First update in our series of guest blogs is Sukh Pabial, L&D Business Partner at LBi. Sukh is one of the most supportive of bloggers and tweeters. He was first both to volunteer and submit his post so it’s only right that he goes first.
Here Sukh takes his best learning experience and like a true learning professional turns it into some learnings to share with others. You can find his blog here or follow him on Twitter
What’s the best learning experience I’ve ever had? Crikey. Where do I start… my university studies? My various experiences within work? Getting married? Having kids? Friends? It’s not something I give due attention to on a regular basis. And yet, I’m drawn to a moment in time where I can say – That. That was the best learning experience I’ve ever had.
It was early in my career as an L&Der. I wanted to be a skilled facilitator like my manager at the time, and like those I’d seen around me at work. So I asked to attend a Practical Facilitation Skills workshop with Roffey Park. A three day residential course on how to be a facilitator. Who’d a thunk a structured learning event was to be the best learning experience I’ve ever had? There was just so much right happening on the course that I can only think back and say, yes, that was awesome.
I learned a lot about what it means to be a facilitator, but more importantly, I believe, I learned how to create good learning environments. I don’t normally do lists, but I know the blog authors appreciate them, and some readers will too, so here we go. Sukh’s top five list of creating a good learning environment:
1) Treat people as adults – I’d like to think this is already a widely held belief in the L&D world. Sadly it’s not, especially for those in an internal role: watch the clock to see who’s late, lay out the room like a classroom, create and use a deck like it’s the only way to deliver information, talk at people while being conscious of their learning style and deliver in four different styles. Oh it’s all so bad! Yet, there are semblances of brilliance. L&Ders who get how to engage people at work. L&Ders who understand how to deliver a message and do it with style and panache. L&Ders who create insight and motivation from their sessions. I love those L&Ders.
2) Plan, prepare, practice – Ooh the 3 P’s. Again, seems obvious, but where it doesn’t happen, it reflects in the learning event directly. I did this recently where I took for granted the topic of the session and failed to prepare for it. It’s quite demotivating to be struck by this as an L&Der, and then for the people attending to not gain as much as they could, is even worse.
3) Be prepared to die on your feet – One of the things people bring to a learning event, is themselves. And with themselves they bring all their emotions, experiences, thoughts, intelligence and wisdom. As an L&Der you have to accept that you cannot cater for everyone as well as you might like. There will be someone who can and will shoot holes through what you are trying to help them see. This is no bad thing, and certainly gives you valuable experience. So accept it will happen. And accept you’ll learn about yourself from it.
4) Always be self-aware – Your self-awareness in leading a learning event is the best tool you will ever have. Your thoughts, feelings, experience, intuition, will all be speaking to you and screaming at you while you’re delivering. Be mindful of all this. Your learners are expecting you to be at your best. Your self is capable of delivering this, but only in you listen to your self.
5) Remember it’s about the environment too – the physical place you are delivering the session in is yours for the making. Create an environment that will support the session and you will only help yourself and your learners. Simple things like changing the layout of the room can make all the difference. If resource allows, flowers in a room, or a bowl of fruit in place of biscuits helps focus the mind in different, positive ways. Natural light is a bonus, but hardly necessary.
This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many more factors that help create a good learning experience. For me, these are a good place to start, and enables other things to happen such as: having dialogue, using various interactive methods, being mindful of space and how you ‘work the room’, and more.