The workshop day had come to an end. Tired but content, I decided to quickly scan the evaluation surveys before grabbing a taxi.
As I breezed through the surveys, one in particular caught my eye. The participant had given me the highest marks in every category but then added in big bold letters
I LIKED YOU BETTER AS A BLONDE!
As a public speaker and talent developer, I work with thousands of adult learners every year. Most of them provide me with written feedback about their learning experience. I work diligently at designing survey questions that yield helpful feedback, but I always add an open-ended “Additional comments” space. This gives the participants a chance to tell me something that I might not have anticipated in my Likert-style questions.
Over the years I have saved the comments that most surprised me. Here are my top 3 shockers:
Most of the time, the open-ended comments are complimentary about the day. While I am not seeking compliments, they are always a pleasure to read. However, occasionally, a participant will write something that helps me to improve my teaching. It might be:
“I was hoping for more networking time”
“Is there any way to get a copy of the article about…”
“I don’t like group work. I would rather work by myself.”
Of course, I don’t change something just because one person shares a criticism or suggestion. It’s my role to look outward for patterns in the comments, and to look inward to my own feelings and understanding about adult learners. It is this constant reflection that leads me to improvement.
How do you gather helpful feedback from your classes or presentations?
Find specific evaluation questions in my book “Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.”
When I was a child, my father and I would play Scrabble on Sunday afternoons. It was a quiet time for us to share our love of words and be engaged with each other. In my mind, I was really great at the game – often beating my father. Now that I am a parent myself, I realize that he probably let me win occasionally.
My daughter’s generation is more inclined to play Words with Friends on their devices, but I still prefer the immediacy and face-to-face engagement of Scrabble. Whatever your preference, these word games are an effective way to activate our learners’ prior knowledge and vocabulary about our class content. Simple to play, familiar to most, and easy to integrate into any course – what more could a trainer ask for?
Here’s my favorite way of doing it:
For more ideas about how to engage adult learners, check out my book "Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training."
When I was only seven, I committed my first crime. My parents had gone out to run errands, leaving my two older brothers in charge. Ensconced in front of the weekly football game on TV, they paid no attention to their little sister. Bored with football, I decided that I had the perfect opportunity to explore my parents’ bedroom. My parents, continually harassed by four children, considered their bedroom an oasis, off-limits to us unless by special invitation. Thus, the temptation. I opened the top drawer to my father’s walnut dresser and, standing on tiptoes, peered inside to see what treasures it might hold. Tucked into one corner was an uncovered box, filled with shiny coins that he removed from his trouser pockets each night. I quickly snatched a nickel and dropped it into the front pocket of my skirt. Glancing over my shoulder guiltily, I found that the world had not changed one bit, so I continued exploring.
Wedged into the back of the drawer, under some graying, fraying hankies, there was a tube-shaped object, kind of brassy in color. My fingers reached for it, closing around the cool metal and pulling it forward. As I examined it more closely, I found that one end was narrow, with a circle of glass over it, while the other end was wider with a fuzzy bit of glass covering it. I put the narrow end up to my eye to look inside and squealed in delight at the storm of colors that rained down. This of course brought my brothers running. My life of crime was over, but my lifelong love of kaleidoscopes had just begun.
Kaleidoscopes represent the beauty of diversity to me – all the ways we can create a mix of people that come together in wonderful new configurations. As a facilitator of adult learning, it is invaluable to have numerous strategies for grouping and regrouping learners so that they share their talents and ideas in new ways. There are times when it is best to intentionally assign specific individuals to work together, while there are other times when random regrouping leads to wonderful collaboration. My love of kaleidoscopes reminds me of the importance of mixing things up. And, I have learned that I don't like being in trouble! That's why, whenever I run a training class, I always have a cheat sheet with me that lists 9 ways to quickly develop new groups. I can mix participants up on the spur of the moment - in response to lagging energy, a chatty table or the need for new ideas. Here are 9 of my "go-to's."
Looking for more ideas that keep you out of trouble? Check out "Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training"
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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