Sunday, November 06, 2011

Why and How I Teach Writing, Part 8: Leading

In this and the next post, I discuss the difference between training in a group or a one-on-one context. I devote this post to training groups. Let’s start with this point: I train in writing. I train in managerial, leadership, sales, and technical skills only as they relate to the written word; in other words, I do design and deliver courses the following areas:
  • Managerial – executive summary writing, proposal writing, analytical reports
  • Leadership – speech-writing, white papers, business plans
  • Sales – PowerPoint decks, customer service correspondence
  • Technical – blogging, writing root cause reports, writing audit reports, writing procedures
Having made this point, I remain focused on group dynamics when training in onsite or online courses that involve multiple participants. My attitude about working in this context is quite the opposite of a typical college professor (although I have taught in the university context as well), who takes the position that if students fail, that’s their problem. I feel responsible for the learning of people who attend my workshops; if they do not get it, then that’s my problem.

I need to engage all my program participants. A simple way to achieve this goal is keep in mind these ideas: 
  1. Teach a point briefly, give them a practice opportunity, and debrief on the point.
  2. Group participants diversely throughout the workshop so that they all get to learn from each other.
  3. Divide groups for assignments by pair, trio, and quartet. More four could be a crowd and take too much time for learning the teaching point.
  4. Give plenty of writing opportunities, since that’s why they’re in the workshop.
  5. Ask plenty of questions to which you do not know the answer. Speak to their experience so that they can apply the learning point and you can learn something from them.
  6. Expect of them no more than you would expect of yourself. Use realistic timeframes to complete assignments and give assignments that make you work as hard as they do. Do not give them a writing assignment for which you will not give them feedback.