Monday, January 26, 2015

Teaching Quality. Spoiler alert - it is NOT about you.

For the 12 years we have offered our VCOLE (virtual classroom on-line education) course The Program Office for Laboratory Quality Management’s Certificate Course on Quality Management.  Each year is essentially it presents as a new course because of all the refinements that are implemented based on our experience as faculty and the information that we gain from all the participant surveys that we run throughout 7 modules of the course.  The course information is based on Quality principles, key to which is Deming’s Plan – Do – Check – Act and Repeat.  


From the very beginning we were assisted by a course design expert who ensured that we focus on established Andragogy (Adult Learner) theory.  It is, or should be intuitively obvious that when it comes to learning, adults are not just big children.   Child learning is diffuse, adult learning is focused.   Adult learning has been a focus of study for almost 200 years, developed by Kapp in 1830s.  In North America, Kapp’s theories were popularized by Malcolm Knowles in the 1970 is his Principles of Adult Learning which include:

·       Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
·       Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
·       Adults are goal oriented
·       Adults are relevancy oriented
·       Adults are practical
·       Adult learners like to be respected

To translate these principles into practical terms, adults know what they want to learn, and how they want to learn.  If the subject does not have purpose, is not relevant, or practical, adult learners move on.  And they bring a lot of experience and expertise to the table; not acknowledging that is foolish and destructive.  Encouraging the sharing of experience and experience is always a good thing.
We work very hard in the course to teach to those principles.

Recently I found a couple books by Jane John-Nwankwo an American nurse who focuses a lot of attention to Adult Learning Principles, from the perspective of a Nurse Educator.  They are short (maybe too short) but certainly to the point.  They are available on and if you have an e-book are very inexpensive.

So what is the point?  

Quality is not intuitive, and is not something that is any part of any curriculum while we are growing up.  Adults come to work with some very mixed Quality messages which are usually very mixed and usually negative.  The common message is that Quality is about writing documents and CAPA software and telling staff they aren’t trying hard enough.  “If only you had done it right the first time!”
If a Quality Manager wants to be successful, they need to figure out how to encourage staff to build a Culture of Quality.  They need to figure out how to motivate and teach effectively; and that means they need to know something about how adults learn.  

Being an effective adult teacher was not something that I came to the table with.  I had to learn, and I will tell you that it was painful.  Over time I used the trial-and-error approach, the theatrical approach (scripts, choreography) and the down-home-folks approach.  Ultimately I figured out the real secret; teaching is not about me.
Teaching is about applying the principles and giving the audience what they want and need: practical, relevant information that is to the point.  Fill it in with a few stories that tie to my own personal experience and expertise, and then over to the audience for dialogue and discussion.  

Done well and maybe you will motivate some to want to come back.  Done really well and maybe you will develop a core group who engage with comment and get stimulated to action.  

Over the years I have learned a few things not to do:

  • ·       Don’t equate a big crowd with success.
  • ·       Don’t drone on.  Keep to the point.
  • ·       Don’t speak to slides.  Use slides to highlight, not as script.
  • ·       And, while it is always an ego boost, to the extent possible avoid all invitations to speak at meetings where no one speaks your language or understands what you are saying.  

Being a Quality motivator is all about sharing the message.  It is not about you.  If the audience comes out engaged, you win. 

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