Learning about learning
A Little Knowledge is a dangerous Thing
When we were in high school, many of us had the experience of participating in theatre. Perhaps it was on stage, perhaps it was behind stage. We had fun, and got a taste of what goes into making theatre. For those of us who have seen shows on Broadway, or other professional productions, there is no comparison to what is produced in the auditorium of XYZ High, a community players group and a show produced by professionals. They have mastered the craft and execute it well. Those of us with the beginners' taste of show business understand some of what goes on, but only a small fragment of what it really takes. I never realized how much behind-the-scenes thinking and analysis goes on, or the painstaking detail to get just the right prop or costume or flooring for the set. Heck, in high school, we memorized our lines, helped with costumes and makeup, and spent a month or two after school practicing, thenTA-DA! there was a show. In the professional realms there is thinking and trying and tweaking and tech rehearsals and blocking and lots of conversation. I've loved the glimpse into this world these activities around Trinity's shows afforded me to gain a better understanding of it all, but this certainly does not make me a theatre expert.
We All Know How to Learn, Right?
Similarly, we've all been to school in some form or another. Many of us have advanced through college and completed a degree or two, labeling us experts in something-or-other. This does not make us experts in learning or how people learn or creating materials to facilitate that process. Many people I've worked with over the years as subject matter experts (SMEs) would disagree with that. They are experts in a computer system or company product or algebra or biology or whatever it is that we have been tasked to create learning for others about. As a team, it's the SME and me. (Doesn't that sound like a TV show?) I don't challenge the SME on his or her expertise on the subject, yet we play tug of war for hours on how to help learners grasp it. If most SMEs had their way all training or elearning pieces or college courses would be
LONG verbose treatises
filled with jargon, zillions of minute details and tons of irrelevant material
that would take you days and days and days to read,
yet we are somehow supposed to condense this into a one hour elearning or some other impossible task.
So we fight. I skinny it down, and they puff it back up again. It gets even worse when you have a committee working on the review as they agonize whether the word should be validate or authorize or the color of the shirt on the person in the photograph.
I always work with my SMEs to come up with a single sentence goal for the course about what the learner should know and do at the end. I push them to get this down to that high level overview, then use it like a mantra to help them focus on the goal. Will knowing every exception to the rule helps us achieve said goal? No. So we shelve the exceptions for another course, or an addendum after the learner has gained what we wanted them to.
Teacher by training, learner by design.