When a trainer introduces a course or workshop outline, he provides a snapshot of what will be covered, including the learning goals, timeline, activities, assignments, and other pertinent information to the participants.
According to Pat McLagan, trainers can help learners develop an early and appropriate "mental set" for learning programs by reviewing the course objectives, describing upcoming activities, and helping learners see the future advantages of the instruction to them and their work.
What is it?
Usually, course outlines are presented using bullet points. For example, a managing change workshop may have the following outline:
Part I - What is change?
- Organizational change
- How organizations tackle change
- Targets for organizational change
- SWOT analysis
- The formula for change
Part II - Dealing with resistance
- Types of resistance
- Adopting change
- Strategies for overcoming resistance to change
- Force-field analysis
- "What's in it for me?"
- Commitment charting
- The coping cycle
Part III - Models for change
- Lewin's model of change
- Bridges' transition model
Another option the trainer can use is a flow chart. Flow charts are easy-to-understand diagrams showing how steps in a training event fit together, making them useful tools for communicating the sequence of training and for clearly documenting how a training event will unfold. Also, by conveying the information in a step-by-step flow, the trainee can then concentrate more intently on each individual step, without feeling overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
One of the many adult learning principles states that the trainee must see the logic of the material. All information entering the mind is screened by an analytical procedure that rejects ideas that don't make sense. The points must come in a logical sequence. The trainer must put the ideas in an order that establishes the clear relationship between parts and that can be understood. Logical sequences that can be used include whole-to-part sequences, where learners receive the big picture first, then the specific parts.
Joseph M. Scandura's structural learning theory describes prescriptions for selecting and sequencing content to provide the most efficient instruction possible to the individual learner. Structural learning emphasizes the importance of the content and the sequence in which it is taught. Structural learning prescribes teaching the simplest solution path first, followed by the more complex paths or rule sets.
David Ausebel's advance organizer learning theory gets its name from its best known tool or strategy - the advance organizer. Advance organizers are very general ideas - concepts, relationships, or structures - that combine and associate the material to be learned. A trainer uses the advance organizers to link the relevant prior knowledge of a learner. They are usually presented first, at a higher level of abstraction, and may be represented visually or verbally by a picture, diagram, story, chart, or oral description. A flow chart would be one of these options.
Trainees learn best when course content is presented in coherent patterns in which all parts relate to the whole and to training objectives. Learners prefer orderliness (Goad, 1982), so the trainer should integrate course content and present learning units so that one topic flows into the next.
When presenting workshops, the trainer should give the big picture first. Present the overall concept and usefulness of the course, the objectives, and the practical applicability to the job. Then explain how the course is structured to achieve those objectives.
The trainer should start by presenting the most general and inclusive concepts first, and gradually differentiate the concepts in terms of details (Ausubel). This sequencing parallels how the learner's cognitive structure is organized. As learning proceeds, the learner organizes the contents of a particular topic in a hierarchy, with the general and inclusive concepts at the top. This step is followed by progressively incorporating (subsuming) less inclusive and more highly differentiated subconcepts. This movement, from the very general to the very specific, is called progressive differentiation.
The next step in our "managing change" workshop, then, would be to present, step by step, the content of each part or subpart.
At the beginning of each part, the trainer can present the associated part of the flow chart. This is useful because repetition assists learning. Remember, tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them again, and then tell them what you told them.
During the presentation or at the end of the presentation, the trainer can show the relationships or links between concepts in different parts of the workshop by using a concept map. Concept maps are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line linking the two concepts.
One important characteristic of concept maps is the inclusion of cross-links. These are relationships or links between concepts in different segments or domains of the concept map.
There are many advantages related to presenting the workshop outline in the form of a flow chart and then transforming it to a concept map:
- It is easy to understand the relationship between different concepts.
- It is eye catching.
- It will help you look at things in a bigger picture.
- It provides a whole picture of the topic taught.
- It shows a high-quality overview of the whole topic to help learners understand the material.
- It helps trainers to visually explain the conceptual relationships used for your objectives in any course.
- Concept maps support a holistic style of learning.