A facilitating French teacher

Further to my last 2 posts, here is about the teacher.   The French teacher is a great (learning) facilitator.   She can easily get a CPF from IAF!

From the technical perspective, she is very resourceful.   She used a ‘talking piece’ to direct attention.   She sat at different place in the circle to dilute the ‘teaching’ sense and encourage conversation among all of us, and thus self-discovery.  She fully utilized the space in the room e.g. conversation space in the circle, reflective / writing space on the desks.   She asked questions and threw back questions to the floor.   She paused without appearing impatient.   She knew when to use the blackboard to slow down discussion and give clarity.   And she wrote very clearly with structure.    Of course, she can do the above because she is technically competent with the language.

From the adaptive (mental) perspective, she impressed me with a strong inclination to work with the emergence.   She often started a session by inviting questions from the learners, and then she will build the entire session from it, instead of sticking to the pre-arranged material.   She always worked with ‘where the learners are’ rather than ‘ where she is with the material’.     Another indication of her ‘emergence’ mind-set, she was never disturbed by the learners’ late arrival and sometimes she even used the incident as resources.   For example, whilst we were making sentences using different verbs, someone came into the room.   Without sounding offended, she invited us to describe the action of someone entering the room.    She also stayed playful all the time.   She smiled and was ready to be amused by the learners’ remarks.

How did the institution manage to develop teachers like her?



Power of Facilitation

Michael Sandel 2I talked about Professor Michael Sandel before here.  See the post ‘What’s the Right to do?’   I am drawn to his works again recently given what is going on in Hong Kong around the ‘Occupy-Central’ initiative.

Putting the content aside, I am amazed again how his facilitation has helped the debate. As mentioned by him in his interview with BBC, his work is basically to enable public debates though there may not be agreements at the end. I think it makes sense and he has done a great job.

Moreover, he has been enabling debates in different countries like China, Japan, etc. In one of his forum in Japan, the comments from the audience speak for the power of facilitation. See the news report here.

“We tend to shy away from these debates, worried that we might hurt other people’s feelings. But with the help of a good facilitator, Japanese people, too, can have an active discussion.”

And perhaps the biggest attraction of the “Sandel Theater,” as Hayakawa Publishing President Hiroshi Hayakawa called it, was that the professor demonstrated an exceptional ability to put people at ease, treating everyone equally and with respect — as seen in his policy of calling everyone by their first name.

In fact Kan, who said he found Sandel more inspiring than U.S. President Barack Obama, confessed he was “almost in tears” when Sandel called his name. Kimiko Morinaka, 38, a volunteer counselor from Hokkaido, was likewise thrilled.

“When I saw the NHK program, I felt very strongly that I wanted to participate in such an outstanding course,” Morinaka said. “Coming here tonight was my dream come true. I had long dreamed of being asked, ‘What’s your name?’ “

PS See his recent talk on ‘What Money Can’t Buy’.   Amazing examples and arguments!

Presentation by Generation Y

I conducted a presentation class for 9 newly-joined management trainees in our firm.   They are mostly fresh undergraduates i.e. they are all at their early 20s.   It means that they were born at around 1989!!  At the time of Tianamen incident!!  They are really young!

Most of them presents well.  Above all, they are very good with their visual aid.   They draw great flipchart – colourful and of big fonts.  See an example below:


They also make engaging powerpoint – lot of pictures but very few words.   For example, one just shows a picture of a hiking trail crossroad.   He then engages the audience in discussing about how to plan for your career.   Well done.

What would then be their common challenge on presentation skills?   I would say it is the ‘reality’.   As I told them, the challenge is for them to maintain the same presentation quality even though when the ‘reality’ later hits them.   The ‘reality’ at work includes the unreasonably-limited preparation time, too much content with too little presentation time, content full of dry fact e.g. regulation… etc.

From the training perspective, it is about how to train someone to tackle challenges which they have not experienced before.  Thinking retrospectively, I should have made them feel the challenge concretely during the class.  For example, get them to present the latest anti-money laundering policies.   This will build more “accurate WIIFM”, and thus create more appropriate learning!

My ideal slides 我的理想幻灯片

I made a casual lunch presentation last week in the office to share my personal view on time management.   Unlike the slides common in our bank, I made mine picture-driven.   Though I did not have much time to prepare, I still like them quite a lot.   Let me share a few with you here.


As I always argue, I believe that most of the time effective slides are supposed to carry pictures rather than words.   Wordy slides will only ‘compete’ with the speaker’s verbal content, which then makes understanding difficult.


上周,我以演示形式与同事分享我个人对时间管理的看法。虽让准备的时间不多,我也在前一天晚上准备了幻灯片,我还特意把它做得跟银行里大部分幻灯片不一样 – 以图而不是字为主导。我挺喜欢它的,让我在这里分享几张:


6 levels of questions

Following my learning from the William Rothwell’s session, I now incorporate a course-end quiz into most of my new courses.   There are all different test formats – essay, demonstration, fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice…   Amongall, I prefer the multiple-choice question since it takes minimal time to check the answers.

I am drafting questions for a Train-The-Trainer course.   I want to test the learners on Adult Learning Principle.   I am thinking…   my question can be:

Option A – Which of the following is NOT an Adult Learning Principle?

  1. Problem-Centered- Adults are motivated to learn so they can perform a task or solve a problem.
  2. Association – Adults need to build on experiences.
  3. Color – Adults learn more effectively when their workbooks contain more than 5 different colors. (Answer)
  4. Variety – Adults learn more rapidly from a variety of instructional methods.

Or the question can be:

Option B – Which ‘Adult Learning Principle’ is NOT applied in the following learning experience?

‘The trainer broke the 1-day system training into 4 sessions covering the 4 major components of the new core banking system.  In each session, he first lectured for 45 minutes and then ran an activity.   In the 1st session, the learners were asked to present back the content in small group.  In the 2nd one about the enquiry function, the learners performed a task to find out information from the system as requested.  In the 3rd one about the transaction function, the learners were asked to construct wrong transactions on purpose and passed to the another small group for checking.  And in the final one, the learners challenges each other in small groups by composing their own questions on the content.’

  1. Problem-Centered- Adults are motivated to learn so they can perform a task or solve a problem.
  2. Association – Adults need to build on experiences. (Answer)
  3. Self-Concept- Adults need to be autonomous and self-directing.
  4. Variety – Adults learn more rapidly from a variety of instructional methods.

Which option is better?   Quite obviously option B is better because it pushes the learners to apply.   So, questions can  be asked differently to test different level of understanding.    In fact, I found something interesting from the internet – there are 6 levels of questions:

  • Knowledge – Remembering previously learned material, e.g., definitions, concepts, principles, formulas
  • Comprehension – Understanding the meaning of remembered material, usually demonstrated by explaining in one’s own words or citing examples
  • Application – Using information in a new context to solve a problem, to answer a question, or to perform another task. The information used may be rules, principles, formulas, theories, concepts, or procedures
  • Analysis – Breaking a piece of material into its parts and explaining the relationship between the parts
  • Synthesis – Putting parts together to form a new whole, pattern or structure
  • Evaluation – Using a set of criteria, established by the student or specified by the instructor, to arrive at a reasoned judgment

It gets more challenging to the learners as we go down the list.   Looking back at my example, option A is probably ‘Knowledge’ whilst option b is ‘Analysis’.   For ‘Comprehension’, I probably should ask them to define ‘Self-Concept’.   For ‘Application’, I would ask them to describe what to add in a particular training (e.g. one of their own) in order to make it ‘Variety’.   For ‘Synthesis’, I should ask them to construct a case where all 5 principles are present.   For ‘Evaluation’, I should show them a training video clip and ask them to criticise against the principle.

These 6 levels are very helpful for us to make the test more effective.   Well, it may sound quite academic.   And it would also be challenging to the trainers to make every question of the ‘Evaluation’ level.    I guess for the very least this model reminds us not to ask just ‘Knowledge’ level of question!!

Creative Visual Aid

I got a new iPod nano (Gen 4) and was fascinated by the high resolution when I played video on it.    It is great to watch it on the iPod nano whenever I have nothing else better to do e.g. in a traffic jam.   Among all the video, I subscribe to the TED conference video podcast.   Basically, the podcast consists of numerous inspiring presentation made by thought leaders in different fields.

There is one by Hans Rosling with topic as ‘Debunking third word myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen’.  Hans used the bubble chart creatively to illustrate how various countries has been changing sociologically.    This makes me re-think how a visual aid could illustrate a point (instead of bullet points).

I admit that Hans probably has better software or even a support team.  But still, there is a big gap between his visual aid and the usual bullet points we are encountering everyday.   There must be something we could do to make visual aid work better.

RAC – Different experience

  • Course: A presentation class
  • Date: 20 Sep 08
  • Location: Beijing
  • # of Learners: 8
  • I am feeling: Excited though tired

I delivered a presentation class to a local airport design and construction company.  This was my first experience to deliver class outside the financial services industry.   I like such experience as different learners offer me different perspectives.  I had to research for their work challenges and thus the training need.   Being in a different industry and in a local firm, they had very different mindset.  They asked different questions.   All these made me learnt.

For example, I thought one of their challenges to be ‘nervousness’ during presentation.  In fact, their training coordinator told me the same.  However, I realize only during the class that the problem is actually the opposite.  They are too talkative in their actual presentation.   They talk too much that they are off the topic, and limit the participation from their audience!!   I needed to think of different way on spot to make them realize the issue.   It was exciting!!
I love to train different learners, and I wish to do more.