When I wrote the last posting for 2022 I suggested that, when it comes to designing learning programmes ‘It’s all about the endings’. Now we’re into 2023 I’m going to recognise that there’s a whole new year ahead of us and we need to accept that, while it’s got huge potential for reward, it also needs some application and hard work. So I’m going to qualify ‘It’s all about the endings’ by saying that we need to start programmes in a way that are congruent with the outcomes we want to achieve.
In this short posting I’m going to talk about this congruency and how we can design programmes that start how they mean to finish - successfully.
As with most of these reflections on learning design I’m going to refer you to your stated learning outcomes. Take a good look at them before you go public -
One way of addressing this question is to ask yourself another question -
Learning is all about what people do with new knowledge and you need your programme to be highly effective in helping people acquire new knowledge and transferring this knowledge into particular contexts. So take a look at your programme and ask yourself some hard questions about the behavioural change that it’s likely to produce in your given participant group.
Once you’re happy with the compatibility of content and likely behavioural outcomes you can go back to the congruency question I suggested earlier.
How did you do with defining behavioural outcomes? Because, as I said in my last posting, you need to leave people in the right frame of mind to implement these changes in the way they are at work. If you’re happy that your programme close will set them up for success you need to think about a congruent opening e.g.
If you need a more energised team then you need to start with a look at energy
If you need a more thoughtful team then you need to start with a look at consideration
To simplify this design step I’d suggest that there are three ways of addressing congruent starts - you can either explore the advantages of the behaviours you’re aiming for, or illustrate the disadvantages of their absence, or offer a hybrid that balances these two perspectives. I’ll briefly describe each in turn.
Suppose your desired learning outcomes are to do with energy and motivation. One way to open is to simply get your participants doing something that encourages them to be energetic and motivated - I’ve used activities like Helium Stick or Keypunch to do this in the past. This should get all the group animated but it’s important that you debrief the activity that considers these behaviours and compares them to workplace activities. Such a debrief might take on this kind of structure:
What that last question should do is allow you to set the rest of the programme up as being about allowing that transfer to take place.
As a second example suppose we are looking to build a more thoughtful / considerate workplace and we want to start by tackling the sensitive subject of what it feels like when we’re not thoughtful / considerate. Here I might choose an activity like Post-iT or Chainlink, both of which require participants to think carefully about what others need before they act. Inevitably there will be lapses in this consideration and this can be gently explored during the debrief:
Again this last question should allow you to set up the rest of the programme as being about reducing the need for people to feel negative about particular workplace interactions.
Finally there’s the hybrid design that combines an exploration of both the presence and absence of the behaviours the programme is addressing. This is a great example of how image work can be used effectively. I might use Images of Organisations or Images of Resilience, or a combination of both decks. The questions I might use to guide the selection of images by the group could be
Once selections have been made then get people to talk about why they chose particular images.
After this sharing it’s a short step for you to suggest that the rest of the programme is about deriving the benefits of a high energy workplace whilst spotting and avoiding the things that lower energy levels.
In summary you’re thinking about the behavioural outcomes your programme is designed to deliver and creating a direct link to the desirability of those outcomes in the minds of the participants.