How to Help Subject Matter Experts Address Concerns About Using Partic
Mar 2, 2010 Lesson Planning 4919 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 become open to the idea of actually using participatory activities. That article identified seven possible concerns that SMEs might have about using participatory activities:(1) Expertise, (2) Content, (3) Selection, (4) Time, (5) Expectations, (6) Training Style, and (7) Facilitation.
This article will identify strategies to help SMEs address or minimize these concerns.
The fifth step in helping SMEs become open to the idea of actually using participatory learning activities is: Coach the SMES to address or minimize their concerns. This will also involve just-in-time training.
For example, regarding the expertise issue, first ask the SMEs if they ever have enough time to cover everything they think is important? No one has ever said they had enough time!
Then ask them if they are absolutely certain that no one in the audience knows anything about the topic- either directly or tangentially through something similar but not exactly the same. Most of the time, they'll realize that someone might know something relevant.
In that case, ask the SMEs how they feel when someone tells them what they already know. Hopefully, they'll mention feeling that their knowledge was disrespected, they were personally underestimated, and their time was wasted. Finally, ask them if they want their participants to feel that way?
Reassure them that if they pose a question to their audience and no one can answer it, it is perfectly fine for them to tell the group the answer. They just don't want to waste valuable training time and insult the participants by teaching them what they already know.
Regarding the content issue, correct their misperception that lecture is the only approach. For example, if they are teaching new policies and procedures, don't they want the participants to (a) learn the information and also (b) know where to find it in the future?
If so, they can create a simple worksheet that identifies the key information, put the participants into teams or pairs, and set them on a scavenger hunt to find the relevant information in annotated copies of the policies or procedures. This is just one example; there are many others.
Regarding the selection issue, give them a print out that identifies which learning activities can be used to accomplish specific learning levels. That will address both aspects of the issue of possibilities and criteria for selection.
Regarding the dual issues of time to create the activity and time to facilitate it, first work with them to demonstrate how easily and quickly they can create a questionnaire or a discussion question or even a case scenario. In addition, give them a list of resources where they can find activities they can use copyright free.
Next, discuss the fact that the activity is intended to cover the content, not take the place of the content. Finally, help them estimate how long each of these sample activities will actually take.
Do not mislead them by underestimating the time. However, point out that the same questionnaire can take 50 minutes (with five table groups reading and discussing the answers and then reporting them out to the larger group) or 10 minutes (with the instructor reading the questionnaire and the participants putting their thumbs up if they agree with the statement or their thumbs down if they disagree; the instructor then calls on representatives of each group to explain their rationale).
Regarding the issue of expectations, suggest that they manage participant expectations by beginning their program with the statement that "We're going to do something different today. Since we want you to build your confidence in your own skills, there will be a number of activities where you will get a chance to work with the information- either individually, in a small group, or in the larger group. Research shows that this is the best way to get you up to speed. In addition, I know you'll enjoy the experience. So, let's get started!"
Regarding the issue of training style, reassure them that they can start simply. For example, they can convert their lecture points into a questionnaire. Also reassure them that there are excellent ways to check for comprehension that are participant-directed and provide great value. The instructor doesn't have to do a thing but set up the activity.
For example, they might use Grab the Koosh, where participants each write down two different content-related questions on two different index cards. They write the answer to the question on the back of the card. Then they assign a point value of 1 (easy) to 10 (very difficult) to each question. The participants at each table take turns reading their questions. Whoever at the table can grab the Koosh (or the pen or anything centrally located on the table) first gets to answer the question. If the answer is correct, the person gets the points. At the end of the activity, the participant with the greatest number of points wins and can be rewarded with a prize or a privilege.
Regarding the last issue of facilitation, discuss a plan to give them an opportunity to learn how to facilitate the activities and to practice their facilitation. Depending on the time and situation, this might be a one-one-one coaching or a half day workshop with a pilot session run through later.
If the groundwork is laid correctly and adequately addresses their concerns, they should be open to actually using participatory activities in their own programs.
The next article will address how to help SMEs see that participatory activities can be easy to design.