Tag: divergent questions

Do more with less

June 7th, 2011

We have a message. We know this message can change lives. But how can this message be as engaging as possible?

Here’s the problem: when we know a lot about something we tend to share too much. The result is that the people who could benefit most from the message disengage from it, or don’t engage deeply enough for the message to shape their behavior.

With this conundrum in mind, I designed and implemented with a group of teens an unconventional approach to engagement. I imposed the following limits on myself:

1. My notes had to fit on one side of a single sheet of paper.
2. I could only make two points during the hour and ten minute class period. The rest of the content had to come from the teens.
3. I couldn’t use any other resources (slides, books, etc.).

This is good time to emphasize just how frightening it can be to challenge the far reaches of our comfort zone. I knew that what transpired would be either dynamic or awkward and clunky. I had no idea which. What happened surprised everyone in the room. Especially me.

I filmed the demonstration and will post the footage in short segments throughout the summer. For now, I wanted to share the development process so that you can experiment and interact with it.

So here is what I did:

Step 1: Answer the following question with a single statement:

Question: What do I want to do?

At the top of the paper I put a summary statement: “Demonstrate tools of engagement.”

Step 2: Answer the question:

How am I going to accomplish step 1?

I wrote down all of the skills and practices that make up this engagement model which I had been collecting on 3” x 5” cards: Use of divergent questions, reflective listening, synthesis, curiosity, etc. These I wrote down on mini-sticky notes.

Step 3: In what sequence will I do these things?

I arranged the sticky notes in a progression that I thought would flow best.

Step 4: I transcribed the sequence into my single sheet of paper with one column for each of the two days I would be there.

With my single sheet in hand I was ready to put my engagement model to the test. What would you put on your single sheet of paper?

A reporter from the local paper observed the presentation. Click here to read the article.

    Artful Program Design: 5 Elements

    April 5th, 2011

    Creating an educational program should be like creating a piece of art. Make every piece essential and thoughtful. Waste nothing. Include only that which will enhance, ruthlessly, unapologetically remove everything else.

    Think about it. We only have so much time to make a positive contribution to the lives of others. Design a program as you would a piece of art and you will ensure you make the most of these finite opportunities.

    When I’m working with an organization, these are the top 5 elements I look for:

    1. Relevant

    Here’s how you can make sure your content is as relevant as possible. First, refine your message to those components most likely to pique student curiosity. Present these components in small, pithy bursts. Try to do this in less than ten minutes. Use the next ten minutes to encourage students to ask questions and interact with you and each other. Then provide another nugget of content, followed by focussed interaction. This is relevance-making in action!

    2. Responsive

    We’re inclined to view student questions and comments as a barrier to getting through content. But what if we designed programs to invite questions? Questions are our primary tool for learning. Why not encourage students to exercise this tool?

    A word of warning. The value here is in students asking questions, not in you answering them. The process, not the product, adds value to learning.

    3. Punctuated

    Reading a book without periods, pages, or chapter headings would be a disorienting experience. The previous two elements work best where clear structure exists. Students need to know what you are talking about in clear terms. Once they’re on board, you can open the conversation. The structure you provide will serve to accelerate the learning process.

    4. Coherent

    Research on the brain indicates that when our brains can’t connect two concepts in a coherent manner, we’ll flush both. Work to make your material build upon itself in a logical manner. This takes work. It’s like rearranging furniture. There are innumerable possibilities, but some make a lot more sense than others. This may sound  rudimentary, but I see this a lot. What flows to us may not have a natural progression for the people we serve.

    5. Actionable

    Can students clearly identify how they will translate your curricula and program into action? If not, we’re wasting everyone’s time. Budget time to help students determine in clear terms how they plan to translate your conversation into actionable steps.

    How are you doing on these 5 elements? What design changes will help your program be a piece of art? Making these changes requires courage.

      Education as an Art Form

      March 17th, 2011

      When we approach education as an art from we:

      Abandon script!  Structure learning in the same way Christopher Guest makes films (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, etc.). Establish points A and B in clear terms, then trust students will arrive according to the most meaningful, personalized path possible.

      Present our content like Beethoven, Dostoyevsky, and Picasso—refine, refine, and refine until we arrive at the most essential, brilliant elements.

      Look to jazz and rap to inspire our methods—set a beat, a key, a progression, then invite students to interact with one another for a deeper understanding.

      Use only those teaching tools with which we have a personal relationship and that suit the goal of cultivating brilliance—Isaac Stern referred to his violin as an appendage.