A Look at Specific Methods - Training and Development

All modern learning theories stress that adults must have a degree of ownership in the learning processes and that they want to invest their previous experience in those processes. Such ownership and investment are achieved by designs in which the learners actively talk about what they've done in the past, or what they are thinking and feeling right now as they experiment with new behaviors during the learning process.

The document of these designs is called a "lesson plan." It describes learners' activities under headings such as:

  • Time and A/V
  • Instructor Says and Does
  • Student Activity

Figure below shows a duo-dimensional array of methods that notes both instructor control of content and learners' activity levels.

duo-dimensional array of methods

Duo-dimensional list of methods.

One logical sequence for examining learning methods is in order of increasing learners 'involvement; another is by the delegation of content. The duo dimensional matrix does both.

Does student involvement automatically bring a delegation of content?
That can happen—but needn't if the participative activity is designed properly. Do participative methods take more time than pure lecture? No question! But the issue is this: Should instructors cover content or cause learning? Those who opt for delegated content call it "the discovery approach" and they design activities; these enable learners to discover the content the instructor would otherwise have to "tell" the class.

However,delegating content control does not automatically increase learners' participation;in open forums the learners control all the content except the topic, yet they aren't necessarily more involved than when manipulating hands or arms in trying out a psychomotor task.

Delegating content does not mean withdrawing control of the processes. In a critical incident, for example, learners supply all the cases and examples, but an instructor leads discussions. The real control, however, comes in the design of the activity, not from an instructor's forceful leadership during the session.

For example, the in-basket materials provide their own control. During the class session, the instructor merely gives a few preliminary instructions, then watches the process while staying available for students' questions. If the instrument has been well designed, there should be few, if any, questions.

The sequence of the methods on the chart makes a helpful sequence for us to use in analyzing all those methods. Let's look at each method and proceed from those in which learners are least participative to those in which their activity levels are highest.

Level1 : Low Participation

Methods requiring a low level of trainee participation include the following. Lectures.The lecture is, by definition, words spoken by the instructor. It is thus a verbal-symbol medium and a relatively passive and un stimulating experience for learners unless the speaker has unusual vocal and rhetorical talent. The lecturer needs plenty of interesting examples to illustrate theory, colorful and persuasive language to enhance a well-organized pattern of ideas, and a pleasant and stimulating voice.

Lectures were popular in the Middle Ages when the tabula rasa theory of education prevailed.The mind of the learner was perceived as a blank tablet upon which ideas were inscribed by a great teacher, lecturer, or professor. It still prevails in many universities. Though under constant attack, the lecture method has apparently proved overwhelmingly appealing to professors who enjoy the security blanket of dog-eared lecture notes and the absence of feedback.

At the very minimum, lecturers should:

  • Speak loudly and clearly enough to be heard. Amplification is recommended for classes of more than twenty-five learners; of course, microphone technique is requisite skill for the lecturer.
  • Organize each lecture around a theme, or "thesis."
  • Develop inherent, mutually exclusive "areas of discussion" that thoroughly and relevantly develop the thesis.
  • Develop each area of discussion through a variety of evidence; this includes analysis,concrete incidents, illustrations, quotations, statistics, and (if possible)physical objects to display.

Speakers should supplement their words with visual aids, such as Power-Point slides or flip charts. This adds a new dimension to the sensory stimulation.

Norris there any good reason why speakers cannot be interruptible. They can offer"Swiss cheese" lecture presentations with "holes in them."In this way, learners can make inquiries and comments that accelerate their comprehension. Nor need all the questions come from the learners, though that's probably the most productive arrangement. No law prohibits the lecturer from asking questions or pausing for discussion.

Added accountability for receiving the content can result from supplying learners with a syllabus that can be used as a carefully structured notepad on which they can take notes. The careful structure ensures their copying down keywords; it establishes key relationships through charts and tables as well as incomplete sentences, or the "bare bones" of the topical outline.

In itself, the lecture is a non participative medium. It does offer an efficient way to deliver material. To qualify as an effective teaching method, lectures must also contain provisions to test receipt. Readings. Reading assignments don't do much to stimulate the senses; they merely require some concentrated seeing of words on pages. They can, of course, efficiently expose learners to large quantities of content. Reading assignments, like the lecture, should be accompanied with feedback activities that measure and assist the retention of the content.

Presumably,even slow readers will read more material than they could hear in the same length of time. If the reading relates to illustrations or diagrams, some added interest (sensory stimulation) may result.To make a reading assignment more meaningful, astute instructors build in accountability.They announce discussions or tests on the content—activities in which learners apply new concepts to real-world problems, projects, and products. If the test sand discussions are oriented to application (rather than memory recall), they need not be academic and sterile.

Another approach to this accountability is to supply a syllabus, or a structured notepad. Students complete this while reading, thus being guided to focus on the most important points. The reading experience thus becomes a kind of"Easter-egg hunt": Readers search out the critical data hidden in the reading assignment. When instructors use reading as a post class exercise, such accountability may app earless necessary. That assumption needs to be sharply challenged.

Any reading that does not permit further growth is a questionable investment.

Any growth deserves follow-up. Such follow-up might include discussion, participation on a panel of students, testing, or application to a simulated problem follow-up, the post-training reading assignment risks a very low return nineteen

Demonstrations are merely illustrated lectures or presentations. We usually think of manipulative activities in a demonstration, though mere pictures of the process sometimes replace the "model" that the demonstrator manipulates. Such pictures are appropriate for processes, which can be comprehended through schematics or drawings. Demonstrations are especially suitable for psychomotor objectives, but can, of course, be used (as in "modeling") to illustrate interpersonal skills, interviewing, communication, discipline, and counseling.

The key to a successful demonstration is the close integration of the spoken and the visual stimulus. One hopes they will be simultaneous. If there must be a lapse, let the verbal stimulus precede the visual—but only by a split second. This means that good demonstrations probably proceed one step at a time, all visual materials being concealed until they come into play.

Careful planning and ample rehearsal help. Good demonstrators:

  • Analyze the process, breaking it into small sequential steps.
  • Have all their materials in place.
  • Check the operation of all equipment just before they start the demonstration.
  • Position, or scale, their models so that all learners can see all the parts all the time.
  • Explain the goals of the demonstration at the beginning, preferably in two-way discussion with learners.
  • Present the operation one step at a time according to the task analysis completed earlier.
  • Allow the earliest possible tryout of the demonstrated skill. This probably should be at the end of the first step. Performance tryout can then be repeated at the end of each successive step in the operation. Fandango is correct, adults want immediate application of all acquired skill and knowledge. Why make them wait until the end of a complete operation to"demonstrate" that they are learning and growing?
  • Reinforce everything learners do correctly in their tryouts. Instructors need to reinforce these successive approximations of mastery of the total task. This also becomes part of an ongoing goal-setting process; learners themselves identify the differences between their tryouts and their ultimately desired performances.

Level 2: Some Participation

Moving up the scale of level of participation required by trainees brings us to the following training methods. Skits .A skit is a prepared enactment. Precise dialogue is provided for the "actors,"who are usually students reading their roles from scripts. They may sit at their regular positions, or if movement is required, stand and move about to simulate the actions of the situation they enact. Rehearsals are usually unnecessary.

Skits effectively transfer to learners the task of "modeling" verbal behaviors:what to say when counseling, asserting, giving directions and reprimands. Skits may also reflect differing points of view: Several "characters" face a common crisis and approach it with dramatic differences that reflect to their contrasting value systems. The skit personifies and vivifies what might otherwise be a dull theoretical lecture.

Field Trips. Field trips, excursions, observations, or tours may or may not be participative learning experiences. That depends pretty much on how well instructors set up expectations and objectives before the trip takes place—and upon the mechanism developed to make sure that learning happens.

Again,the image of the "Easter-egg hunt" seems helpful. Here's how that works:Instructors give each trainee a set of questions for which answers must be supplied.hese answers can be discovered on the field trip. They can be reviewed at feedback session in the classroom following the tour. If different learners are asked to locate different "eggs" on the tour, there can be a mutual sharing and comparison in the discussion that "debriefs" the participants after the tour.

If such accountabilities for learning seem inappropriate, then at the very minimum the instructor should preview the tour with the class. This means setting up expectations about what to look for. It means letting class members determine,in a mutual exchange, how the field trip will contribute to the announced objectives.

Major argument in favor of field trips is that they permit learners to experience sensory impressions that could never occur in classrooms or conference rooms—but that are characteristic of the environment in which the new behavior must persevere. The trip thus assists the "generalization" process by permitting behaviors acquired in an isolated or unnatural environment to persist in a less-focused "real world."

Further,field trips effectively let people who work in one part of the system comprehend the impact and dependencies they have upon other departments.This desire for organizational empathy is highly commendable, and field trips are probably infinitely more successful than "guest lecturers" from alien departments.

These guests often manage to be not much more than mediocre lecturers. Too many orientation programs are just "parades" of people who assume far too much about the learners' inventories and curiosities. They thus do a great deal to confuse and to dampen enthusiasm for the new employment.

But when field trips are used to develop insights and empathy into other parts of the operation, accountability for gathering answers is critically important. The best method is probably to let the learner actually work with an employee of the visited department rather than stand apart and watch the operation. Specially planned "Easter-egg hunts" are in order. The questions need to ask such things such as, "How many times did the clerk have to ...?" How did the agent handle ... ?"—or even some specific technical information such as "What is DFT?" or "What does ARUNK mean?" Such questions more nearly guarantee that the learners will come home with a clear, definite comprehension of how they depend upon other departments—and of how other departments depend upon them. The learners can also better comprehend how these "down line" and "up line"dependencies in the total system require close adherence to established performance standards. In any event, managers of both the visited and the visiting departments need to be involved in setting precise goals, action plans, and evaluation mechanisms for the field trip program.

Taking Notes. Note taking by learners is somewhat controversial. Theorists like to argue about its value and about the proper way to control taking notes. Does note taking enhance or impede learning? Chances are the answer is yes to both alternatives. For some people, taking notes may be necessary to"imprint" the data. These people need to hear it, to see it in the visual aids, and then to see it again as they begin to "own" the idea by writing it down. They may need to "hear it again in their mind' sear" several more times as they reread the notes they have taken. For others, all note taking may be a distraction.

At any rate, when notes are taken in a free form (as in most college lecture halls),the students are in almost total control of what they transcribe to the paper. That conceivably can be a bad thing. They may write down what they think they hear,or they may abbreviate in ambiguous ways that later produce misinformation.

Knowledge is the probable objective of a lecture, and misinformation is detrimental to the acquisition of knowledge. Some lecturers are shocked and appalled when they see the "pure fiction" that shows up on students' notepads. To prevent such distortion, many lecturers provide learners with a syllabus. The syllabus may take the form of a sheer topical outline with room enough for learners to complete the headings and statements as instructors say things such as,"The third category is minerals" while students write the words in alongside the "3" in the syllabus. Even more structured is the syllabus that includes most of the key statements and leaves blank spaces left for essential words. For example, the syllabus for a lecture on fandango might have an entry like this: "Child's self-image tends to be ______. Adults see themselves as ______(Note that this is a pedagogical approach to teaching, rather than an andragogical one.) From the lecturer's comments, the learners are able to fill in the proper words:"dependent" and "self-directed or increasingly self-dependent."

A Variation is a matrix onto which students make notations as the lecture or demonstration continues. As the lecture or discussion reveals the answers, students can put words such as "dependent" and "self-directed" and"limited and of little value" and "extensive and worth investing in the learning process" in the proper boxes.
As that example reveals, the answers to be inscribed in a syllabus need not be supplied by the lecturer; they can just as easily come from reading or discussion among the participants. This is especially true in review sessions where the learners bring a big inventory to the learning situation. Used this way, the syllabus is more a training aid than a learning method—but if it contributes to the achievement of the objective, who wants to quibble about categories?

Programmed Instruction. Programmed instruction, although not widely known today by that name, enjoys heavy support from its advocates for two major reasons:

  1. It requires the active involvement of the learners. They make overt responses to a question-stimulus, which follows the presentation of small bits of information.
  2. It provides immediate feedback about the quality of the learner's response. Learners are told the "correct" answers right away, and can compare their responses with the preferred answer.
  3. Although effective programming requires mastery of an extensive expertise, these two virtues reveal a great deal about the nature of the method.

Small-step learning is perceived to be important: Learners are given just a bit of data,then asked a question about that data. The "program" (whether it be printed in a book, presented in some audio-visual "teaching machine," or stored in a computer) supplies an appropriate answer. Learners access this answer as soon as they have made their own responses to the question. The program then does one of two things: If the answer is correct, the program directs learners to another bit of data so that they can continue their study; if the answer is incorrect, the program may redirect them to a previous or an altered stimulus so they can either change their insights or supply a more appropriate answer.

The bits of data are called "frames," and the two methods are called"linear" or "branching." In linear programs, the learners are usually given the next bit of information regardless of their answers; they control the decision about revisiting previous frames to clear up misunderstandings. (Advocates of this linear approach contend that if the program has been properly validated, it will control the stimulus so carefully that there is precious little chance of mistaken answers.) In"branching" or "intrinsic" programs, learners are routed to different frames depending upon their choices at any given frame. They thus proceed through the program on branches that may be entirely different from those followed by other students studying the same program.

As noted, the total technology is complex. Sizing and sequencing and wording the frames requires patient validation. What does this validation imply?

First,that there will be trial drafts of each frame. Second, that these trial drafts will be tested on typical learners. Third, that each frame will be redrafted as a result of the experience gained from analyzing student responses. Most T&D departments will publish and carry out only programs that are validated at 85 percent or higher. This means that every frame of the final program has been answered correctly by at least 85 percent of the test audience before the program "goes to press." Some organizations insist upon more than 90 percent validity before they publish.

Programmed instruction obviously represents total control of the content by the designer or instructor. Androgenic T&D departments therefore like to use PI (the short title of Programmed Instruction) in conjunction with live instructors.

Another problem with some PI is that the frames have been excessively simple. There is little thrill in the learner's soul when asked to copy a word from one frame as the answer to that frame. For example :"The president of your company is R. J. Fried er."

Who is the president of your company?
(Write your answer here.)

However,problems such as the absence of a human facilitator or stupid frames can easily be overcome. Therefore, PI is an important method in modern training systems,even though it is not often called PI anymore. It is especially helpful in organizations that:

  • Hire only a few people at a time in any given classification
  • Are widely separated geographically and must train individuals on a one-at-a-time schedule
  • Employ minimum numbers of instructors and need to delegate the teaching function to some mediated instruments
  • Have a heavy commitment to mediated programs, but need a mechanism to provide feedback to learners about their progress
  • Need to teach intricate procedures that aren't easily communicated in classroom visual aids or group-instructional modes
  • Have a heavy commitment to individual education and development and thus need a wide range of programs to serve a small population

Many computer-based training programs (CBTs) borrow from PI principles.

Level 3: Medium Participation

These training methods require a little more participation:
Panel Discussions. Panel discussions represent a variation on the structured discussion format. Sometimes they are called colloquies; sometimes they are called symposiums (symposia). Panel symposiums tend to be a series of short lectures given by a variety of people rather than one long lecture by a single lecturer.In effective panels, each speaker concentrates on one subtopic and delivers unique thesis (clearly different from that of any other panelist) and relates that thesis to the unifying objective.

The problem with many panels is that they tend to be so structured that learners 'participation is very low. Thus the control of the content (to say nothing of the control of the processes!) rests too heavily with the panelists. An antidote for this problem is a question-answer session after the final presentation.

(If the question-answer session comes too soon, later panelists may be seriously impede din what they say, or influenced to amend a viewpoint necessary to the total achievement of the objective.) Another antidote for the low vitality an done-way communication of the panel format is a post panel structured discussion in which one leader channels comments as well as questions from the listeners—or between the panelists themselves.

To increase learners' involvement in panel discussions, many instructors assign advance readings to class members; then they let learners serve as members of the panel. The reading is thus given greater meaning, and the learners take greater responsibility for developing the subject. As this happens, accountability for comprehending the subject and achieving the objective is transferred to the learners' shoulders.

Structured Discussions. Structured discussions are conversations between trainees aimed toward specific learning objectives. Such objectives distinguish them from mere social conversation as well as the discussion at staff meetings. For structured discussions, this learning objective should be clearly announced in advance or during the first moments of the discussion itself. It is usually helpful to post a written statement of the objective where all can see it throughout the discussion. Structure can be further imposed (and meandering correspondingly controlled) by using a syllabus or a publicly posted agenda. These agendas may even include an estimate of the appropriate amount of time to devote to each subtopic.

Facilitative instructors like to let the class develop these agendas and their timetables.This permits the learners to own the entire proceeding. A heavy instructor- supplied agenda may be totally inconsistent with the climate needed for adult learning.Yet even structured activities planned by the leader permit learners to share their experiences and feelings. While this is going on, the instructor receives data about the learners' initial inventories and their progress toward their desired learning goals.

In these situations, the instructor may opt to use no control devices. They feel they can always inject control when irrelevant excursions or counterproductive dynamics might prevent the posted objective from being met. How?

Simply by reminding the group of the objective, or by challenging the relevance of the current activity.

Thus,a typical "preparation" for leading a discussion is to predefine the objective and then build a list of questions for the group. These preplanned questions are used as the initial stimulus; when each subtopic has been thoroughly developed; when discussion wanders; or when the group needs re-stimulating.

The"lesson plan" merely lists the objectives and questions; the teaching materials sometimes include printed versions of these for display or distribution to individual participants.

The structured discussion is appropriate when there are predefined objectives and when the learners do not bring a negative viewpoint to those objectives.

Open forums are indicated when the learners need a chance to ventilate their apathy or hostility toward the learning goals.

Panel Discussions by Participants. The panel, though deadly if poor speakers are invited from outside the class, may prove a lively affair when a topic is broken down into subtopics and assigned to the best participants in the class.
Some tips and precautions apply:

  1. Give the panelists adequate time to prepare to read some specified material,analyze it, and synthesize it into an effective presentation.
  2. Allow time for other participants to ask questions.
  3. Delegate the role of moderator, too. Then brief the student moderator on
    1. the relationship of the subtopics,
    2. how to communicate that overall design to the class,
    3. how to keep the discussion moving, and
    4. how to provide lively atmosphere without uncomfortable confrontation.
  4. Select as panelists those participants who have shown unusual speed in acquiring and synthesizing information; make this an "enrichment" and a positive reinforcement for good work in earlier parts of the program.
  5. The criterion for selection is always the ability to present and interact in the discussion, not social roles inside or outside the class.

Topical Discussions. Many people call these "general discussions." If that implies a general topic and minimal prescribed substructure, great! If it implies that instructors just name a topic and immediately launch a discussion,well, not so great! Impromptu chitchats, too, often meander, miss the mark, and bore the learner.

For useful topical discussions, instructors should:

  • Announce the discussion far enough in advance to permit a bit of require dreading, plus time to analyze and synthesize that new information.
  • Announce precise time limits.
  • Announce one or more specific objectives; and then lie low! From there on in,it's up to the group to meet the objectives of their analysis of this topic.
  • Tell the group that it's up to them to keep the discussion on track and to meet the objective(s).

Question-Answer Panels. In more controlled Q-A sessions, instructors announce a topic and area ding assignment, then the key requirement: a list of questions to be brought to the session itself. The session may be the next meeting of the class; it may also be "after an hour of research and analysis." When the time for the Q-A session arrives, the instructor calls on the learners for their questions.

The answers may come from a panel of the students in a sort of "stump the sudden experts" activity. The answers may come from the instructor—but that will prove only that the instructor is smart; it won't develop much learning in the participants.The answers may come from invited guests, though that also allows minimum growth in the learners. Whenever the answers come from someone other than the instructor, the instructor need participate only when the data given as answers are inaccurate or incomplete. Of course, instructors may be chairpersons, but that arrangement robs a learner of a participative opportunity.

In Q-A sessions there may be no panel at all. Since participants generate the questions(individually or in small buzz groups), they may also be the"experts." They can acquire their expertise by special reading,research, or experimentation achieved during the training program! In fact,"stump the experts" or "information please" panels of students have been known to enliven many classes that once covered less content through instructor-driven lectures.

When making the assignment to develop questions, instructors need merely point out general objective for the session while reminding the question developers that each item should contribute toward that overall goal. Sample goals might be

  • to make a personal decision about using zero-based budgets;
  • to decide which operations in my office might effectively be computerized; or
  • to complete a Pro/Con analysis on the use of robots.

Cognet. Cognet is short for cognitive networks, and is—you've guessed it!— appropriate for cognitive objectives. All participants do some reading and answer the same questions before they gather—but only several people read the same material.When they gather, these "homogeneous" groups meet to prepare group answers that they share in reports to the other teams.

For example, biographies of Harry Truman, Howard Hughes, Colin Powell, J. Edgar Hoover, Joan Crawford, Geraldine Ferraro, and Henry Ford might be assigned as pre-reading accompanied by questions about their planning strategy, leadership style, interpersonal relations, management of meetings, and behavior in crises.

After the initial report, there is usually another phase of Cognet when people who want to probe further into those sub points form new teams. Thus there will be new and different reports on planning strategies, people handling, and leadership style—or new issues may emerge as positions on women's' liberation, unionism,technology, armaments, and/or politics.

The virtues of the method are that

  1. a lot of information can be processed at whatever depth the group (or instructor) chooses;
  2. the information is analyzed from at least two dimensions;
  3. each participant is able to"network" with different people; and
  4. each learner can integrate the reality of his or her own situation and perceptions into the theory contained in the literature.

Open-Forum Discussions. Open-forum discussions are useful when learners can accept full responsibility for the content of the discussion, or when they need to"ventilate" their feelings and opinions. Generally, only the topic is announced— although more dynamic discussions result when that announcement involves pre-session readings or analysis. Learners tend to filter their experiences and biases through the reading, thus arriving better prepared to learn.

In the forum format, any member of the group may speak to any other member. Moderator is usually there to prevent everybody from speaking at the same time,or to "patrol" debates when more than one person is speaking simultaneously.Of course, simultaneous speaking isn't always a bad thing, and forums tend to encourage such interchanges. Free-for-all catharsis can be a useful way to ease threatening learning's—especially if those learning's involve affective behaviors where feelings run high. Objectives involving responding or valuing often profit from open-forum discussions.

Behavior Modeling. The words of this method tell what it is. A "model" or ideal enactment of a desired behavior lets learners discover what actions and standards are expected of them. Typical behaviors to model would be managerial skills such as making assignments, delegating, counseling, asserting, or disciplining.The model is usually presented through a medium such as videotape, but may be performed by instructors in what amounts to a skit.

Behavior modeling differs only slightly from a demonstration, but it fits intellectual- cognitive rather than psychomotor objectives, and it usually presents the total skill before learners try out a behavior themselves. This technique has the virtue of offering a gestalt, or "big picture" overview of what may be rather complex interpersonal behaviors.

Level 4: Moderate Participation

Moderate level of participant involvement is required for the following methods.

Interactive Demonstrations. All good demonstrations are interactive—but unfortunately there are a lot of bad demonstrations!

The difference is that interactive demonstrations allow learner-watchers to do something instead of merely observe. They have things in their hands and they move those things in purposeful ways; they start doing so at the earliest possible moment. They move around, they ask questions, they interact.

Job Instruction Training (JIT). Job Instruction Training (JIT) is a perfect format for interaction. Once the climate is set, the instructor tells and shows the first step of the task, and learners perform that first step right along with the instructor. This technique permits cumulative repetition and the practice that makes perfect. After seeing and hearing how the second step is done, learners perform the first two steps, and then the first three, and then four, and soon.

Performance Tryouts. Performance tryout is probably a necessary element in any"tough-minded" learning experience. Performance tryouts serve as ongoing feedback activity during the learning and as "criterion" tests at the conclusion of the program. Lest this imply that the performance tryout is used only for measurement and evaluation, let's remind ourselves that it is significant learning experience, too.

Trying out the new skill offers the "immediate application" andragogical facilitators urge for adult learning. Facilitative learners such as Carl Rogers point out that much significant learning is acquired through doing. Trying out the new behavior starts the practice required to form habits. If tied into the rest of the learners' jobs, this practice can make the relevance of the new skill apparent to all learners.

"Performance tryout" is an integral, inevitable step in the four-part JIT used so successfully during World War II to train quick replacements for drafted workers. At its best, JIT lets learners try out the first step of a new task bassoon as the trainer has completed the "tell and show" for that step—and before the "tell and show" of the second step, and is therefore an interactive demonstration.

Psychologically,a performance tryout is a perfect chance for learners to give themselves positive feedback for what they have already achieved, and also to do some goal setting for what they can still improve. By making this analysis, they reexamine the ultimate criteria and buy into the necessary self-improvement to get there. They have concrete evidence about the criteria they didn't achieve on their first attempt; they can better individualize their further efforts.

But above all, they have evidence about what they did achieve. This is a practical application of the "Look, Ma! I'm dancing'!" effect that makes learning and instruction so exciting.

A Performance tryout implies:

  • Completing the entire task, not just successive steps
  • Remembering and adhering to the proper sequence
  • Coordinating all the necessary skills and knowledge
  • Meeting criteria for each step in the task
  • Demonstrating mastery, proving that the skill is available for use on the job

We naturally think of tryouts of psychomotor skills, yet demonstrated mastery is just as vital for cognitive and affective learning's. When managerial and interpersonal behaviors involve a step-by-step process, an intellectual formula, or an emotional discipline, then performance tryouts are necessary. It would be unthinkable, for instance, to use behavior modeling that wasn't followed with performance tryouts by all learners.

Role-plays or simulations, or any exercise in which students do the calculations or the paperwork of a process, are effective vehicles for performance tryouts. Sometimes the environment in which the behavior will be performed on the job is critical;if so, some simulation (noise, interruptions, temperature, outages) should be provided.

Level 5: High Participation

Methods requiring a higher level of trainee participation include the following. Brainstorming. Brainstorming is a specialized form of discussion. It is commonly used in real problem-solving situations. As a training method, its most frequent use is to teach learners to suspend judgment until a maximum number of ideas have been generated. A second use is to train people to listen positively to the ideas of others and refrain from negative comments that might cause the creative process to run dry.

Brainstorming applies the synergistic theory that groups can generate more ideas, and better ideas than the individual members could produce if they worked independently.It is therefore a useful method only when there are several trainees; five or six is probably the minimum for a workable brainstorm. The learning occurs because participants must discipline their inputs to the discussion.

The controls occur through the instructions and through the behavior of the leader. Those instructions usually include these points:

  1. Generate, don't evaluate. There will be time for evaluation later. In brainstorming,quantity is the goal: the more ideas, the better. This doesn't mean that quality is unimportant—only that when people stop to challenge quality during the creative processes they inhibit their creativity by moving into judgmental mode too soon.
  2. Create new ideas by amending those already suggested. This amendment can take such forms as increasing, decreasing, adding, deleting, consolidating,substituting elements, or reversing. The "reversing" specifically prohibits negative statements. For example, one participant might say,"Promote her." It's okay for another to say, "Demote her,"but it's not okay to say, "Don't promote her." To offer an alternative (demotion) is to generate another option; to state the suggestion negatively is simply to start the analytical debate.
  3. Post all suggestions on a visible list in front of the group. This strategy reinforces those who contribute and encourages further participation.

When participants begin to analyze or question or debate, the leader uses"neutral reinforcement." That is, the leader at first ignores such behavior. Because there is no visible posting to the list, and no verbal response, the tendency to debate or analyze generally "goes away." If this neutral reinforcement doesn't work, the leader may remind the group that the analysis will come later.

The total brainstorm includes three phases: generation, analysis, and action planning.In the second step—analysis—participants ask the contributors to explain strange terms or an unfamiliar idea. Analysis also includes evaluation.

At this step, the participants establish criteria for selecting the best ideas,then test each idea against those criteria. As ideas "fall out"because they don't meet the criteria, the group is left with a workable list of options. From these, they can select the "best" solution. They are then ready to move to the third phase, action planning. This consists of outlining the steps needed to put the adopted solution into operation.

Case Studies. Case studies have been a popular way to encourage involvement and to bring the discussion down to a realistic level. Case studies are thus antidotes for the tendency to avoid real issues by talking about theory rather than about its application.

In traditional case studies, participants receive a printed description of a problem situation. The description contains enough detail for learners to recommend appropriate action. The printed description must therefore include enough detail to enable some recommendation, but not so much that learners are distracted from central issues—unless, of course, sharp analytical skills and ignoring trivia is part of the learning objective.

Control of the discussion comes through:

  • The amount of detail provided
  • Time limits, frequently rather stringent
  • The way the task is postulated, often a description of the desired output, such as a recommendation, a decision, or the outline of an action plan; and sometimes
  • A list of questions for the group to answer on their way to the final total product

There are numerous commercial sources of case studies. Training reference books contain a rich supply of tested cases. Creative T&D designers can develop cases typical of the organization for which the learning is designed. Androgenic instructors permit participants to write their own cases from real-life problems. They then exchange or share these homegrown cases as the material of the learning experience.

When participants generate the cases, the control of the content is assuredly more in their hands than in the hands of the instructor—and there can be little question about the perceived relevance. To make certain that pre-prepared cases are equally relevant, good T&D specialists ensure that each case contributes toward identified insights or a specified learning objective.

To increase the total participation, instructors often divide the class into small teams, or buzz groups. Because there are fewer people in each group, individual learners are more inclined to participate at higher levels than they would or could if only one large discussion were going on.

Action Mazes. An action maze is really just a case study that has been programmed.
Participants usually receive a printed description of the case that has enough detail to take them to the first decision point. The description gives them options from which to select. After the group discusses these alternatives, they request the leader to supply them with the next "frame." That frame will explain the consequences of their individual decisions; not by a theoretical background, but in terms of the case itself. Let's look at an extremely simple sample:

Donald has been on your shift for nearly seven years. You regard him as a marginal worker at best. At times he comes close to insubordination, and once he was sent home without pay for three days for fisticuffs at the office luncheon.

He has been tardy seven times in the last two weeks. Today he arrives for work forty-five minutes late. You feel you should:

  1. Give him one more chance, so you do nothing
  2. Discuss this with him, so you ask him to see you at the next break
  3. Discuss his tardiness with him, so you stop at his work post just as soon as he reports for duty
  4. Suspend him for one day without pay

The group would discuss this phase. When they reach a decision, they inform the instructor, who then gives them a prepared response to their choice. Let's say they opted for "S." The prepared "consequence" might very well say this:

When you tell Lipson of his suspension, he merely shrugs and gives you a sneer as he packs up his tools and walks out. You wonder how anyone can be that cool and clearly feel superior to the situation.

Three days later, the shop steward hands you a written notice of Alison's formal grievance.The basis of the grievance is that as a member of management you have interfered with Lipson's personal affairs and prevented him from discharging his duties as the parent of a minor child, a handicapped daughter.

On the basis of this, you decide to ...

Of course the case continues with additional options appropriate to the current state of the situation. When participants have made wise choices, they should face anew set of increasingly desirable options. When they choose badly, they may be offered another chance at a previously rejected option, but in general bad choices lead to limited numbers of unattractive options. It's just good reinforcement theory, however, to leave them one chance to retrace their actions and work their way successfully out of the maze. It is sometimes an effective way to let people discover the value of dissent, debate, confrontation, and compromise.

Even greater involvement is possible by allowing groups to generate original options when they are restless with the printed alternatives. The instructor may reinforce these by "inventing" desirable consequences—or route the group directly back into the maze if their solution would bring consequences similar to the published options.

Incident Process. The incident process is a specialized form of case study. It is usually used to teach analytical skills, or techniques for special problem solving tasks such as handling employee grievances.

The incident process differs from normal case studies by giving participants far too little data to reach a decision—even preliminary decisions, as in an action maze. The data are available to the instructor, usually in easy-access printed form. However, the instructor reveals the data only when asked a specific question to which the datum is a correct and relevant answer.

Learners thus acquire skill in knowing what questions to ask, how to phrase them, and how to draw inferences from the data thus uncovered.

Because it teaches skills of interrogation, analysis, and synthesis, the incident process is a popular tool for courses in labor relations, grievance handling, accident investigation, investigative techniques, and problem solving.

Jigsaws. Jigsaws are about what their name implies. We all know what a jigsaw is:Participants put pieces together to complete an integrated "picture."

When the jigsaw is applied to the learning situation, participants may be given parts of a design or an organization; they assemble these into a "System"or an "Organization Chart." They may be given the elements of a letter or a report; they put it together into a logical outline. They may be given the key variables of a decision making problem; their task is to select from the pieces of the jigsaw the proper action to take for every conceivable combination of variables.

When instructors are teaching a prescription, there is only one way to assemble the pieces properly, and the review makes that clear. When the objectives are more individualized or creative, the design provides for ambiguities:

Different people (or teams) may assemble the pieces in different ways, then discuss the reasons and relative merits of each pattern.

Jigsaws are thus useful in teaching synthesizing skills, problem-solving skills, or organizational skills.

In-Baskets.In-baskets are a form of simulation that gets at the realities of a job through the paper symptoms of that job. Learners get all the materials one might expect to find in an "IN" basket on a typical work day. They must then process that paperwork until all the items are in the "OUT" basket. Usually, the situation is described so that participants must use only their own resources. For example, the directions may read: "You are alone at the office, and will be out of town the next week. You have just sixty minutes to dispose of the items in your IN basket.

Complete as much work as you possibly can. Do not delegate decisions or actions unless it is proper for you to do so when you are actually at your desk."

Quite typically, the exercise contains more work than can reasonably be completed in the allotted time, thus training learners in managing stress as well as in the content of the basket: Learners deal not only with the rational decisions of the management problems but also with the added realism of working against the clock. To enhance this exercise, some instructors simulate emergency interruptions that add to the pressure by requiring new decisions about priorities.

Needless to say, there is a review of how learners handled each issue raised by the paperwork. To provide feedback in time to be useful, instructors may have to do homework on their "evening off."

They can ease this burden by using numbered check sheets on which often-used comments are printed. For example:

#11.Glad you handled this first.
#17.Right! This section should be eliminated from the report.
#23.How about putting this idea up into the first paragraph?
#24.Would phrasing it as a question make it less "demanding"?

Instructor scan also add some individualized comments, but a copious amount of basic feedback can be communicated by merely writing numbers on participant papers.

After the comments are returned, group discussion is productive. It can

  1. clear up misconceptions,
  2. reexamine common problem areas,
  3. reinforce class-wide achievements, and
  4. allow self-evaluation and goal setting.

Because of this high potential as a measurement tool, in-baskets are attractive before-and-after instruments. Assessment centers also make extensive use of in-baskets in their task of determining management potential.

Team Tasks, Buzz Groups, and Syndicates. Team tasks for buzz groups (small teams of participants) result in some product, decision, or recommendation to be shared with similar groups in the class. For example, case studies may be assigned to small teams rather than to the entire class. Whatever the task, the small groups report their findings or present their "product" in are port to other buzz groups.

Typical products for these buzz groups, also called "syndicates" in many parts of the world, are reports, decisions, or a set of recommendations or

Pro/Con analysis of some issue. The assigned task can run the entire gamut of the designer's or instructor's creative imagination. It is limited only by its relevance to the announced objective and by the learners' perception that it is a useful endeavor.

Here are some samples:

  1. On the enclosed chart of a typical organization, indicate where the training and development responsibilities should rest. Specify the title, responsibilities,and reporting relationship of each T&D position.
  2. By referring to your instructor-outline for a training program now filled with lectures, identify:
    1. content which the learners could probably supply from the inventory they bring to the class, and
    2. the specific questions or tasks you would use to get them actively sharing what they already know about the subject.
  3. List the key criteria to be considered when selecting locations for branch sales offices in a metropolitan area. Include everything you can reasonably consider for such a decision.
  4. Do a Pro/Con analysis of short-interval scheduling applied to the revenue- accounting function. Be certain to consider variations within the sub-departments of Revenue Accounting.

Buzz-group tasks can range from the one-level activities of those samples to more sophisticated tasks. Buzz groups can also be used to permit the members to generate an agenda for extremely androgenic programs. In any event, buzz group activity early in the learning process permits an andragogic investment of the learners 'inventories. It also permits the instructor to become acquainted with the goals and personal styles of the participants.

Team tasks may be time-limited—such as "Spend ten minutes developing your findings"—or open-ended. For open-ended tasks, the instructor says something like, "Let's keep at this as long as it seems a profitable investment of our time. I'll be around and amongst you, so give me a signal when the task is completed or when you begin to feel restless with the value of the task." In this approach,instructors need to be "sound sensitive." The noise levels of the buzz groups tell instructors how teams are progressing through a task.

Four-person group is reasonably effective, but for best results, five or six should be in the group. In groups of eight or nine, subgroups or splinter discussions occur.

Agenda-Setting Buzz Groups. Teams of buzz groups for agenda setting constitute a special use of the "small-group concept." We have already noted that they present an andragogic method of gathering inventory and goals-data from participants. This implies that the members determine all or part of the course content. This can mean that they decide on the objectives and areas of discussion; it can also mean that within an assigned list of objectives or within an assigned subject, they determine the issues or skills of special concern.

Such buzz groups offer an excellent instrument for probing the feelings of learners about their achievements in reaching course objectives. In this context, the groups meet after the program is well underway to recommend courses of action for the remaining time together.

Here are two examples: In an Effective Business Writing program, participants form small teams for twenty minutes to compile a list of questions they want answered and key issues they wish to discuss. A typical list would include things such as "Getting it through the boss without heartbreaking changes," "Can you use a preposition to end a sentence with?" and "How to get rid of gobbledygook." The second example is from a workshop for experienced instructors.

They might develop two lists. One is for "Things we already know for sure about teaching." The other is for "Questions that come up to haunt us about our teaching." Lists so generated usually generate lively class discussions. At the same time, they effectively let instructors know where the trainees "are really coming from" and where they truly want to go—and how they feel about getting there.

Role-Plays. Role-plays permit learners to reenact the situations they face on the job, or they will face in the future, or they perceive to be job-like. Through such reenactment they can reexarnine previous behavior, tryout behaviors they have just acquired, or experiment with behaviors that strike them as potentially useful. Since there is some pressure associated with role playing, adult participants (even some trainers!) may resist this learning method.

This seems unfortunate, so instructors frequently employ these methods:

  • Use the "multiple role-play" format with many small role-plays going on simultaneously in various parts of the room.
  • Keep the cast of characters quite small when using the multiple formats.
  • Reinforce the experimental behaviors of the role players—never their "theatrical effectiveness."
  • Keep the physical facilities, or "stage setting," to a minimum. Attention focuses on the content, or processes, of the situation being enacted,not on the theatrical aspects of the play or the players.
  • Move into initial role-plays with a minimum of fanfare. For example, a trainee might comment, "I have this problem with an employee who keeps evading the issue." The instructor then asks a question that will encourage the trainee to "play" the employee. The question might be, "What was the last thing they said while evading an issue?" Once the trainee quotes the evader, the role-play has begun. The instructor may soon ask the class,"Who would like to carry on this conversation?" Or the instructor may designate someone to carry on.
  • Call the process something else—as "a simulation" in the example above.

Such spontaneous role-plays add involvement, variety, reality, and specificity to the learning experience. When role-plays are more structured, role descriptions are given to participants. These often include not only the characters in the situation but also an "observer's role." When observers are used, the points to watch for are listed in much the same way as those used in any other observation sheet. These are, after all, learning aids that help "imprint" action steps and standards in the minds of the observers.

Each role description should give the character a goal to shoot for in the conversation or situation—and perhaps a motive for that goal. Specific tips about how to play the role should be avoided at all costs. For example, it's probably better to instruct the player thus: "You intend to keep at this supervisor until you get an apology," than to say, "You regard yourself as a hard headed individual who takes no nonsense from anyone—and you don't intend to give this supervisor any satisfaction whatsoever while the two of you are talking."That locks the players in and prevents any real growth as they experiment with behaviors in reaching a role-played understanding.

Specific time limits can be assigned. This helps the role-players focus on reaching their objectives and cuts down on the occasional horseplay. When time is up,the instructor can merely clap hands to refocus attention and launch the next step. It is not important that the situation be "resolved" as in a novel or a play—only that critical moments be re-enacted. If role-players fail to reach their objectives in allotted times, they may very well be learning something!

Indeed,they almost certainly are learning something about which behaviors are nonproductive. This can be a very rich learning if they have another opportunity to replay the situation by using different behaviors. The processes and the learners' perceptions of those processes are likely to be the appropriate focus on role-plays. This indicates the vital importance of a feedback,or debriefing, session after the role-plays. Such feedback may very well deal with the feelings as much as it deals with the intellectual content of the transactions. When the instructor wishes to focus on content, a checklist such as those given to observers is useful.


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