory

In 2007, I moved across the country with a 2-month old child and began a new adventure in Seattle with my first training director role.

Digging into the organization’s existing training program, I pulled out my red pen and began scanning the facilitator guide, ready to make an immediate impact and improve a training program that was being used by 70,000 people across the country.

Much to my chagrin, I didn’t find much to improve. Someone before me had rooted out all the learning objectives that had the audacity to begin with verbs such as “know” or “understand”. Each topic had a logical sequence and flow of activities. The program was extremely engaging.

How in the world was this possible without my leadership and guidance?

It turned out that this program was designed with the principles of what Jane Vella termed “dialogue education“. Whatever this dialogue education was, it seemed that this Jane Vella character laid out principles of learning and education that were like none other I’d ever seen.

I’m not a big fan of “you should’s”, because everyone has their own circumstances and situations and what works for me may not work for you. However, in this case, if you’re unfamiliar with Jane Vella’s work or the principles of dialogue education, you ought to make sure you’re incorporating these principles into your training design.

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Finding Success in DEI Training

Carrie Heron is a Therapist, Facilitator, Consultant and Coach. We first met 14 years ago when she was working for Casey Family Programs and I was the training director at the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association. Carrie was training some of my colleagues and me on an initiative focused on racial and ethnic identity development for foster children (and those who work with them).

Through activities and discussions focused on concepts of racism and privilege, I can honestly say it was one of the most personally impactful training programs I’ve ever experienced… although looking back on it, I’m not sure it moved the needle very on the inherent racism and issues of equity in the foster care system.

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Carrie about her experiences and perspective on what makes for the most “successful” diversity, equity and inclusion training.

“Training”, she quickly noted, doesn’t work. At least, training in isolation of a broader initiative, doesn’t work. Following is our complete conversation. As you may note, this is longer than our typical Train Like You Listen podcast… then again, this is a very important topic with no easy solutions, so we didn’t mind releasing this episode in its full, 20+ minute glory. I hope you’ll take the time to listen and then share your thoughts in the comment section.

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