Final Reflection

Program design and delivery for adult learners is built on andragogy principles. One of the key principles for adult educators is creating instructional design techniques that are experiential in nature (Merriam & Bierema, 2013, pg. 52). Adult learners view themselves as independent and self-directed learners. If an adult learner suddenly finds themselves in a classroom where he or she has no voice and limited opportunities for self-direction, then adult educators create problematic learning environments. Jane Vella explains in her book, On Teaching and Learning (2008), that “Knowing the learners’ contexts can give us what we need to design and to teach-and to learn-in dialogue with them” (pg. xxv). As a result of this course, I now recognize traps instructors fall into when they share their expert knowledge or skills while failing to make it accessible or meaningful to the learner. Vella’s theory on dialogue education particularly spoke to me as an adult educator. As an instructor, I should prepare the content in such a way as to connect the learning activities to the learners’ lives. Good program design and delivery must always serve the learning (Vella, 2008, pg. xxiv). When the program is over, I want students to say “‘Look at what we have achieved’ rather than ‘What a great teacher!’” (Vella, 2008, pg. 11).

In addition to better understanding instructional design theory, Rosemary Caffarella’s Interactive Model of Program Planning will continue to serve as a useful and practical tool when planning university courses, modules, and trainings. Prior to enrolling in this course, I did not think about all the details involved in the planning process, specifically transfer of learning components. The course allowed me to implement each component of the model in order to better understand planners’ roles and responsibilities. I also appreciate the flexibility of the model, which can easily be adapted and applied to future planning situations. Overall, I especially enjoyed applying what I read about in the readings when designing my own course. Whenever a course offers the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned, it is the most effective way for learners to actually retain information. The course’s learning activities allowed for opportunities to connect with the material and adapt it to my own professional context, which directly supports major adult learning principles on how adults learn and change.

I did not encounter any major challenges when designing my particular onboarding program, rather there were components of the model that took more time to develop and understand, specifically the instructional design section. I easily decided on the program goal and objectives, but designing instructional activities according to my Achievement Based Objectives took time to plan and organize in a way that focused on the learner’s ability to connect the content to their own lives. Applying Vella’s Four I’s to each learning task forced me to design a robust and meaningful onboarding program – one that focused on relating the material to their past, interacting as a community of learners in small and large groups, and providing takeaways to ensure knowledge-transfer. I agree with Vella that “Quality learning demands quality work from quality teachers,” which invariably involves a lot of time to prepare (Vella, 2008, pg. 77).

In addition to developing my skills as an instructional designer, I also developed my skills as a facilitator by delivering a portion of the instructional design in class to my peers. When it came time to adapt a learning task to an audience unfamiliar with advising, I found myself spending too much time explaining the art of advising and integrating a takeaway that was meaningful to those not in the advising field. Nonetheless, I always enjoy the opportunity to present and practice my facilitation skills with my classmates. I realize how much I enjoy presenting and being in front of the classroom. The feedback from my peers offered me the opportunity to improve and fine tune my facilitation skills and learning activities for my part two training that just took place last week in my current job.  I specifically made sure to continually ask new advisors what they will take away rather than telling them what they should take away at the conclusion of our training. The practice in the classroom also gives me more confidence as an instructor. After each class, I found myself applying adult education principles in my university classes that I teach to freshmen. Again, the main benefit of this course (and graduate program overall) is that I can easily apply the design principles to my current job.

I also identified personal learning needs as a result of this class that I plan to implement in my job. I recently delivered our part two training to our new advisors. The feedback was overwhelming positive, so much so that they started talking to other seasoned employees about each learning activity. The seasoned advisors on my team seemed impressed and interested in participating in a “refresher” training. I realized when developing a robust onboarding program that all employees need to be consistently trained on establishing and continuing positive relationships as well as given opportunities to connect to the larger university mission.  In other words, there will always be a need for trainings on engagement and professional development. Once you’ve been at an organization for many years, those types of trainings shouldn’t suddenly stop. Overall, this course has empowered me to design and deliver future programs for my team using the Interactive Programming Model and Vella’s dialogue education principles.

If I look at this adult learning graduate program as a whole, Design and Delivery for Adult Learners perfectly combines what we learned in Adult Development and Theory and Human Resource Development (HRD).  The program allows learners to first understand adult education as a professional field of practice, then gradually prepares us to plan and implement programs grounded in adult learning principles. Since I am taking this course toward the end of the graduate program, I am able to draw larger conclusions about the graduate program overall. The appeal of the program is that we are able to connect the principles to our own learning; thus, preparing us as learners to plan meaningful instruction for adults (Merriam & Bierema, 2013, pg. 56). If you agree with Swanson and Holton’s (2009) broad definition of HRD, “unleashing and developing human potential,” then all adult educators, regardless if they are in an official human resource training role or not, practice some type of HRD when planning program design and delivery (pg. 3). In other words, adult education is all about the learning and development of individuals who can then go on to impact organizations, institutions, universities, and societies overall.

Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Evaluation Model

I always knew evaluations were important. I’m sure we are all familiar with the typical emailed evaluation survey after a conference ends or training concludes that asks us how we liked the program. After we addressed evaluation strategies in class a few weeks ago, I can now finally use the “training lingo” so to speak regarding Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model and better understand the importance of each level in the model.

Those typical emailed surveys or questionnaires are Level I evaluations gauging learners reactions to the program – how much did participants like the space, the flow, the food, the workshops, etc. While there is nothing wrong with Level I evaluations, I believe there are sometimes opportunities to dig a little deeper to truly evaluate learning change. I have the least amount of experience receiving a Level II and III evaluation because I think they are rarely done perhaps due to time and resource constraints. We discussed in class that most trainers or organizations don’t have the time it takes to evaluate learning change and simply want to check a box when it comes to saying we did an evaluation. I think it all depends on what organizations do with the data collected from evaluations and how that data effects the bottom line when it comes to devoting time and energy into Level II, III, and definitely Level IV evaluations.

In my particular circumstance, I need to know if a new advisor acquired the intended knowledge, skills, and commitment needed to be successful in the job. Therefore, I feel as though my department has to take the time to devote to a Level II evaluation. I will do this by collecting their results on certain learning activities during the new hire training. I’ll then conduct observations a month after the training ends to observe if the new advisor is accurately applying what is learned (Level III). Yes, this is going to take precious time out of my day to perform these evaluations, but employee retention is on the line. Since these new hires fall under my supervision, I’m somewhat responsible for their success. I think the trap that trainers fall into is that they are not directly responsible for a participants success on the job – they punt it to the manager who directly oversees that employee. I think most organizations should include managers and leaders of the company in evaluation strategies as much as possible if the company truly wants to measure and evaluate learning change. The time and energy is takes to complete Level II, III, and IV evaluations is worth it, but I think it needs to come from the top.

Facilitation Afterthoughts

As a part of this class, we were to design and deliver one learning task within our program plan to our peers. Out of the almost three years I’ve been in this program, I had the hardest time selecting an appropriate learning task and designing a learning activity that fit my audience and allotted time. I gathered valuable feedback from other students in the field prior to the facilitation exercise. I also questioned my coworkers to gain guidance and input on the best way to deliver a learning task about the importance of academic advising and complexity of university policy. I had no issues about facilitating an exercise. In fact, I was looking forward to engaging my peers in an activity. I love the art of interactive teaching and training. Looking back, I think the exercise was difficult for me for several reasons:

  1. Time – I only had 20 minutes (yikes!)
  2. Audience – my peers are not in the advising field
  3. Takeaway – integrating what they learned and applying it in their own context

The feedback validated my insecurities about this facilitation assignment. I chose to do a scenario-based learning activity surrounding university policy and procedure in advising meetings; therefore, my slides consisted of links to several important policies and resources around campus. My power-point was content-heavy for obvious reasons. Added to that, I clearly ran over time. I felt rushed toward the end and told my audience the takeaway rather than asking them. Overall, I learned that scenario based learning is an excellent activity with a high potential for learning (which I plan to keep in my program); however, I want to break down each policy in more depth for my new hires – perhaps using a scenario per policy/resource.

I love the fact that I’m constantly learning as a result of this class and program, especially from my peers. This class is truly representative of dialogue education in action – we are a community of learners each time we enter the classroom. As a result, I’m a better program designer and trainer. Thank you!


The Four I’s: Applying Jane Vella’s 4 Step Model of a Learning Task

After reading Jane Vella’s four step process in creating a learning task this week, I decided to apply it to my UNIV 101 course. I wanted to offer an opportunity to have a mid-semester check-in assignment to better grasp what they like, what they are struggling in, and how they are applying what we have learned thusfar in the course. The following assignment follows the 4-I’s model:

Learning Task: Mid Semester Check-In

Who: First year students enrolled in UNIV 101: Introduction to the University

Inductive: Write a paragraph about what you like about the class and how it applies to your college experience thusfar? What are you struggling in at this point? What topics would you like addressed for the remaining 6 weeks that are not listed?

*This was assigned as homework prior to class

Input: Read pages 75-79 in your textbook and watch my PowerPoint on Successful Study Skills in College, make a list of the types of study skills have you utilized thusfar? What study skills have you not used that you would like to try out before the end of this semester? We will hear from each student in class.

Implementation: Working in your time management groups (these were pre-assigned at the beginning of class), please update your Google calendar, paper planner, or smart phone app with assignments, study times, meeting times, job schedule, and anything else you have going on next week. Write down at least 1 new study strategy for each assignment that you want to practice.

Integration: Now that you have a more detailed plan going into next week, what are the positive implications of trying out new study habits? How will this impact your long term goal?

I’m open to feedback on how I applied the four steps since I totally buy-in to Vella’s dialogue education model. The more feedback I get from students along the way, the more focused I feel as an instructor and the more connected learners feel to the material.


The Importance of Onboarding

I think most of us can remember a job in our past that involved little to no training. I don’t think there is a worse feeling than trying to figure out your job responsibilities on your own – and how you fit into the bigger picture. I had a similar feeling with my first job out of college and needless to say – I didn’t stay long. A structured and organized onboarding impacts employee retention, which is why my program idea involves standardizing and improving my department’s onboarding process. Over the summer, my office experienced a 50% turnover rate and the leadership team spent a majority of our workdays interviewing, reference checking, and onboarding new team members. When we went to look at previous onboarding processes, we found that there hadn’t been a structured process in the past. In fact, the little training that was given to previous new employees was not entirely relevant or accurate. It was quickly apparent this summer that our office desperately needed a standard onboarding training program.

In last week’s class, we discussed the importance of developing a needs assessment. Cafferella explained that an educational need is the “focal point for identifying ideas for education and training programs” (Cafferella, 2002, pg. 114). Organizational needs drive the program planning. My program idea is in direct response to a need within our department. However, a successful needs assessment involves asking the right people the right questions. My group discussion was particularly helpful in identifying who and what I should be asking in order to identify gaps and what we’ve done well. After last week’s class, I developed a Google form with 7 questions that I plan to send to 7 new advisors who participated in our August advisor orientation. I want thoughtful, reflective responses from each advisor, so I decided against an initial in-person interview. My office is also putting together a Training and Development committee, so I would like to use the committee meetings as another opportunity for in-person data collection. The two part process I think will invite learners to assist in the planning process. Cafferella argues that asking learners who have been involved in previous programs to reflect on what they have learned ensures people support (Cafferella, 2002, pg. 86). I also think getting as many people around the table helps to ensure all aspects of our program are covered.

I can’t tell you how excited  I am to break down each component of program planning in this class with the extra bonus of applying it to my job. I feel fortunate to learn from other experienced trainers in the class and look forward to positive results.