Friday, November 4, 2016

Developing a designer's mind

Back in September I attended the Presenter's Forum in Denver in order to further my goal of becoming a Cognitive Coach trainer.  I was also hoping that learning more about presenting would lead to me delivering better presentations in the future.  At the time I was working on designing an online workshop for the IB on digital citizenship, preparing for a tech integration workshop for Consilience, and preparing to lead a 3-day Making the PYP Happen workshop in Mumbai.  One of the things I really hoped to do was to develop a designer's mind so that the presentations I would eventually give would be really useful for the participants.

According to Bob Garmston, design thinkers ask 4 questions when planning a presentation:
  • What do I want the participants to learn?
  • How will I know they are learning it?
  • What strategies or approaches will I use?
  • What can I learn by designing and delivering the content and how can that inform refinements?
When I thought about it, the first 3 of these questions reminded me of the Learners Constructing Meaning model that we find in the PYP:

The Pathways to Learning Model, developed by Lipton and Wellman and referenced by Garmston in his book The Presenter's Fieldbook is similar:

When designing my recent workshops I tried to put these ideas into practice.  For example in the activating and engaging phases I tried to show my adult learners that we are all experts - we bring with us a wealth of teaching experience and we know about the context in which we work in our schools.  Often as teachers we already have a lot of prior knowledge, so the initial step is to activate this, to have the participants talk about what they know and to get this knowledge into their working memory so that new information has something that it can stick on to.  At the start of each day of the workshops I tried to have the participants actively engage with each other.  The message I was trying to get across is that adults socially construct their understanding - I expect them to be interactive, not just passive recipients of knowledge.  I explained to them that I would not be talking for more than 20% of the time - they would be expected to work together and share their knowledge with each other.  Garmston explains that using interactive strategies right from the start provides psychological safety for the social construction of meaning.

Once the participants were active and engaged, I then planned my next set of engagements, which was to have them explore and discover.  This is the point where new information can be introduced. At times I did give a short lecturette (for example a short history of the IBO), and at other times I expected the participants to read and interact with articles and publications (for example through paired reading, jigsaw or visible thinking protocols).  All these activities were designed to tap into the participants cognitive processing skills.

Finally we moved into the organize and integrate phase.  Here participants had to organize and integrate the new material to make it their own.  Again I employed various strategies such as KWL charts, diamond rankings, making visuals and so on as a way of re-ordering knowledge.  Garmston tells us that this stage is "the work of the learner, not the presenter ... it is the stage at which learners crystallize meaning for themselves."

At this point in the design process, it's important to think about the balance between content and process.  At the Presenter's Forum this was likened to chewing gum, the gum being the content and the chewing being the interactive engagements that are designed to help the participants receive, process and apply the content.  When designing a presentation it's vital to consider how much gum and how much chewing is needed:  the content has little or no value unless it has been chewed.  The following image, taken from the ASCD website, explains this in more depth:

If your aim as a presenter is simply to raise awareness or to share knowledge, possibly you want to give a lot of content, interspersed with short periods of processing.  If you want to develop skills, then more time is needed for processing.  With attitude development you will need to process at the start, and then introduce the content later.  Finally for application you might want to design a lot of content at the start and then time at the end to apply what has been learned.   I tried a combination of all of these approaches in my workshops, though often had to think on my feet.  At times things took much longer or shorter than I'd anticipated.  Sometimes I had to provide more gum.  Sometimes I had to let people chew it for a bit longer.  A couple of things I decided to leave out altogether in order to allow more chewing time.

Generally I feel I learned a lot from the Presenter's Forum that I was able to put into practice right away.  I also videoed myself presenting - I haven't yet had the opportunity to watch this video, but I'm hoping that by reflecting on it I'll be able to hone my presentation skills even more.

Photo Credit: canonsnapper Flickr via Compfight cc

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this post Maggie. Making lots of connections to how we structure and facilitate our workshops - and our classrooms.
    Thank you - lots to read and think on...( and then apply)