Does any of the following resonate with you?
A small training team. More to do than there are hours in the day. You do your best. You have a hunch there might even be better ways out there to do things, but you don’t really have time to step away and learn new things. “Good enough” is going to have to do, because it’s been working and there’s a lot more to get done. Even though “good enough” doesn’t feel quite right. You’ve always been a high achiever, and excellence is what you’ve always strived for. If only someone could give you permission to step away for a few moments each week and think about some better ways to do things.
My company, Endurance Learning, is a small but mighty (and very busy) team, putting together lots of training (mostly elearning) for a variety of organizations. And a lot of us were feeling this way.
We don’t have the time or the resources to send everyone to various conferences or workshops, but recently we came together for a team book club. It was a powerful learning experience – both for the content it introduced to us, and it was also powerful for the simple act of all of us going through a common learning experience, together.
Everyone on the team comes from different backgrounds. A few of us were classroom teachers. Some came from the nonprofit space while others worked in the for profit arena. One of us even worked on Shakira’s music videos. Many of us are instructional designers, but not everyone. Half of us work directly with clients. Some of us are not involved with the instructional design at all. Yet when all eight of us came together to read and discuss Cathy Moore‘s Map It, we all learned something, we had an opportunity to hear reflections on our own work processes from many different points of view and we grew as a team.
First I’ll share three major benefits and outcomes that resulted from our team book club. I’ll close today’s post by sharing some of the questions we discussed in the event that this post inspires you to come together with your team to go through a similar team book club experienced.
A Common Vocabulary
“Are you sure you didn’t write this book under a pseudonym?” one of my teammates asked me when she cracked open the first few pages.
I assured her that I did not, though I can’t think of a bigger compliment. I’ve followed Cathy Moore for quite some time and I’ve done my best to emulate many of the strategies she espouses in her work. I was excited for the team to recognize Cathy Moore’s influence in the work that our company does. I was excited for the team to see that, when they see my work or hear me talk, that I wasn’t just saying things that sounded good to me. I was excited for the team to see that the things I’d say or the way I’d approach a project was rooted in practices that have been proven effective across the L&D field.
One of my goals for this team book club was to make sure that it’s not just Brian Washburn who uses many of these terms and concepts, but rather the entire team can begin to use concepts and terminology found throughout the book. Whether your role on the team is instructional designer or quality assurance, I felt it important that we each have a common understanding of why Endurance Learning does the things we do in our projects, and those things we do have been greatly influenced by the work of Cathy Moore as well as the work of those cited in her book.
Some Key Questions About Learning Objectives
Every instructional designer on our team understands the role and importance of learning objectives. Every instructional designer on our team is familiar with the concept of completing the following sentence: “By the end of this learning experience, the learners will be able to…”
We generally understand that the next word in that sentence needs to be an action-oriented, observable verb. But we (I’m certainly including myself in this conversation) don’t always know how to choose the “right” verb.
Map It offered a slightly different way to frame how we approach learning objectives.
Yes, Moore talks about the fundamental question of: What is it that people will be able to do (not know)? That, however, is a much easier question to ask than it is to answer.
Our team truly picked up on a different way to frame this question: What will that look like? For example, if Lindsay is competent in a skill but Brian isn’t, what would we see Lindsay doing that Brian isn’t doing?
Another key question that led to a great deal of discussion among our team was: does feedback in activities or assessments always need to come with a heading that indicates whether a choice was “Correct!” or “Incorrect!”? After all, real life rarely tells you right on the spot whether you were correct or incorrect in the decision you made. Eventually the law of natural consequences will help you realize that you made a great decision or that you made a disastrous decision, but rarely do we get the benefit of some omniscient voice that calls down to us immediately after we choose a course of action that says: “Incorrect Answer! The better option would have been choice C!”
A Different Way to Approach Client Conversations
It’s extremely tempting to simply say “Yes, ma’am!” when a client comes to us with a training project. “We can certainly do that, and we can certainly make that engaging!” are usually the next few sentences out of our mouths.
Over and over, “Map It” preaches the idea of being noncommittal about what the ultimate learning solution will be until you know more. Even if the client has their heart set on a training project, the action mapping framework offers specific ways to ask plenty of questions in order to determine if training will even be part of the solution.
With this in mind, I’ve witnessed my colleagues approach our clients differently.
Some of the questions I’ve been hearing during our work with SMEs now include:
“Can you give me some examples of what that would look like?”
“What would happen if someone couldn’t memorize all of this information? Would a job aid be appropriate?”
“What are some of the typical ways that your employees might make mistakes when trying to master this process, especially when they’re first learning?”
Discussion Questions for Map It
A while back I had an opportunity to record a podcast with Alaina Szlachta entitled Reading For Improvement is Different than Reading for Information. We spoke about the difference of reading for entertainment (even when we’re reading non-fiction, business books) vs. reading and actually doing something different with the new knowledge we’ve learned.
Because I was asking our entire team to take work hours and read this book, I was hoping that we’d also find some specific ways we could change the way we worked as a result of this book. With that in mind, here are some of the questions we kept in mind as we read the book (feel free to steal them and use them with your own teams if you’re so inspired to do a group book club with Cathy Moore’s “Map It”).
While we discussed these questions during team meetings, we also had a community Google Doc set up where people could jot down their thoughts and read others’ thoughts which may not have come up during the 1-hour team meetings/discussions.
- Take a look through the table of contents. What do you hope to take away from our book club conversations? What topic(s) are you most curious about?
- On a scale from “Tina’s Way” to “Anna’s Way”, where does the way in which we’ve approached our current projects fall? Why? Is that a bad thing? (If this question doesn’t make sense to you right now, when you get to chapter 2 in “Map It”, you’ll learn more about Tina’s Way and Anna’s Way.)
- What are some things we’re doing/not doing when it comes to how Cathy Moore suggests we “steer” the client into the right direction?
- What are some strategies we could use when talking with clients so that we can respect their desire that people “know/understand” things AND also nudge the conversation toward what people should be able to DO by the end of a training program?
- How is the feedback in the example in the grey box on page 153 different from the feedback we typically offer in our training programs? What are the benefits of this kind of feedback? What are the challenges to creating projects that have this kind of feedback?
These are just a few of the questions we jumped into. As a final challenge, during our last book club conversation, I played the role of a client, I told my team what kind of training I felt I needed their help with, and they had to use what they learned from the book in order to figure out what kind of learning intervention I *really* needed (that is, if I even needed an intervention at all).
It was an interesting exercise and we’ll continue to work on sharpening our skills and integrating what we learned from this book and our reflections on how we’re currently doing things and what needs to change.