In a class I took on designing programs, the final project was to deliver a 10-minute portion of a larger training session we had been brainstorming since the first day. I did critical thinking skills within the context of confirmation – a Catholic rite of passage. In my local church’s confirmation program, leaders struggled to relate Bible readings to modern-day situations and to relay it to their candidates (students). I honed in on this particular situation and designed my training around it.
I began my 10-minute session by having fellow students play the roles of confirmation leaders. I then had them complete a 3-minute, icebreaker-type exercise of which the main point was to read the instructions carefully. That would segue nicely into a facilitated discussion on reading for main points, which would further lay the foundation for the rest of the training.
But that idea failed…miserably.
Based on the feedback, I was unable to bring out that “light bulb” moment in which learners begin to look at something in a different light. Specifically, the icebreaker exercise was not a great segue tool, and my follow-up spiel on critical thinking was not exactly life-altering either. And as I continued to take on the brunt of the feedback, I stood there thinking to myself, ‘I swear this idea sounded good yesterday…’
But a lot of the feedback I received was immensely constructive as well. For example, by just hearing that learners probably wouldn’t have caught on as intended is huge. In addition, I learned that the way I said certain things in my follow-up was dangerously offensive – proclaiming that leaders don’t do this or that correctly vs. explaining how they could improve. Thankfully, we were obligated to improve our training based on the feedback, and then try again.
My second go was significantly improved. I began by changing my opening exercise. Instead of using the 3-minute icebreaker, I opted to begin with an open-ended discussion about the popular Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. I had students brainstorm small elements of the plot to collectively jog everyone’s memory. I then guided students toward identifying the themes in the film and how they connected to those elements. For example, there was a general consensus that the popular adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ was important in the film; I quickly reminded students that the Beast embodied that very saying. That discussion then served as a much more effective segue into a short lecture on critical thinking within the context of confirmation. And the feedback was positive.
The moral of the story is feedback. Or, in more formal training language, revision. When we design training, it’s easy to lose the learner’s perspective, especially when we get caught up in making sure the subject matter is perfect. As a result, it’s very easy to overlook whether or not the training meshes well with learners. The only way to hold ourselves accountable for making sure it does is by gaining feedback from our co-workers and/or colleagues. That way, we know what to fix and what ultimately will and will not work well for our learners. As my instructor said, “What might sound good in theory, might not actually work in reality.”
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