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Designing Learning Initiatives

The beauty of natural designs.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to lead many facilitator training or “train-the-trainer” type programs. It’s been a joy – with one small drawback. The joy often comes from the participants who appreciate learning tools and techniques they can use in their work, and also realize the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings that inform transformative adult education. Having experienced facilitators and novices collectively create, share and reflect on processes to help others learn is a gift I’ve experienced in many countries around the world.

The drawback most often comes from decision makers in organizations who say, “David, I’d like the people in my organization to be able to facilitate and design courses like you. Can you do a 1 day training for them?” At his point I take a deep breath ... and inform them that people can be exposed to different tools and techniques and learn some basic facilitation skills in a day or two, but learning design is a complex process. It demands a greater investment of time and energy than a day or two! They often think I’m making things more complex than they need to be. I explain from my experience “learning design” is a specialization of its own – just like democratic governance, community-economic development or gender mainstreaming. One way I have found that helps them understand is sharing the learning design checklist I and other co-facilitators developed for the Facilitation and Training Approaches to Community Change course I led at the Coady Institute.

The Learning Design Checklist (shared below) was developed to remind experienced educators of the numerous elements to consider in designing learning. It outlines aspects related to participants’ needs and capacities, values of importance, creativity, tools and techniques, learning styles, evaluation mechanisms and more. It is by no means comprehensive, but has proven to be a valuable summary for learning designers as they strive to build programs that can improve knowledge, skills and attitudes for themselves, their organization and participants. It has also been a valuable discussion tool with the decision makers. They often take a step back, a little overwhelmed and say, “wow, I had no idea one had to consider so much in a learning design. Maybe we should have a longer program.”

What has worked for you in helping others learn about learning design? Does this checklist remind you of some things you may want to emphasize more? Share your comments below. Happy designing!

Click on Learning Design Checklist on the facilitation tools page

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