Monday, August 22, 2011

Preparing instruction is different from preparing presentations

The title bears repeating, as many people confuse instruction and presentation preparation skills and criteria for success: Preparing instruction is different from preparing presentations.

My 3500-word post on preparing presentations is exactly for that purpose, preparing presentations. I could try to write a post for preparing instruction, but it would quickly get to book size. In fact, I recommend several books in this post describing the evolution of information design in my teaching approach. (The most relevant books for teaching are at the addendum to this post.)

I made a diagram depicting my process of preparing for a instruction event (the diagram was for my personal use, but there's no reason not to share it; click for larger):

Preparing Instruction (diagram for blog post)

And, for comparison, the process for preparing presentations:

My presentation preparation approach

Because they look similar, I need to point out that the tools used in each phase of the process are different for presentations and for instruction.

I'm a big fan of participant-centered learning (though not necessarily the HBS cases that people always associate with PCL); the idea is simple: students learn from doing, not from watching the instructor do. So, many of the "materials" (more precisely, most of the time in the "plan with timing" part of the diagram) in an instruction event are audience work: discussions, examples brought by the audience (to complement those brought by the instructor) and exercises. These are not materials that can be used in a speech or a presentation to a large audience.

Also, while a story works as a motivator for both presentations and instruction, I tend to use exercises or problems as motivators for instruction. For example, I start a class on promotion metrics by asking "how do you measure the lift" of some promotional activity, and proceed from there. By making it a management task that they have to do as part of their jobs, I get some extra attention from the audience. Plus, they can immediately see how the class will help them with their jobs.*

There are presentations that are mostly for instruction purposes, and there are parts of instruction events that are presentations. But never mistake one for the other: preparing instruction is different from preparing presentations.

Though so much instruction is so poorly prepared that even the basics of presentation preparation will help make instruction less of a disaster, that's just a step towards instruction-specific preparation.

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*I have a large variety of exercises for each knowledge unit I teach, and they are not all of the form "here's a problem, what's the solution?" Some are of the forms "here's what a company is doing, what are they trying to achieve?" and "here's a problem, here's what the company is doing, what is wrong with that?"

Addendum: Two books on preparation (and delivery) of instruction, from the post describing the evolution of information design in my teaching approach:

Tools for teaching, by Barbara Gross Davis covers every element of course design, class design, class management, and evaluation. It is rather focussed on institutional learning (like university courses), but many of the issues, techniques, and checklists are applicable in other instruction environments.

Designing effective instruction, by Gary Morrison, Steven Ross, and Jerrold Kemp, complements Tools for teaching. While TfT has the underlying model of a class, this book tackles the issues of training and instruction from a professional service point of view. (In short: TfT is geared towards university classes, DEI is geared towards firm-specific Exec-Ed.)