My last post was about updating evaluations based on Will Thalheimer’s book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets. In a word, we failed. But as learning professionals, failure = learning. We learned that we had a really hard time reporting on the results, we weren’t giving our stakeholders the information they wanted, and learners were still getting a bit of “evaluation fatigue” that resulted in couple instances of wonky results. That said, the practice of remodeling the evaluation questions was extraordinarily valuable in creating our new evaluation questions.
In the spirit of sharing my work, I wanted to share how we updated our smile sheets. We knew our evaluation forms needed some help. They were long, tedious, and didn’t really give us the information we needed. So, we looked to Will Thalheimer’s book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets. I set to work creating new evaluation questions for our courses.
Note: These questions were for immediate evaluations only, not delayed ones.
How the New Evaluation Questions Were Written
Rewriting our smile sheet smile sheets started with taking a look at our old questions and dissecting them. One of them was:
The course was given the correct amount of time.
- Strongly Agree
- Strongly Disagree
If the average answer was “Disagree” – what does that mean? Was the course too long or too short? Why? Obviously, as observers we could take a good guess. And maybe a couple of people would have written in a comment. But the point still stands – why not make the answers actually give us real data? Adding more data to your smile sheets is much of what Will suggests in his book. Continue Reading
I went to dinner with a new friend Sunday evening. We have a lot in common, we both enjoy video games and nerdy things. I’ve read the first book in the Death Note manga series, she’s going to lend me the rest when we hang out again. Earlier that day, I’d gotten lunch with another friend. Earlier that week, I was able to contact even another friend last minute to see if she wanted to go to a concert I had an extra ticket to.
That may not seem like a big deal, but a few months ago, I had maybe one friend in DC that I felt comfortable to call anytime to hang out. This is a vulnerable admission – I am pretty outgoing and make friends easily.
A few months ago, despite more time due to the lack of friends, my desire to develop my professional life outside of work dwindled. I stopped updating social media and my blog.
The vision of me I’d built was slowly deteriorating.
You probably have a vision of who you want to be. Your exact career path may be unknown, but you probably have a desired progression timeline. Your dream wardrobe is probably fuzzy at best, but you likely know the perception you want strangers to have of you. You don’t know the names of friends you want, but you know what you want to do with friends when you hang out.
A few months ago, I realized that I couldn’t be my vision of myself all at once. I don’t have enough energy. So I chose aspects to work on, one by one.
My career foundation felt solid. I’d gone above and beyond in my professional development before my motivation fizzled. I even felt happy with my style – I knew exactly what I wanted when I shopped and limited my wardrobe. Before I realized that I had limited energy, I was attempting to dedicate myself to each of those aspects of my life as though I was still trying to build those foundations. I took a step back, I gave myself permission to focus on new foundations – such as making friends. And now I feel some of my energy returning for everything else.
I’m still working on every aspect of me and my vision, but it’s now a fun adventure – not an overwhelming process.
I know this is a training blog, so let’s apply it there. To professional development in general. Focus on gaining a foundation in one skill at a time. If you try to learn Storyline, graphic design, and instructional design skills all at once – you will feel overwhelmed and feel like you’re failing. Take that step back. Make it a fun adventure – where you’re picking up new skills on the way.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be featured on Kris Anthony’s new wonderful Instructional Design podcast, Dear Instructional Designer. I did want to give you a mini taste of one thing that I talked about: the important skill of business communication.
As instructional designers, we are constantly interacting with clients, SMEs, stakeholders, you name it. One of the skills I’m constantly working on, and admittedly proud of, is effective business writing. A few years ago, one of my bosses handed me a booklet on effective business emails and writing and it rocked my life. People not only started responding quicker and more in line with my needs, but actually complimenting my actual emails. Look!
Unfortunately, I’m not able to share the actual booklet he gave me – but here are a couple of great resources to get you started:
What other resources do you recommend for learning better business writing?
We are working on a series of courses as a part of a huge change management initiative. One of the courses I designed is now live with our staff going through it, while I am still working on a few more courses in the series.
And because one of them is live while I’m working on others, I had an interesting experience. I happen to pull in one of the participants of the live course into a SME meeting of one of the other courses in the series to help with a certain area, a case study.
We got to what we would be providing participants for the case study, and my reply was well… basically nothing. The bare minimum. They would have to do the research on the case study themselves; research and analysis would be their day-to-day job after the training.
But the SMEs were hesitant… understandably. How on earth were they going to do that?
Then the participant from the previously designed course spoke up. Paraphrasing: “It actually worked really well. I mean, these participants are people who are knowledgeable and already know how to research and where to find the information. If someone didn’t, it was a group effort, so they learned.”
I had not yet learned whether that method was working – I had heard no complaints in feedback, but nothing validating either. To say the least, it was nice to hear!
Don’t be scared to rely on what your learners know. If you don’t think that all your learners will be able to complete whatever knowledge task you set forth, have them work with others. Make it a group effort. Add a little guidance if you feel like it’s needed. But don’t feel like you need to hold their hand in every training.
How have you designed your learning this way? What did you do when you received push back?
In my previous post, I mentioned that a training director revamped her entire department based on another post I made. I asked her to share how she changed it, and if it would be okay to share on my blog.
I absolutely love bringing out the best and seeing the positive changes in others through learning and development. However, I believe I became too focused on the business results than on my learners. So your article served as an aha moment for me.
First, the best way I discovered to create a learner centered environment was by focusing on positive relationships. Something clicked in my head after reading your article which was, “Rosell, STOP OVERWHELMING THE GROUP!” Sometimes it’s challenging not to throw all the information I have at a learner, but as I have found, they cannot retain it all at once. We switched to a broader view with a stronger focus on resources, and it seemed to have made a huge impact in the classroom dynamics, with less stress, more interest in other aspects of the training as they grasped the basic material, and the learners seemed more open to asking questions and initiating their own learning process.
Second, I identified and acknowledged their learning styles. It’s difficult to do this individually but there were learners who didn’t like activity-based learning or role play activities. But others liked those activities. So what did I do? I l allowed some of them to observe and if others felt like joining, they were more than welcome.
By focusing on their learning preferences/backgrounds and abilities, I was able to custom tailor the course to meet their needs and appeal to their preferred learning methods, so that they achieved the best possible outcome.
Inevitably, by solely focusing on the needs of the group, the business results took on a life of their own. Awesome stuff!
I always find it interesting how people revamp or change the way they were doing something – or their process from building from the ground up. Have you ever had to change a process significantly? How did you do it?
I haven’t written for a while. I could easily use the excuses of “work has been stressful” (it has) or “life has been stressful” (also true), but when are either of those things not true to some extent? Really, I struggled because I didn’t feel like I had anything exceptionally meaningful to say. I suddenly felt as though I needed to write deep, motivational posts that really explored the intricacies of instructional design for a worthwhile article.
Then I received a message on LinkedIn.
Dear Rachel, I’ll be brief.
You don’t know me, but you’ve inspired me in a big way. Because of your work with Training: Making Learner’s Tasks only kind of Suck” I decided to revamp the entire training program at my company to make it a stronger learner-centered environment. The content and title of your article was catchy and direct yet very deep and insightful.
Sometimes we tend to overcomplicate things during the training process. By sticking to the basics (making the process much easier for the learner), we can really make an impact in what we do on a daily basis. You might not realize that you are inspiring people in this way, but you are. No response required if you’re having a busy month (and I’m guessing you are!).
I just wanted to say: Thank you. (smile) Rosell Ridley
This is the article Rosell is referring to. I realized that sometimes my smaller thoughts are beneficial to someone and it’s so nice to see that. And I realized that there are probably so many people out there who maybe need that little push to get out their own thoughts and ideas, regardless of how “important” you feel they are.
So do it. And I will try to work a littler harder on writing as well.
I also asked her to share how she revamped her program, and will share that in my next post!
The question comes up from time to time: “I can’t afford Articulate/Captivate/whatever – how do I create an e-learning portfolio?” Fortunately, there are still tools you can use to create a captivating e-learning portfolio for cheap, or even free.
I moved this weekend. Even if we left out the rain, picking up two large pieces of furniture from Craigslist, and the moving van parking nightmare that is DC, it still really sucked.
I also signed up for a gym membership. I get 3 free personal training sessions. When the trainer asks what my goal is, it will be “making moving only kind of suck.”
LinkedIn is slowly turning into the new “forwards from grandma” scene with inappropriate political posts and reminders that a lot of people forgot what the order of operations is. Occasionally, among the “share if you hate Mondays” posts, I find one that I scroll back up to.
“What Career Lesson Would You Tattoo on You?”
Of course, that question immediately evolved into “what learning principle would you tattoo one you?” The word “tattoo” is especially important. This has to be a principle that you stand so strongly behind, you’re willing to permanently display it on your body.
Just pretend that tattoo removal services don’t exist for a minute.
What learning principle, or even idea, would that be for you? (Hopefully not learning styles, but I digress).
My choice? “Keep it relevant.”