How to Help Subject Matter Experts Become Open to Using Participatory
Mar 2, 2010 Lesson Planning 2779 Views
Why do subject matter experts (SMEs) immediately latch on to lecture as their instructional method of choice? Well, first of all, lecture is still the predominant method in most higher educational settings.
Second, since the SMEs are the recognized experts, they believe that it is their job to present information to the learners.
Third, they are afraid to lose control of the class. If they lecture, they control both the content and the pace of the instruction.
The previous article focused on how to help SMEs recognize the value of participatory learning activities. This article will address how to meet the challenge of helping SMEs become open to the idea of actually using participatory activities.
The first challenge has been met and the SMEs now recognize the value of participatory learning activities. However, it is one thing to agree with something in principle. It is an entirely different thing to agree to actually do it!
First, define participatory learning activities in the simplest possible terms- as opportunities for participants to say or do something with what they have learned during the class. This may alleviate any concerns the SMEs may have that they are expected to spend the time and/or money to purchase or design board games or computer simulations, or waste important limited instructional time using silly ice breakers or games that have no relation to the workshop content.
Second, working with that simple definition, help SMEs identify the participatory activities that they already include in their workshops. For example, many SMEs enhance their lectures with question and answer sessions. Some SMEs show PowerPoint slides and ask participants to review and comment on them in a large directed group discussion. Those SMEs who work with computer programs probably have a hands on component at some point in the class.
Third, ask them why they already use these participatory activities. They must feel on some level that these activities are of value to their participants.
Even if the second and third steps are a wash, because the SMEs have no participatory activities incorporated into their programs, it is possible to move from the first to the fourth step.
Fourth, ask the SMEs to articulate their reservations and concerns. Let's face it- this will involve a significant change on their part, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with change!
There are seven categories of concern that SMEs may identify:
(1) Expertise. They may argue that: "It makes sense in theory to have participatory activities. However, I'm the expert and I know the material- they don't. So how can they participate?"
(2) Content. SMEs often freely admit that their content is "too dry" There is a misperception out there that the only way to teach rules, processes and procedures is through lecture. They may not believe that their content lends itself to a participatory approach.
(3) Selection. Although they think participatory activities might be a good thing, they may have no idea about what activities are possible and what criteria to use to select the most appropriate activities.
(4) Time. They may be concerned with the time to identify, collect or design, and integrate these activities into their lessons. They may also be concerned with the time these activities will take away from the didactic piece they think is more valuable.
(5) Expectations. They may feel that their participants or even their peers expect a lecture from an expert and would be uncomfortable or feel their time is wasted if the training is filled with activities.
(6) Training Style. They might say that using participatory activities is just fine for another type of trainer, just not for them. Just as some people with no sense of humor shouldn't tell jokes, they may feel that using these activities doesn't suit their personality.
(7) Facilitation. They may be all in favor of incorporating participatory activities- except for the fact that they have no idea how to facilitate them. They may worry about losing control of the group, or getting sidetracked from the key information, or looking silly.
The next article will focus on how to coach SMEs to address or minimize each of these concerns.