Thursday, February 7, 2008

The New Age of Association Education

The era of talking heads is over, at least for a little while. Associations are beginning to understand that adults do not learn as quickly nor as well from listening to speeches, no matter how articulate or intelligent the speaker. While I am convinced that no one has the "right" answer about what constitutes the best learning environment, I think it's safe to say that a mix of the following will be more effective, more enjoyable, and more successful than simply presenting a talking head to the audience:
  • Group conversations, in which the audience breaks into small groups during which they discuss the issues, answer questions posed to them about the topic at hand, and are rewarded for contributing to the dialogue;
  • Audience members as teachers, in which all or several (depending on the size of the group) members of the audience are asked to take on the "talking head" role, but with a twist--they can engage the group in conversation, as well;
  • Experiential learning, in which the participants actually do what they are expected to learn, following guidance either of an instructor or a teaching team;
  • Multi-media exposure to concepts, wherein the concepts being taught are delivered verbally, visually, and through other senses such as touch, taste, and smell;
  • Online learning, incorporating a variety of teaching and learning techniques, delivered via computer, typically over the Internet;
  • Self-instruction, whereby the individual learner is given specific objectives, clear metrics to measure progress, a timeline, and a variety of information resources and then told to come back to report on progress at various intervals; and
  • Peer feedback, whereby knowledgeable and trained peers give feedback to the learner about the material to be learned.

Several of these processes go by other names. Several of them have evolved into hybrids that purport to be more effective than any of the processes from which they sprang. Regardless, the important thing is that associations that continue to depend on the "talking head" mode of delivery for education will find that, at least for now, their members likely will be dissatisfied with it, if that is the exclusive mode of delivery.

My best advice is this: use a mix of modes of delivering your educational content. Surprise your members with new ideas, new formats, and jarring concepts! Get them excited as much about how they will learn as what they will learn!

No comments:

Post a Comment