Sunday, February 15, 2015

Teaching Quality – Part 3: Practical Suggestions

In the previous parts of this series I have addressed that education theorists have long ago determined that adult learners are different.  When it comes to learning, the adage “adults are just big children” does not apply.  Andragogy is the theory (science?) of mentoring adults is not the same as pedagogy (mentoring children).   The challenge and message to us is that if we want to mentor our adult co-workers about Quality Management in the workplace then we are well advised to use the mentoring and teaching skills that work best for adults.  

The problem is that most of us (a) are busy learning ourselves about quality (b) have never sought out training as teacher/mentors and (c) don’t know, indeed have probably never heard words like andragogy or pedagogy.  The best we have to go on is our past experience as learners, which was unfortunately mostly during the time of our own childhood and adolescence which usually means standing in front of the group, usually with a PowerPoint file and drone on, point after point, for 40 minutes and then ask if anyone has any questions.   And then wonder why most wander out, no questions asked, and usually no information absorbed.

Adults like to learn what they want, when they want, and are very specific in their expectations.  Adults highly value their own experiences and usually like to share them, and importantly prefer learning by asking their own questions rather than by being pumped by others.  And if it isn’t working they move on.

We also have another problem; many of us work in organizations like to talk about continuing education, but rarely like to support it with time or money or resources or even top management engagement.  

So many of us step up to the plate with two strikes against us before we even get started; we don’t really know what we are supposed to do, and tend not to have the money or resources that we think we need.  

So with that sort of an ugly start, let me share some ideas that will allow you to mentor Quality more effectively.  That way when you do get some money, you can save it up for a bigger ticket item, like supporting a special speaker, or sending someone to a Quality conference, or perhaps subsidizing a person taking a course.  Some of these come from Roberta Silfen’s book Teaching the Adult Learner; others are mine from my own experience.

First off, avoid the turn-offs.  Forget the sign-in sheet.  The notion of mandatory training is a crock.  Mandatory education is something that kids get.  And keeping “numbers of people taught” as a metric is a fool’s joke.  The point is not how many bodies were there, it was how many brains you stimulated.  If you really want to know how successful you were, try have a BRIEF post session satisfaction questionnaire.  
And if you are putting on successful mentoring sessions, the audience will either coalesce into a small core of the focused and  interested, or will grow.  

Try an “open mike” session by giving people the opportunity to share their experiences on Quality.  A person stands up and tells a Quality story, and then the audience can ask a few questions about it.  In an hour you can get maybe 4 or 5 speakers.  You get a chance to understand what your colleagues think about Quality.  The Quality Manager can introduce the session and perhaps do a summary at the end and maybe start the questions off, but otherwise keep quiet.  This is not your time to speak; it is your time to listen. 

Try an interview session.  Set up two chairs at the front of the room.  You invite perhaps the laboratory director to participate, and have a Quality interview.  What does Quality mean to them?  Did they learn Quality through courses, or was it something that they learned to experience and osmosis?  The point is not to pin them to the wall, or show off how smart you are or to throw in the gotcha question; the point is to give them the change to engage with the staff on why Quality is important for your laboratory.  Staff might even get a chance to engage in some of the questions as well.

Try the journal club approach, where the Quality Manager finds a Quality oriented article or book (article is better) and share it with the group in advance.  You might want to consider, for example, taking one or two blog entries or a current newspaper article, both of which might be ideal because they tend to be short.  Someone presents the article and then gives their opinion which might range from “pearls” to “pin-cushion”, and then open the article to discussion where folks can relate to their own experience.

Try a lecture, but do it in an adult fashion.  If you have 50 minutes for a session, don’t lecture for any more than 25.  Appoint someone as the question person who can start off with two or three questions, and then open up to others.  

The bottom line is always the same.  Put out the information towards adult mentoring and learning strengths.  Don’t hog the time.  It is not about you.  It is about exposing your adult staff to new ideas.  Keep things moving, and allow your audience to get engaged, and participate and share.

So, what do you think?

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