Service Providers

This reference is to those groups that provide product or service knowledge in a format consistent with at least minimum education standards.

Decades of Change for the A/E Practice: Is professional development leading or reacting?

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Everyone realizes that professional practices have changed drastically and in unimaginable ways during the past two decades. So my questions are: has professional continuing development (CPD) kept up? Have the education providers, design associations, and firms acted as leaders or followers in their efforts to shaping education in the design industry?

When I attended my first American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention twenty years ago, I observed that the education session attracting the highest attendance was Presentation Skills by Joanne Linowes. The remaining top ten sessions were related to "€œhot" practice topics such as project management and leadership. The irony of these topics, presenters submitted their proposals one year ahead of the next convention. Local chapter executives overwhelmingly responded that they selected their monthly meeting topics using a committee, better known as the "who do you know?" approach. Firms basically granted any product manufacturer supplying lunch "€œpitch" time. This was commonly referred to as the €œLunch-N-Learn approach. The better the lunch, to more time allowed.

Ten years later (2005) a lot had changed, in the practice and education. The AIA had implemented their Continuing Education System (CES). The AIA/CES provider program vetted 2700 education providers and began monitoring their courses. Health, Safety and/or Welfare (HSW) became the driving force of professional education. A majority of state licensing boards required 8-12 hours of mandatory continuing education (MCE) all related to HSW. Tracking MCE became critical to maintaining a professional license. Sustainability had become the hot topic everywhere, or at least the title of those€“ dominating the top 10 courses at the AIA convention. Presentation skills, project management, and leadership development courses were still simmering, but other practice related courses became more difficult to find.

By 2005, most A/E firms still relied upon product manufacturer for much of their in-house education, and they were still expected lunch. The big difference at this point, many firms insisted that the product manufacturer and their 1 hour courses be AIA/CES approved. Some of the larger firms had even hired training and organization development specialists with experience from professions outside the A/E industry to head their internal programs. Smaller firms would develop an education specialist from among their own staff. Firms still struggled to obtain presentation skills, project management, and leadership training.

Web based learning was making its influence felt by 2005. According to the American Society of Training and Development (recently renamed Association for Talent Management), by the end of 2010 technology based learning passed traditional classroom training in new courses offered. For the A/E/C Design industry that meant mostly 1 hour or 1.5 hour webinars. Today, technology based learning is making everyone evaluate their approach to sharing knowledge and delivering education. Today you can now find nearly any type of free, short introductory topics on YouTube. More traditional education is offered through programs like the Open University that includes schools like Harvard, MIT and Stanford offering free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

So where are we after 20 years? Today most associations are struggling to find their education niche. Some associations have turned to offering certifications but there are legal education concerns and restrictions but these programs are usually based upon a core curriculum of study. The process for selecting convention and conference presentations continues as before. However, many associations include a virtual component or have expanded their webinar series to complement their conference education programming.

Today, firms are beginning to fill the talent management and organization development positions that were eliminated during the economic downturn. They are returning with a more strategic approach, matching internal education to the firm’s goals and staff skill needs. Some firms are looking at developing their own core curriculum that include development of emerging professionals, practice skills training, project management, client facing skills, advanced presentation skills, and leadership development. Firms are using a blend of knowledge sharing technology tools for the introductory and awareness level skills. For their practitioners, they are using a blend of in-house trainers with vendors and consultants to address gaps that meet their strategic goals. And yes, many still rely upon the product manufacturer with registered AIA courses on, and still expect lunch be provided. Keeping track of all this activity has become strategic and complex.

Architectural Research Associates

How to Be Effective Using the Situational Classroom

Learning objectives are a key to selecting the best delivery approach for use by the instructor in a classroom. Once you determine the development and motivation level of your students, your learning objects should indicate when it is appropriate to be directive, when to use a coaching technique, when to be supportive and facilitate a group activity or when to delegate a learning approach.

Being practical, time is an element that also needs to be considered. For an individual class that is typically one hour in length it would be difficult for the instructor to effectively try and incorporate more than two delivery styles. Keep to the philosophy that the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need. The instructor should focus on a simple and effective delivery style. Subject matter substance should be emphasized over multiple styles when time is limited.

If you are teaching a half day or full day session, and the learning objectives indicate that a progressive learning track is the expected outcome then the use of multiple teaching styles and techniques might be considered. For a course that is a full day or longer, adult learners will find that instructors following a situational delivery progression more rewarding. If the learning activity is a day or two in length, as are many workshops and seminars for professional and executives, try not to cram too much “new” material into the timeframe. An eight hour or twenty hour course allows ample time to progress from a directive instruction style (lecture) to a delegating style of instruction (agreed upon action plan).

For those of you who teach an online instructor lead course, or certification courses, or traditional college classes I recommend breaking the overall course down into four parts. Start with the basics using directive, lecture approach and continue to progressively increase student involvement with each session. The instruction should progress slowly through each instructional style building one upon the other. The instructor needs to check regularly to ensure that students have reached the learning development level which matches the style of instruction that is being used.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a coaching style

So your next class is intended for students who have some knowledge of the subject matter but they do not have a strong comprehension? The student’s commitment to advance their knowledge to learning more about the subject matter seems to be wavering. Think of the individual who learned the basics of tennis but wants to give up because they aren’t very good after four weeks of training and just can’t seem to consistently keep their serve between the lines. Or the individual who purchases a new phone for the twitter function but can’t figure out how to use the hash marks correctly so they just give up on that function.

After you finish writing the learning objectives for the class you realize that just telling the students about the topic or showing them how something is done is no longer the most effective approach for the student to truly learn the subject matter. You know that the student has some knowledge but realize too that the student does not yet have mastery of that subject matter. Knowing what you, the instructor want the student to learn and what knowledge they should retain after leaving the class is critical to the next level of learning in their development. The key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

When students are at this moderate stage of learning development the use of role playing and roundtable discussions are two excellent ways to engage and support the students learning process. At this stage of the students development the instructional techniques require that the subject is told “how to” and/or is provided with a demonstration of what they are expected to learn. The student is then expected to try to demonstrate their knowledge or skill. The instructor stays involved by observing the demonstration and providing constructive feedback to the student. Ideally, this process is repeated until the student correctly demonstrates mastery of the knowledge or skill enough to take successfully to the next level. Some simple online gaming tools have been developed and designed that follow this model, such as the DMV’s defensive driving school. Using both a high directive style of instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a coaching style of delivery correctly.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a supporting style

You have now been working with your students for awhile and they are progressing in the subject matter. You notice that they have reached a high level of competence but you also note that the student’s commitment is not consistent and still varies. Think of the individual who has mastered most of the basic skills of drawing and design but is beginning to get bored by the daily routine and repetition of fine tuning the skills that they have already learned. After awhile it becomes difficult to stay focused and committed.

Your current learning objectives indicate that the next level of development is more than individual skills sets that the students have been practicing. The students are consistently demonstrating their mastery of the skills when required. They have grown to the point where they are becoming frustrated by either repeatedly being challenged by you or by challenging themselves. Since the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need, the students are ready to demonstrate their knowledge or skills in front of their peers.

Several excellent ways to engage students at this next moderate level of learning development include group activities such as gaming, case studies and charrettes. The instructors skills need to transform from directing, lecturing, coaching and feedback to one of facilitating, listening, praising and providing constructive feedback. At this stage of the students’ development the student interacts with peers demonstrating their knowledge and/or skill. The instructor stays involved but at more of a distance observing and guiding. For online instruction, chat rooms, discussion groups and designed group learning activities can provide similar results. For the instructor, using a low level of directive instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a supporting style of delivery correctly.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

How to Analyze a Case Study

Photo by Thom Lowther

Most of you who know me well know that I believe passionately in the use of cases studies as a learning tool. Years ago I discovered a excellent tool for analyzing case studies in the "Handbook for Training and Development" published by ASTD. I share below a simplified version of tool. I have used it often - in professional firms, in associations workshops and in college classrooms.

When analyzing a case study, an orderly, step-by-step approach is helpful. It is important to gain an appreciation of the overall situation initially, as well as to learn what information is contained in the case. Therefore, it is suggested that the case study be skimmed first to gain this overall perspective. While or after doing so, jot down the key points and issues that come to mind, as well as your first impression of the problems, issues, and opportunities facing the company. Then read the case in detail, adding to and modifying your initial thoughts. Remember that not everything in the case is vitally important, nor is all the important information necessarily included. The case represents someone's (e.g., management's) description of the company and its situation - it is up to you to probe deeper, sort and shift things out, and acquire additional information. It is your responsibility to analyze and recommend alternatives and approaches to management.

The following guide may be helpful to you in your task:

1. Define the situation. What are the challenges, problems, potential problems, opportunities, and potential opportunities facing the company? Typically, the case will contain various systems you will have to diagnose. To do so, try and isolate the major issues facing the company and their causes. Keep in mind that there are likely to be sub and secondary issues, as well as related and perhaps extraneous issues described in the case. Your task is to assign priorities to the issues, focusing on the critical few.

2. Assemble and analyze the important facts (gleaned from the case) which bear on the situation.

3. Specify important information that is needed but not included in the case. Determine whether or not it is available elsewhere. If available, acquire about it.

4. Make assumptions! For important information that is not available from the case or elsewhere, make logical assumptions as to what it might be. State these assumptions.

5. Draw conclusions Based on your analysis, information, and assumptions.

6. Determine alternatives and their likely outcomes. What are the major alternative actions open to the company, and what is likely to happen if each is adopted? Evaluate each.

7. Make recommendations. Based on your analysis, what do you recommend to management and why? Be prepared to defend your recommendations under critical questioning by the instructor and the class (the types of questions which might be posed by the company's management and other stakeholders).

8. Prepare an implementation plan. How should your recommendation be implemented, by whom? and in what sequence (short-term versus long-term actions). Where will the resources come from?

9. Prepare contingency plans. What do you recommend if your suggestions do not work as anticipated, or if certain external or internal conditions change?

Are Teaching Methods Important?

Several months ago I noticed what I thought was an interesting question on the LinkedIn, Professional & Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, There Barbi Honeycutt, Ph.D. asked, “Why are graduate students required to complete a course in research methods but not in teaching methods?” This question really struck a chord with me having worked in higher education. Dr. Honeycutt is right; the emphasis is extensively on the subject content – which is to be expected. But what is really amazing, the system seems to ignore the fact that, at least in higher education another major component of the process is to impart that knowledge on to the students. It’s as if, because you have so much knowledge you will be able to just tell others all of the important facts and they will be expected to learn from you.

Taking this concept a bit further, outside of higher education and into the association and the private sector - my observation is that so many subject matter experts in all fields are so zoned into the content that they often forget that delivery is part of the communication process. On those occasions where industry experts want to share their knowledge they fall into the same trap. The result, the message is often lost in the research and content. The content, the organization and development of the content, and delivery are all key elements of Instruction. However, content research is not course development, which is not delivery. Each step requires separate yet inter-related skills. You can be highly effective at one or two of the elements, yet miss a third and the course can be a dud.

Adding to the complexities of instruction today is the online instructor category. This requires yet a very different set of skill requirements. Instruction online today is at a minimum - a blend of on-site classroom with an online components, writing skills and leading online group discussions.

An Emphasis Shift from Teaching to Learning

Emphasis on the learner

The situation, instruction and facilitation are becoming more difficult and challenging. Today the emphasis is on the learner, not the instructor. In January I wrote that learning objectives where a key to selecting the best delivery approach by the instructor in a classroom. Today’s learning objects are the contract between what the course designer and faculty are supposed to deliver and what the learner or student should expect to learn. For continuing professional development (CPD). in today’s firms the learning emphasis should be focused on the learner, not the instructor or facilitator.

Traditionally the transfer of knowledge occurred when the subject matter expert or instructor imparted their knowledge to the student. I still support this approach, but conditionally. In several of my earlier blogs I stressed the use of situational instruction, how the instructor could determine effective approaches to teaching the subject matter. Once you determine the development and motivation level of your students the learning objects should indicate when it is appropriate to be directive, when to use a coaching technique, when to be supportive and facilitate a group activity or when to delegate a learning approach. For the instructor the critical key to successful instruction or facilitation in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

While the situational instruction approach is still valid in traditional education, for employees with experience, graduate level courses, and professionals concerned with their CPD the focus has shifted to the learner and away from instruction. The learner is no longer exclusively dependent upon the instructor. Regardless of the expertise, experience, or knowledge level of today’s instructor, if the instructor cannot gage the development level of the learner correctly and deliver the material accordingly the learner will simply tune out and seek alternate sources of learning. By searching the internet, an iPod, or a personal tablet, sharing with the learner’s peers, any number of delivery methods are now available to the learner for finding on-demand and open source education material. Various sources of information can provide the content outlined in the learning objects of a course in a format and pace where the learner will successfully learn – without or without the instructor.

The emphasis of learning today is literally in the hands of the learner. The classroom style of instruction is not obsolete, however instructors beware! Once the course learning objectives are agreed to between the deliverer and the learner, the instructor needs to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of the learner. If not, someday all instruction may be limited to mechanical or experiential.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

Appropriate Education Provider: Line dance or tango?

Dancing Partners or Selecting an Education Partner

Organizations can develop simple certificate programs or complex certification programs. However, before your organization progresses too far into the development of the standards and requirements take a pause and think strategically. During your development process, think about those education providers who will be developing and offering the education courses that support your program. Consider those certificate holders who be required to take classes from the education providers and how in the long term that relates to your overall program. Think strategically about your education providers. Do you set up a system that shapes and influences the education or do you rely on randomness, good luck and the good intentions of the education providers? Let me give you three simple examples of what it could look like and then suggest four indicators that will help you determine if the education provider(s) is the right dance partner for your organization.

If you have ever been to a western style or honky-tonk bar you may have witnessed the country line dance. You know the one - where two or three of the patrons get up on the dance floor in a line and start a two –step motion. After awhile other patrons join in with various levels of skills. This can be entertaining and fun to watch as you never know how the dance will conclude.

Have you seen the Broadway production or the movie of the Chorus Line? It starts out with professional performers who are generally better dancers than your average two-step line dancers. After a lot of practice and rehearsals on the part of these dancers they provide a well choreographed dance routine that even an untrained eye can appreciate.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Argentina and my host took me to a cabaret show where the performers did the tango. It was a totally new level of dance to which I had not been previously exposed. The performers showed a grace, elegance and harmony where the partners performed as one motion.

Now, think about the education providers that your organization relies on to provide the education to your certificate or certification holders. What are your education outcome expectations? There at least four basic indicators that will help you determine the type of dance partner that you are dependent upon.

Do you and your education providers share the value of credibility? Is the big motivator for your organization or that of your education providers to generate revenue as a result of your certification program requirements? Is participation growth the primary concern of your program and that of your education providers? Do you and your providers emphasis quality as the most important issue?

In several of my other blogs I point out seven keys to developing a quality education program. The first key is a strategic approach that stresses the integration of the organization’s short and long term goals. This would include how the education providers would support your certificate or certification program. The second, develop a systematic approach to engage the education providers in a way that benefits and supports your certification program. Do you want the relationship to look like a line dance or a tango?

The Emerging Blend of the Degree, the Certification, and Professional Development: The overview

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We often hear that change is constant. In yesterday’s issue of the Washington Post was an article on education, “An alternative to high-cost college?" A major focus of the article was about how start-up companies are providing free or low priced programs are designed to compete against the expense of a college degree program. This article is yet another statement about the current assault on the expense of obtaining a degree in higher education and the perceived value of that degree. While the Post article focused mainly on higher education, this is just the tip of the transition. There is a related larger issue that needs our attention, the emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development.

In their book, Nine Shift that was published in 2004, the authors William Draves and Julie Coates introduced to us the changes that were beginning to occur in our society because of the acceptance and use of the internet. They described changes that were just beginning to occur in our approach to work, in our life styles, and in our approach to education. As the Washington Post article describes the situation, we are now well into the middle of the transition described in Nine Shift. So, where are we now? What'€™s the current landscape?

Related to formal education MIT, Harvard and others have used the internet to design a new education landscape. The Washington Post article sited MITalong with other universities as pioneers for offering open courseware. To date there are more than 15,000 online open courses provided by more than 250 institutions. Suddenly, what had been the exclusive domain of courses for the purpose of receiving college degrees become part of anyone'€™s opportunity for continuing professional development (CPD). In their association'€™s official publication, Training + Development, the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) indicated that in 2010 more new online courses were being developed by companies than traditional classroom courses. Online companies such as Ron Blank, RedVector, AECDaily, Saylor.com, P2PU are using college faculty to develop and on offer online CPD. And don'€™t forget McDonald'€™s Hamburger University or the Disney Institute.

Throw into the mix a few online certificate or certification programs offered by associations, community colleges and technical schools. Suddenly the lines between degrees, certifications, and professional development begin to blur. You now have a real conundrum. How do you sort through what I refer to the "€œterrible T's" - Turf, Trust and Tradition. Who is supposed to offer what to whom? Who can you trust? And, who are these people – have they ever offered education before?

So, what’s next? What can we expect? In the upcoming series of the “emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development” we will offer papers specific to the impact on higher education, associations, firms, product manufacturers and the workforce.

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