Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching Quality_Part 2

If we believe that communicating Quality is the cornerstone to implementing and developing a Culture of Quality, then we have to accept that those responsible to doing that communicating know what to do.  But with regret, that is what we call wishful thinking.  

I am almost certain that most Quality leaders have little to no training in effective teaching/communicating, and rely mostly on their previous experiences as a student (when they learned mainly from people with little training).  That, with regret sets us up for a potential problem.  

 So let’s look at this as a problem that needs to be solved.  Most people come to Quality later in their career rather than sooner.  It is an adult choice.  Most of their experience has come from being a laboratorian, perhaps a technologist or a pathologist, maybe a nurse.  But one thing is almost certain, few if any come to Laboratory Quality Management after being a teacher.  Most of us have little training in public speaking, much less teaching.  Indeed if there is any truth behind the stereotype of laboratory workers, many of us are not very comfortable in speaking in front of an audience. 

The result of this incompatibility is that either we tend to do the prerequisite teaching not particularly well, or worse, we find all sorts of ways to avoid it, or not even raise it as an issue.  And that is not good.

So there are a few things that we can do.  The first thing actually is not learning about content; rather it is about learning how to talk.  The content can wait.   For those that get tongue tied or stress out at the thought of talking in front of a bunch of people, consider taking an adult public speaking course or participating in evening acting classes at a local community centre or joining Toastmasters, or start practicing at home with family or in safe social settings.  Find a speaking coach.  Approach this in the same way as you would learning how to drive, or how to operate a new analyzer.  For most of us it won’t take long before we get the hang of it, maybe a month or two.  But if you are not comfortable with standing on your feet and talking out loud to others, communicating Quality will be a painful process, both for you and your audience.   

Another thing to do is look at andragogy (adult learning) and imbed some of the insights that others have garnered along the way.  Some of the classic ones are to be found in part 1 [see: ]

More recently I have been scoping our more of the andragogy literature, and found another excellent author (Roberta Silfen – Teaching the Adult Learner – 2011).
Here are some things that Dr. Silfen brings to the table:

1:  The Knowles principles are REALLY important.  Perhaps most important is that adults view their past experiences as universal truths.  They are very powerful and influence what they will gain from what they are learning today.  Challenging those past experiences can only be done with caution.  Adults want their past experiences to be respected and valued by others.  

2:   Given a choice between didactically presenting information and then asking if there are any questions, versus posing problem solving questions and then discussing the responses, adult learners prefer the latter.  

3: Adults learn better at their own pace than at someone else’s pace.  You have to be flexible.

4: Adults learning works best when teachers are comfortable in sometimes sitting back and letting others take the lead.  

These can be really tough.  For many of us (me, especially?) we love showing others what we know and love being the lead.  For those of us like that (again me, especially) the title of Part one is really important (Spoiler alert – it is NOT about you).  

To my mind, if building a Culture of Quality is important, then sharing the Quality message in a manner that invites your work colleagues to pick up the ideas to the point where they can apply them to their own work experience is absolutely critical.  We have two choices; doing that messaging well or doing it not so well.  One has a better chance of working than the other.  

Next time (Part 3) I will address the question about to present information in a variety of cost efficient and cost effective techniques.  Some are from my own experience, others are from Dr. Silfen.  

PS: Dr. Silfen’s book Teaching the Adult Learner is available on for a truly under-valued cost.

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