Learn how to create a learning path through a story arc and insight.
- Every learning solution you create needs to have a story arc, which means it has three parts, a Beginning, that meets the learners at their current state, then a Middle that serves as a bridge across to the End or final state, which is the behaviors and results you need to create. Thinking of learning in a story arc not only will help you organize your content, but it will make the learner's journey more powerful, because the human brain responds to story. It's another aspect of the neuroscience of learning. Now I'm not talking about once upon a time, but rather the idea that our learners are going on a journey.
The scene opens with their current state, and they need to traverse to a new and better state of skills and knowledge. In our working example, the CTO needs his managers to lead a lot of big change initiatives effectively over the next three years. The current state is an overwhelmed team that's not communicating or collaborating effectively, and there's a lot of emotions at play. Because I have three sessions with them, the overall story arc will unfold over those six hours. In the opening session, I'll give them the big picture of how different types of change effect people, and why humans are biologically wired to resist change.
During the middle session, I want to give them lots of time trying on assessment tools. This not only builds that habit, but also gives them crucial data for what their team needs from them as leaders and managers. All this group work also provides opportunities for them to communicate and share information, which will improve collaboration. The last session will focus on building their action plan, and some shared strategies for how they will lead and manage change. In addition, I'll give them some tools for aligning priorities and driving execution in the midst of being overwhelmed.
In between, they'll use the materials and come back with questions and insights. I chose not to use the flipped classroom approach because it was likely that people would be too busy to complete the work, but I did assign my course on Leading Change as extended learning. Within each two hour session, I also have a story arc. After I've assessed my audience, I usually have a good feel for an order that makes sense, but I inevitably move things around as I build it and work out the details. Neuroscientists have proven that insight is the most powerful learning tool we have.
When a person has an aha moment, there is a change in the brain, literally, and that moment cannot be unlearned or forgotten, because the neural change is permanent. Insight is the gold standard for effective learning, so I think about how I can set the learners up to have their own moments of insight. This occurs through working with the concepts in their own context. Not only is this aligned with adult learning theory and studies on habits, it also creates very engaging learning experiences.
There are three core elements I play with to do this: the why, the how, and the try. The why is the big picture of the topic or issue. It might be a conceptual model or data, but the goal is to get the 30,000 foot view of what's happening and why. This is often information that shifts their knowledge. The how is what the learners can do to influence the topic or issue. It's the instruction aspect of the learning, and it's the skills that need to be developed. It can also include a model or method.
The try is the hands-on work and habit-building part of the learning. It can be assessments, practice sessions, case studies, you name it, but it's where we roll up our sleeves and give it a go so that they can replicate it when they get back to their work areas. But my secret sauce is that I use these in different orders, depending on what will take my learners to their insights. Sometimes I start with the try element, because it sets them up to naturally see the why or the how. Sometimes the why needs to come first so that the try connects the dots.
For example, when I'm setting them up for an insight about how emotional change can be, I can either teach them the change curve, a model that maps the emotions of change, or I can first ask them to reflect on a change they've experienced and capture what they were thinking or feeling at different times. I've taught this both ways, and my choice really depends on what I think this group of managers needs to have their aha moment. There's no hard and fast rule, but I promise you for every learning you design there is an optimal path to take your group of learners to insight, and when you create it, the results will speak for themselves.
- Discovering the importance of L&D
- Identifying your L&D role or function
- Engaging employees with succession planning
- Uncovering organizational and employee potential
- Achieving a competitive advantage
- Delivering critical results
- Building a culture of learning
- Understanding the brain's natural system for learning
- Implementing on demand, embedded, flipped, and blended learning
- Choosing the right format to achieve results
- Adapting to an organization's maturity level
- Empowering practice and accountability
- Measuring the impact using the five levels of evaluation