Flowering in L&D

Yesterday I wrote this blog post for Training Journal, about how to refresh ourselves in our professional life. It was inspired by seeing a stagnant stream on a walk.

This morning I went on a similar walk and saw some plant life that reminded me of two things: blooming in adversity and perspective.

Blooming in adversity 

Where I walk it’s full of what we would call weeds in our gardens – lots of ivy, nettles and all sorts, as well as nicer ferns and blackberries. flowers1

Whilst walking along I saw this one flower blooming in amongst the tangle of everything else. With yesterday’s blog on my mind and knowing that there are many of our L&D colleagues in organisations that don’t support modern work-learning methods and feel frustrated, this one flower made me think about being the one person doing something despite all that’s going on around.

I remember an organisation I worked in where I seemed to be the one L&D team member taking a consultative approach with our internal customers. It seemed obvious to me, to ask what they wanted, what the problems where and how we would know we’d made a difference. The clients felt listened to, like they got what they needed as well as what they wanted. Of course I often felt frustrated with my colleagues – I sometimes felt that they were the tangle, offering training menus where I was trying to encourage whole different recipes and cuisines!

I learnt from those experiences, I achieved successes, I learnt from failures. Seeing this one flower made me realise how just one bloom can make such a difference.


On the way back from my walk I came to the point where I’d seen the one flower. And I was pleasantly surprised – on the other side there were lots of those flower heads!

Sadly my photo doesn’t capture it as well as I saw it, lots of pale white petals adorning the green wild mound of foliage.


This made me smile and think about how a change of perspective can make all the difference. Where I had seen a lone flower, there were actually many!

This is about connecting with others – they could be in your team or department, or more widely in your organisation. Arguably the wider organisation may be more valuable in you learning about what people and the business need and making a difference.

It’s also about connecting with others in your profession and wider to it. It can be the same old LinkedIn, Twitter, conferences, local CIPD, whatever. The point is finding like-minded and also challenging people where we can all learn, work and support together.

That way we can all be gorgeous flowers in a sea of verdant vegetation.

Instructional Design: resources for creating learning solutions that work

A lot of people who work in training or learning and development either haven’t heard of the term Instructional Design (ID) or really aren’t very sure what it is.

What is Instructional Design?

ID is about “solving performance problems” according to Cathy Moore in her blog post about how to become an Instructional Designer. Christy Tucker says that the role of ID is to “design and develop learning experiences” – from her blog post series.

The Rapid E-learning blog reminds us that “the success of your course hinges on a critical question: does it help your audience learn and apply relevant skills and knowledge?”

A great place to start with ID is with some focuses on what you should actually be doing. Jane Bozarth’s article focuses on creating assessments that are based on what people actually do at work, which then means the rest of the learning solution is focused on that need.

Jane also highlights the difference between ID and visual design. The visual design of any learning materials is essential as part of getting the message across. An ID may be involved with visuals and other media, or that might be a separate role. Depends on your own skills and the size of the team you are in.

On the Rapid E-learning blog is a great picture (part of the visual design Jane Bozarth wrote about) to highlight what the learning solution needs to be – and I’m all for the lightbulb moment:



Activities rather than content

There is a great infographic and list of skills that an ID needs to have on Origin Learning. The first skill is to “break away from formal and heavy content. As an instructional designer, you will have to translate such formal and heavy content into instructional curriculum in an innovative manner.”

The article goes on to say that “it also means involving meaningful activities and exercises that can help facilitate the process of learning to a larger extent”

There are a number of learning models and theories, many with various benefits, some are questionable these days. There is a great list of them, with links for more information on the e-learning industry website, including this image to set the scene:



What do people need to DO AT WORK?

Too many training courses focus on what you will ‘understand’ or ‘know’ by the end. This isn’t about application of learning, it’s about content transfer.

One process that really helps to focus on what people really need to actually do in the work place is Action Mapping, made famous by Cathy Moore. It’s a fabulous consulting tool to find out why people aren’t doing what they need to or should be. It’s looks at all the options for helping to solve the problem, including what is in the environment that is causing the issue, what communication challenges are there and more.

Does it always need to be a course?

Charles Jennings is one of the most well known and oft-quoted speakers on the subject of 70:20:10. In his blog he explains it this way to organisations: “The 70:20:10 model is to help them re-position their focus for building and supporting performance across their organisations. They are finding it helps them extend the focus on learning out into the workflow.

Charles talks about extending learning into the workplace more in this blog piece, which offers some great insight and ideas on doing this in our organisations today. Also there is this blog about the benefits and challenges of doing just that.

In the 70:20:10 Into Action paper from the 70:20:10 Institute the numbers that make up learning solutions are described as such:

  • 10 solutions include training and development courses and programmes, eLearning modules and reading
  • 20 solutions include sharing and collaboration, co-operation, feedback, coaching and mentoring
  • 70 solutions include near real-time support, information sources, challenges and situational learning.

This great LearningNow TV 13 minute interview shows Charles talking about what 70:20:10 is and not getting hung up on the numbers – making sure it’s about performance too.

Is that all there is to it?

Of course this is only scratching the surface of what ID’s do and the things that can help them.

You should know about the moments of learning needGEAR methodology, which includes spaced practice (and you can watch an excellent one hour conversation about spaced practice with Don Clark), learning theoriesID jargon, that learning styles aren’t scientific and more. Also my blog on a Google Hangout with Will Thalheimer, focusing on the brain, limitations in learning and spaced repetition.

But this makes a good start!

Sparking my creativity

I love helping people. I guess it’s why I naturally fit into Learning and Development so well and why I felt at home the first time I was delivering in a classroom. It’s why my business is called Lightbulb Moment and on Twitter I’m @LightbulbJo – it’s the moment of learning, of independence, of insight. I love it.

Why do I help people? I’m not sure. It’s my nature I guess, something that’s in me. My mother helps people. Gosh does she. She’s always been a mother hen, taking in people under her wings. An awesome inspiration to see how much she helped and supported people just by being herself, by doing what she was good at and without really realising it. It’s only when she retired and there was a massive, grateful party did she have any inkling as to the impact she had on people’s lives. That’s quite a role model.

Is there some deep psychological issue at play in helping people? Maybe. There is an argument that humans never do anything that is truly altruistic, that there is always some kind of pay-off somewhere. I like to think that I’m doing it out of the goodness of my heart, truly not for myself. But I get something out of it too. There’s the psychological payback immediately of “oh, I know the answer to this” or “I can contribute to this conversation” which, ultimately must mean “I’m good”.

I’ve been helping Sarah with her travel blog. She’s a great natural writer, who needs a bit of experience to hone her skills. She went off on an extensive travelling adventure this year. There were beautiful photo’s on Facebook and lovely insights and stories when we caught up on Messenger Video. It seemed natural, at least to me, that she should share those stories for other people’s entertainment and to inform them from what she had learned.

I help Sarah a bit with editing some of her posts, giving her the insight that I have about writing, structure, delivering a message. I might not be the best expert in the world, but as Con Sotidis said to me yesterday, “you just need to be one step ahead” of who you are helping. I’ve helped (pushed!?) Sarah into setting up a Twitter account to publicise her blog and she’s getting great at using hashtags. It’s lovely to help someone with what, to me, is relatively easy, and to Sarah is a step into the unknown.

I’m also encouraging Sarah to write some more about her work experiences, as she’s going into a new industry and new role. I can see the richness in what we talk about and how much that could help other people if she shares the story, if she “works out loud”. She’s beginning to write some of that and shared with me a first draft yesterday. That draft was great. Even as someone with a couple of decades in the industry, I was captivated by what she was writing and saw great potential in some of her observations. I’ve fanned that flame and I look forward to it growing.

Sarah is also a very grateful and self-effacing young woman who always wants to give back, to ensure that the balance of give and take are there. It’s this point that struck me this morning. She might feel that she is taking more than she’s giving, with the support that I’m providing. What she probably doesn’t realise is how much I enjoy it. How I love to edit her work and see something fresh and different from my normal L&D focused work. I get something from it too, from working outside of my own industry.

And then there are the fireworks. I get to reflect on what Sarah has written, our conversation, our joint meaning-making. I think about it. It sparks something in me. That creativity is hard to manufacture. That comes when given the right context.

I have my own company and, largely, I work at home, alone. I love it. I can write this blog at 9.42 in the morning and not have a boss breathing down my neck. I can spend time chatting with people on Skype to advise them or just share my own experiences. It’s fine, as long as I hit my client’s deadlines and quality expectations, they don’t mind how I get there.

Yes, I have Skype, Twitter and obviously lots of online sessions I deliver to keep in touch with people during the day. Whilst I might be alone I’m rarely lonely.

The creative spark comes from connecting with people. The wonderful Michelle Parry-Slater has written recently on this topic, about the face to face connection that many people seek out. I agree with her, we need that time. This is a different type of connection though. With Sarah, it’s been largely Facebook Messenger chats, effectively working remotely with each other, and some phone/video calling. It’s been interwoven in our friendship, which, equally, could be a good colleague relationship.

Do I get something out of helping Sarah? Of course, she’s a delightful and positive person and tells me how awesome I am. We can all do with a bit of that! More than that is the curiosity she brings to topics, the questions and search for meaning and understanding. That’s what sparks something in me. That’s just one good reason to help people.

Learning to Learn in the 21st Century – TJ event

News report originally published in Training Journal May 2012

Celine Jacques, Principle Psychologist at CAPP, gave an overview of using positive psychology to understand what makes an “ordinary being flourish and succeed in normal life”. Jacques spoke of “flow”, being so engrossed in an activity that there is a loss of time and self-consciousness, and how a person “performs and learns to the best of their ability” in this state.

Myths of the brain were debunked beautifully by neuroscientist Trish Riddell, the most popular being “it’s all downhill after 60”, where Riddell highlighted that “the brain is still perfectly capable of learning, if you think you’re too old to learn, it’s in your head but not your brain!”

A lively debate was had around Clara Seeger’s work of using David Rock’s SCARF model for social drivers of behaviour “to avoid feeling of threat in today’s corporate world” that she uses in coaching, specifically in the banking area to create a balance between “money and meaning”. There was also insight into the social brain, with Seeger imparting that “the brain doesn’t distinguish social versus physical, exclusion from a group is still pain”.

“Coaching with EASE” is a model developed by EDF Energy Senior Training and Development specialist Phil Ball. Ball spoke passionately about using the model to create a coaching culture and of the success with Transactional Analysis and scripts, or beliefs, that we all hold. “Often people are struggling at work because of a limiting script”.

Kaizen Training’s Kimberley Hare delivered a rousing and powerfully creative session aimed at practitioners to enable them to create training that is “fast, fun, fit for purpose and sticky” and advised to be “obsessed to apply back to work place or life” in training. Hare practiced what she preached, making sure that “70% of the time the learner is doing something different to them listening to the trainer”.

Chief Executive for the Campaign for Learning, Tricia Hartley reminded of Learning At Work Day in May and that events in many companies take place all around the year. The link between educating the young child, young adult and the working professional was made clear and Hartley echoed the sentiment of the day by saying “absolute key and underpinning everything we’ve talked about today is responsibility. If the trainer can step back – it’s about giving the gift of responsibility”.

Jo Cook

Live online learning: Resistance & ingredients to success – Summary from Charity Learning Commission September User Group Meeting

These are the summary notes of research and references from my recent speaking engagement at the Charity Learning Consortium User Group meeting on behalf of the Learning Performance Institute.


“The issue is no longer whether or not online learning is or should occur, but rather how it is implemented”
from An Exploratory Study Comparing Two Modes of Preparation for Online Teaching


“Both students and tutors were positive about using … online tutoring, and … interactions were perceived as successful”
From Virtual Spaces: Employing a Synchronous Online Classroom to Facilitate Student Engagement in Online Learning


“Researched reasons for not using live online learning:
More “trouble than it’s worth”
Fear of technology
Hated web meeting/webinars: long and boring”
Summarised from Beat the Hype Cycle: Get people to use the web presentation tools you’ve paid for


“If instructors are aware of the ease in which virtual classrooms can be set up and used, they may be more inclined to use this technology to carry out online instruction more effectively”
From Use of Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?


“Two key variables influence intention to make use of a technology: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use”
From Factors affecting faculty use of learning technologies: implications for models of technology adoption

Modelling good practice
Practice, with coaching and support
Peers using Live Online Learning and sharing tips”
Based on work from Beat the Hype Cycle: Get people to use the web presentation tools you’ve paid for 

Ingredients to success of online learning:
Blended approach
Designed for online delivery
Delivered by passionate online professionals

Debunking the Learning Style

A few articles have dripped into my Twitter feed and Inbox recently around the lack of science to back up common learning theories and personality quizzes. The lack of rigorous scientific evidence, in my discussions with others, either doesn’t surprise at all or is incomprehensible – with people often commenting “but that’s what I learnt in my teacher training!”

One of the problems is that these ideas make some kind of sense to the individual. Donald Clark, on his blog, wrote “they have an intuitive appeal but, given the proliferation of these theories, with success based more on marketing than evidence, it is a largely discredited field”.

I remember using and recommending learning styles myself. It just seemed right. I knew how much I understood ‘visually’ from completing the questionnaires myself. To this day I struggle to drive round my home town without a picture in my head of how the roads and areas connect; when writing some of my blog posts I want the images and visuals to hand for me to be able to think creatively – hence the screen grab below of a guest blog I was drafting at the time about rock climbing.


What did I do with this knowledge about learning styles? To be fair, it made me question and evaluate some of my training methods and strive to deliver in a variety of ways. What I didn’t do though was know the learning styles of my attendees. Even if I did, would I have done anything? As Don Clark points out, “no sooner is the questionnaire complete than the PowerPoint is out”.

I do recall questioning learning styles a number of years later when doing my degree. A lot of the lectures I went to I wasn’t making notes – I was concentrating on listening and involving myself with the content, delivery and discussions. There are all sorts of arguments here about my attention focus versus note taking and embedding this into long term memory in my own words… I just knew what was right for me at the time. So was I now a visual learner, or an auditory learner? Or was this just not quite right..?

There’s all sorts of interesting blogs and articles on the web on this topic, which broadens out to Myers-Briggs and the like. I’ve collected a few of them on a Scoop It page for your delight and delectation. Do let me know if you find more, or opposing views!