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Envisioning the future through reflecting on my past … which is not to say that past is prologue!

Imagine me running full tilt toward the finish line… that’s how I felt on Tuesday—it’s a vision, right?

I was meeting with the students from the Baruch College Industrial and Organizational Psychology program (MSIO). My mission was to share information about talent development as a field, ATDNYC in particular (as the VP of membership), and address their questions about what the future might hold… i.e., “What if I want to switch fields now that I’ve just graduated?” “How do I narrow my focus, as I love all areas of I/O?”

I had taken on the task of creating a visual of my influences on my path as a visual practitioner. Then, I realized that I had to recognize my foundation—how I even started to think of becoming a visual practitioner—and believed that this information was even more important to the MSIO students. I created a visual of my academic background and training experiences and the key influences in each program.

Of course, I had all kinds of thoughts about the background—literal, metaphorical—and with the clock ticking (my strength of creativity getting in the way again!), I went with a simple yellow/golden pathway… reminiscent of the yellow brick road.

I have plans for the second path or stream, which will intertwine with what I have created already. It will be my journey as a visual practitioner. A third path is brewing in my mind, thanks to my buddy Julia Curtis. I am going to share an abridged list of places of work and my consulting clients to highlight the impact of my education and training. This is more complexity of design than I usually work with… and I both am enjoying it and feel challenged by it.

Over the next few weeks, I will share the ongoing process of creating this multi-path vision, which is beginning to feel like a 3-D drawing…

I hope that you will see this as an opportunity not so much to learn about me but rather an opportunity to ask the same questions of yourself and create your own answers… visually or in writing, perhaps collage. It’s the content that matters—choose a medium that calls to you. I hope you will share your creation with me!

PS: Since the event, several students have been in touch and spoken with me about the power of sharing the visual and my story to help them see possibilities for their futures. Understanding the variety of resources at their fingertips (ATD NYC and other organizations) also made them feel more relaxed and hopeful about receiving the support they want and need.

Who are the people that have influenced you?

As I pondered the question of who has influenced me over the years, I kept the scope of my thinking rather small, focusing only on people who influenced my work as visual practitioner. And so, I drafted a chronology of influencers and then started to think of a metaphor and some way to indicate time. I left the question of impact at bay… (Perhaps the only reason to walk down that path is to get really clear about what I learned from each of them, gained from the experience(s), and write a note of thanks. That is a task for another time.)

As I stepped back from the page I drafted, I realized that I would never have gotten to the point of even looking for these people if I hadn’t had another foundation to spring from. And so I created another timeline.

I started to think of where I went to college and the two grad schools I attended… and I could track my growth in knowledge and skills. From there, it was a small step to realizing that all the training that I’ve done outside of a traditional academic environment also contributes to who I am today. With that in mind,  and I added my training with Points of You, EFT/Emotional Freedom Techniques, Breathwork, Nonviolent Communication, and Appreciative Inquiry—creating a  second layer of my map. I was playing with paper and pencil, so it became another sheet of paper though I will shift to my iPad and Procreate to be able to make the layers… this is starting to feel like stratigraphy—the science of strata or layers of rock. While I feel the layering aspect is an accurate reflection of my learning and doing over the years, the vision of sedimentary rock is not one that resonates with me… I envision more of the creation of a planet with a core or a journey over hill and dale or even an underwater world… the essence of each of these ideas is quite different for me.

As I was walking Gus this morning, (always a good time for reflection), I realized that it would be interesting to add a layer about my work experiences, as of course, they have changed me too. So perhaps I will add another layer in the coming weeks and, most importantly, think deeply about these varied influences because they are far more subtle and are often not consciously realized without such reflection.

So, I’m thinking that if you know me, even just a wee bit, you know that my strength of creativity has gotten in the way and I have not finished my map—because I have added more layers and complexity! How lucky that I won’t be speaking with the I/O Psych grad students from Baruch University until next week!

How do you learn best?

How have you discovered the answer to my question over your years in educational systems and in training programs?

I find that I am most aware of how I learn best when I am in a situation that doesn’t meet my needs.

What about you?

When is the last time you had a stellar learning experience? What made it great? I find that when the design and delivery of the materials are masterful it can be difficult to say why, because everything comes together so beautifully.

When is the last time you had a challenging, difficult, or awful learning experience? What made it so?

THE CONTEXT

So… I feel compelled to share just a wee bit about my background and how I come to the thoughts I am sharing… It is my effort to share my lens for viewing/experiencing training programs. If you know my background, skip the next paragraph and go straight to the story.

The short of it is:

  • I am a former teacher, principal, and administrator in special education settings in New York City.
  • My doctorate is in curriculum development and my passion is the creation of engaging, learner-centered learning experiences.
  • For me, teaching and training are all about knowledge AND skill acquisition—the ability to use/act upon what has been learned.

THE STORY

For just over a month I attended an online class on a subject which I had only a little knowledge about and yet a keen interest. I knew there was a lot to learn and I was excited.

The first session was almost impossible for me to understand. Even though it was an introductory course, people had varying degrees of experience. The trainer’s approach and materials were not sufficient to work with the varying levels in the group. The second session was marginally better, in that I reviewed videos and slides to gain more knowledge—though I still had only a little idea of how to put it all together to achieve the goals of the program. In my desire to learn what I had come for, I reached out to the trainer and shared, in a forward-looking conversation, information about how I could gain more from the class. Happily, she was very responsive and changed aspects of her style for the next class. I believe a sign of her realizing that folks were struggling was her offer to add one more class to the series… I appreciated that, as it took me until session three to feel like I understood most of what was being said. And, to be clear, understanding what is being said is not the same thing as being able to use the information to do the tasks we were learning.

MY CONCLUSIONS

With these thoughts in mind, and in my effort to focus on the positive—here’s a list of what I need as a learner—

I need:

  • a trainer who has explored her/his philosophy around learning and training, and then worked to develop programming that is all about delivering content in service of the learners/learning, i.e., more than a content expert
  • a course that is appropriate for my level of knowledge and experience (as advertised)
  • to know the elements/topic areas for the entire course to understand it best—I am a “global” learner needing an overview to create the framework in which I can place the details
  • a description of what I will learn/know and be able to do, i.e., the skill(s) I will have gained by the conclusion of the course
  • an agenda for each session in the course—just a few words about the content/subjects
  • use of techniques and materials that support my learning in an online environment—the skillful use of platforms to show materials, and development of print materials that are clear, consistent, well-organized, and provide accurate information
  • to practice with what I am learning—having some “scaffolding” for my learning. For example, in the course I was taking, what are good/some correct examples, what are examples with errors and can I find the errors and correct them, then when I do the work on my own, getting informative feedback about what I did correctly and where I have room to improve… useful feedback that is actionable, not just cheerleading, “You’re doing great!”
  • an opportunity to ask questions as I am learning, not waiting until the end of a session or at the beginning of the next session
  • honesty—in some instances, “there are no wrong answers” is true. In this course, it was not, yet in an effort to encourage us to participate we were told… an untruth
  • a trainer who is aware of what’s happening in the “room” and able to adjust to the dynamics
  • requests for feedback about how participants are doing in their learning and how they are feeling about it… and the time and willingness to listen to it, at the conclusion of every session.

What do you need? How do you do your best to ensure that you get what you need?

I’d love to hear your answers!