Friday, December 30, 2011

The Single Most Important Thing I Learned In 2011

This year has been instrumental in my life and in the life of my family. We moved across continents; from India to Canada. During the year, I (re)learned many things. I learned to respect my goals and love my dreams and constantly fuel them with positive energy and resilience. I learned to plan for change and accept when things don’t go my way. I also learned that whatever I set my mind to, it is possible for me to achieve it.

But the single most important thing I learned in 2011 is the positive impact of integration.

INTEGRATION is a powerful word. Integration means to bring together. It is an act of combining or adding parts to make a unified whole.

At both a personal and professional level, there have been integration of various kinds. At a personal level, my partner and I integrated all our thoughts, efforts and resources towards our common goal. At a professional level, I have been able to integrate into unrestricted and equal association with my organization. At a social level, we are trying to integrate with the new country and community.

Just as for me, I think the term INTEGRATION had a deeper meaning for the learning industry this year.
  • Workplaces and teams are being integrated to ensure collaborative learning and seamless knowledge sharing and transfer.
  • Learning technologies are being integrated to offer better learning opportunities and blended learning models are not exceptions anymore.
  • There is a growing acceptance of the idea that the intellectual, social and emotional needs of a learner need to be integrated when designing learning.
  • The L&D teams are better integrated with the organization goals and objectives, which allows them to offer more meaningful training interventions.
  • There is more focus on integrating learning and training with the work processes and the boundaries between formal learning and informal learning are slowly disappearing. 
  • Social learning and Web2.0 tools are being integrated with workplaces, higher-education institutions and schools. This integration is both promoted and supported around the world.
It is clear that integration is critical to success – in designing and implementing training and everywhere else. But we cannot leave integration to chance. Integration does not happen by itself and needs constant focus and attention and planning.

In this New Year, I hope to see more integrated approaches to designing, developing and delivering training where theories and techniques are integrated, tools and technologies are integrated and intellectual and social needs are integrated.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Do We Need to Assess? My Top 5 Reasons

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about why schools in Finland are successful. There was one sentence in this article that really stuck with me.

“We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test.” 
- Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture.

I think this sentence captures the essence of why we should assess learning and performance. It is important to realize who all benefit from assessment. While the learner needs to be at the core of any assessment strategy, instructional designers, subject matter experts and schools or organizations also tend to benefit from the assessment exercise. But we need to appreciate that assessment is about learning and not (only) about numbers.

As Richard J. Stiggins in his article, Assessment Crisis: The Absence Of Assessment FOR Learning, says “Assessments of and for learning are both important. If assessments of learning provide evidence of achievement for public reporting, then assessments for learning serve to help students learn more. The crucial distinction is between assessment to determine the status of learning and assessment to promote greater learning.”

So, here are my top 5 reasons for assessing learning and performance:
  • To identify gaps in performance and learning needs (pre-assessment)
  • To encourage and support learning (continuous assessment)
  • To measure learning and improve achievement (continuous assessment)
  • To prepare learners for the next step in the learning journey (post-assessment)
  • To seek feedback and areas of improvement in the instructional design process (continuous assessment)
Assessment is a collaborative and ongoing process. It is about both me as an instructional designer and my learner as the key customer. By leveraging a continuous two-way feedback process, assessment can help learners take responsibility for their own learning and help instructional designers become more responsible about the design of appropriate learning interventions.

As a training consultant, my goal is to use assessment to encourage learning, promote reflection and educate so that everyone becomes a better learner. I leave you with the following quote by Dave Carter: "Teachers assess to test; educators assess to assist learning".