Check Learning to Verify Knowledge Transfer

“Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.” The idea is  something heard three times is more likely to be remembered.auditorium-pxhere There is a better way to make sure your student learn material and for you to know they learned what you taught. Conduct checks on learning during and at the end of your training. Checking learning ensures they heard and retained what you taught. Two simple ways to check learning are simple exercises and questioning.

An exercise that allows students to work through a problem using information provided verbally or in writing allows them to develop skills from their new found knowledge. A short story with a series of questions to answer modeling your lesson reinforces your teaching. Students work alone or in cooperative learning groups and report back to the the class their results. The exercise can be harder by asking students to work through a problem without the prompt questions. For example they are given a scenario. They are expected to explain which widget is the best for the situation and why. They also are expected to explain how they would use the widget. The back report reinforces the lessons with the whole class one more time.teamwork-pxhere.jpg

The easiest check on learning is questioning. Ask the students a group of questions. They parrot back the correct answers if they memorized the material. Ask questions that require students to explain concepts like, “Who can tell me when a widget is the best choice?” or “What is the best way to use a widget in the following situation…?” require students to think about their responses and apply what they learned in their response. These questions demonstrate understanding versus simply knowledge.

A spin off of the questioning check on learning model requires each student to write a question about the lesson on one side of an index card and the answer on the back. Use the cards as questions in a quiz show like review at the end of class. Student contestants will be able to challenge the ‘correct’ answer provided on the card. Award bonus points for the team if they successfully challenge the ‘correct’ answer. This process allows the class to correct misunderstood information and research correct answers further embedding new found knowledge and skills.

Relay-pxhere.jpgStudents and trainers come together for the purpose of transferring knowledge and skills to students. Each has a responsibility to enable learning. The trainer’s responsibility is to ensure the knowledge and skills are received, understood, and usable when students leave the training. Checks on learning completed throughout the lesson provide necessary feedback on the success of the transfer. Conducting a review at the end of class by repeating what you previously said is easy. Completing an in-depth check on learning as a review is harder, but shows what has been learned. Students and instructors can leave the training environment confident the new knowledge and skills have been passed and are ready to be used upon returning to their daily assignments.

Photo Credits

All photos from a website offering Creative Commons Zero License images.  No photographer information was available for any of the images.

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Posted in Training

Road Map for Your Life, Creating a Personal Development Plan

The last few years about this time, I wrote about ways to achieve goals and accomplish New Years resolutions. Recently I read a something that made me thing beyond individual goals. When you accomplish a goal, yet the feeling is of failure, not achievement, then your goal and values are not aligned. This idea made me think about goals in a broader way in life.

steppingstones-pxhere.jpgWhen setting goals, task steps are the pavers on your path to accomplishment. Accomplished goals are the cobblestones of your road of life-time achievements. Your achievements define who you are as a person.

The light bulb went off as I started working on a strategic three to five year plan for my organization. I realized people need strategic plans also. Having a personal development plan helps you select goals to complete life fulfilling achievements. Like goal setting, a personal development plan is a cyclic process.

First, identify and clarify your values. On the surface this seems simple. As you work through it you may find it more difficult than you imagined. There are plenty of exercises to help you identify your values. Simon Sineck’s START WITH WHY is a great resource to reveal your values.

theLight by Anne_Llse HeInrichsNext, figure out what you desire to accomplish in your life. Stephen Covey talks about what you want your obituary to say. Unless you have reason to believe it is likely you will die in the next three to five years, perhaps thinking about what you want people to say about you in five years may be a better example. As you think about your accomplishments remember the many facets of your life. The facets in your life cause you to focus on events and opportunities in different ways. Some facets of life include personal, family, spiritual, health, community, and professional. A goal that covers multiple areas of your life will feel more fulfilling when accomplished.  General people can only focus on fewer that four big goals at anytime.  Aligning large and small accomplishments in each area helps improve opportunities for success.

In the third step, write down what what and when you want to accomplish goals in each area. You do not need to complete all the detailed planning for each goal at this time. You do need to identify general activities you need to complete to move towards your vision in step two.

The fourth step of your personal development plan involves the detailed planning of the first goals you need to complete. This step is the goal setting cycle I described in Reflect, Plan, and Act As you move along your road in life, you accomplish goals and find it is time to plan the next goal. That next goal is defined in your personal development plan.

Plan daily activities from the task steps in your goal setting tool. Putting your task steps on a calendar increases the likelihood you will do those things you say you want to do. Remember life is what happens when you are busy making other plans, so plan on set backs and side trips. Just because you were unable to make vacation reservations today because your furnace melted down does not mean you failed. It means you fix the furnace and reschedule the time to do your vacation planning.roman-road_patrick-gantz_pxhere-cropped.jpg

No matter where in life you find yourself, a personal development plan is the map that helps you figure out which road to take next. Your personal development plan should include an assessment of your values so your achievements are aligned. You should look out three to five years in all aspects of your life, personal, family, spiritual, health, community, and professional. Your plan should have basic goals for your journey, flushing out details as you move along in life. A personal development plan helps you become the person you want to become, achieve accomplishments important to you, and experience life in your terms. Take time to create your road map for your life today.


Photo Credits

Stepping stones from  Creative Commons Zero License

The Light by Anne_Llse Helnrich from Creative Commons Attribution License

Road Pavers by Patrick Gantz from Creative Commons Zero License


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Posted in Leadership


You spent hours preparing your outline. You used an equal amount of time making sure every slide was perfect; lots of pictures, few words. You know exactly what message you want to deliver. The only thing left is to make the presentation. it is a sales pitch to a valuable customer, a strategy about a change in business practice for your boss, or a training for a group of employees, you know you are about to shine. The lights come up and it is show time. At the end of your presentation, you realize things could have gone better. You ask yourself, “What went wrong?” The answer is you failed to rehearse. Rehearsals are an overlooked preparation, separating professionals from amateurs. No actor would ever step foot on stage without rehearsing; neither should you.

Rehearsing is important before any presentation. are like proofreading a document. Few professionals would send out their first draft of a letter. The best have others look over the content, for spelling and grammar. A presentation rehearsal accomplishes the same thing. It allows you to find errors before your audience sees the product. Steve Jobs was notorious for rehearsing dozens of hours before any presentation. TED speakers rehearse hundreds of times before appearing on the red spot.

Here are three rehearsal tips:  rehearse with a clock, practice using your media, and perform in front of a camera. Each has pros and cons. You should rehearse using more than one method. yourself. Practice with the time counting up and counting down. There are plenty of mobile applications available to help you meet your time hacks. You should know where you need to be in your presentation at particular points in time. Move quickly through your introduction. Quick introductions all time to present main points. Leave at the end to fit a quality conclusion. There is an old adage, “Tell them what your are going to say; say it; tell them what you said.” A rule of thumb for an introduction and conclusion is about 10% of your time for each. That leaves at least 80% of your time for the supporting points of your thesis. End a little short of your allowed time is better than running a few seconds long. The best way to nail your time is rehearsing.

Practice using your media. If you have slides, practice with just the slides. Slides reinforce the points you make verbally. They are not teleprompters. If you have video and audio, make sure they work. Always bring speakers suitable for the room. Practice writing your points on chart paper or boards. Neatness is important. your rehearsal; watch your recording. Reviewing your recorded presentation allows you to edit. By the time you are on stage it is too late. Recording your presentation allows you to hear the pace and volume of your speech. You observe mannerisms, good and bad. You hear words that work well, and not so much. The recording allows you time to fix the bad and improve the good.

Your presentation is all about the story. Rehearsing ensures your story is heard, understood, and acted upon by others. Practicing reveals flaws in your presentation permitting corrections. Practice reinforces your strong points. Failing to rehearse before a presentation is like sending out a first draft of a written product. Your audience sees all the flaws. Time rehearsals. Use the media you intend to show. Record and watch yourself. Taking time to rehearse polishes your act. You present a professional image. Before your next presentation, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Photo Credits

All photos from  No individual attribution provided.  CC0 license.

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Posted in Training

The Right Questions

You just finished briefing your boss on the latest proposal. You and your team spent hours hashing over details. You ensured you presented the big picture, highlighting critical points for understanding. You ask for questions and find your boss has plenty. schoolofathens.jpgYou wonder where you went wrong. The truth is you did a great job. Your boss understands the importance of asking critical questions about everything in the organization. The knows to verify things that appear to be one thing to ensure they are not something else. With experience, the boss learned the right questions to ask related to a host of issues and situations.

Using questions to stimulate discussion and analysis has been called the Socratic Methodi. The questions focus on learning information in areas of interest for the questioner. Quality answers are supported by proof in the form of an accepted fact, expectations based on analysis, data from test results, or another accepted proof. Challenging proof and conclusions occur next in the Socratic Method.

Puzzle-OlgaBerrlos.jpgSocratic questions that stimulate discussion and analysis may include:

– What is the risk related to that decision?

– How do we reduce the risk?

– What proof exists to demonstrate risk reduction?

– What impact will the decision have on … ?

– How does the organization deal with that impact?

– What other ideas did you explore and why were they not presented?

– What is the most important consideration and why?

– Are there examples of following a course from history; if so, what happened and why?

– What are your measures of success and how did you determine those measures?

– What are the costs in terms of money, influence, credibility, etc.?

These are only ten possible questions inspiring critical discussions and analysis issues or topics. They are a starting point. Use critical thinking questions to test your theories before presenting an idea to others. Ask someone to challenge your assessments with the Socratic Method. The more you practice, the better your assessments. Your ability improves by responding to challenging questions asked by others.

Experienced leaders develop core questions used in every analysis. Core questions stand the test of uncovering important information repeatedly. Experienced leaders develop questions for particular situations. Sometimes they are developed as the situation unfolds or come from preconfigured questions developed for different situations.

PuzzleSolved-OlgaBerrlos-mod.jpgWhether you are developing a course of action to market a new product, or deciding where to go on your next vacation, learning to ask the right questions helps you make better decisions. Questions that challenge conventional thinking allow decision makers to identify alternative courses of action and determine if they would be effective. Allowing others to challenge your conclusions with Socratic questioning improves your logical thinking. As you step into your next leadership position, or prepare a briefing for the boss, take time to think about questions to uncover the best solution to any situation.



Photo Credits

School of Athens by Raphael, 1509-1511 – photo by Frans Vandewalle from

Puzzle Pieces by Olga Berlos from

Puzzle Assembled ibid (modified by author)

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Posted in Leadership

One Thousand Words

Sitting through a presentation of slides with nothing but text is a torture bordering cruel punishment. popular instruction beyond the basics of how to create slide decks emphasize the importance of graphics. Presenters face challenges finding inexpensive images to really make their learning or persuasion points powerfully. Learning about and finding public domain and Creative Common licensed images liberate presenters from corny clip art and open a world of high quality pictures, clip art, and video free from fees and royalties.

The Licenses

Public domain is the least restrictive level of licensing for any work. Something that is in the public domain is a work of intellectual property with an expired copyright, or released by the author into the public domain. Works commissioned by the U. S. Government and many educational institutions release works as public domain. Anyone may use them for any non commercial purpose for free. One may encounter advertising restrictions when images contain recognizable persons.

Creative Commons licenses come in several varieties. You can find the details of each at Generally a work released under a Creative Commons license is free to use for many purposes. The originator may choose to require an acknowledgment, limit modifications, limit commercial use, or any combination. Many times you can use works simply by providing credit to the creator or photographer which is a best using any reference not of your own creation.

Where to Find the Images

My readers will find I frequently use for most of the images that appear in my posts. I frequently turn to flickr for my slide Flickr is the big name, but not the only source for free images. Google Images provides access to lots of images. Like flickr, not all are free, but like flickr, you can filter your search result to show just public domain or Creative Commons images.Google.PNG images are all Creative Commons licensed with no use restrictions. That means anyone can use or remix any image for any legal purpose according to the website. pxhere.PNGClip art is more difficult to find, but a good source is All images are open source. Users should familiarize themselves with the restrictions of each type of license before using images from any source.

Decks of death should be something of the past. Good presenters use images to make their points. Everyone knows a picture is worth 1000 words. Why fill your slide with boring text when an inspiring image communicates your message better? Learn to find and use free images published in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license and avoid accusations of subjecting others to cruel and unusual punishment during your next presentation.

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Photo Credits

After lunch meeting —

Screen shot of search by author

Screen shot of by author

Screen shot of by author



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Posted in Training

Measuring Success

Measured-Michael_Coghlan.jpgTrainers and leaders need to measure success. Measures of success demonstrate the organization does things correctly and does the correct things. Trained tasks support the organizational mission, the organization’s why. Trainers measure performance and leaders measure effectiveness. Understanding the difference ensures organizations correctly apply the correct measures to tasks by the right people.

Performance measures are those things that show we are doing something correctly. Examples include demonstrations of completing a task within a set of given guidelines, passing a test demonstrating knowledge of selected ideas, or achieving a certain result we believe leads to effectiveness. All these examples show the task is being performed correctly. These are the measures a trainer uses to demonstrate tasks are understood and performed correctly. Front line leaders use measures of performance to demonstrate assigned tasked meet defined standards.

Effectiveness measures are those things that show the organization is accomplishing its mission. Effectiveness is harder than performance to measure because organizations often have poorly defined missions. Effectiveness comes down to an individual or organization being able to focus on their one reason for existing. Examples of effectiveness measures include things like changes in behavior favorable to the organization, increased trust between employees, customer loyalty, or improvement in a given condition. Measures of effectiveness demonstrate mission accomplishment by the organization.

Organizations must understand and communicate why they exist in order to be able to measure effectiveness. Jim Collins talks about businesses that learn how to laser on their purpose for existence. Great businesses last because they were designed well in the beginning, or transform to meet changing times. There are many books that talk about the importance of why including Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, and Stephen Covey’s First Things First.  Senior leaders use measures of performance to determine success when the organization meets its mission.

As leaders and trainers measure success, they need to learn how to measure both performance of individual and collective tasks, but also the effectiveness of those tasks. Everyone may be doing everything well, but if they are doing the wrong things, they fail. Knowing which measures to use and when help organizations ultimately complete their mission. Find your why; determine what an how to achieve it, then measure your success.

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Photo Credit

Measured by Michael Coghlan from under a Creative Commons License

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Posted in Leadership, Training

Leadership Reflection

Reflection-Theophilos_Papadopoulos.jpgReflecting on past mistakes and successes teaches leaders how to adjust behaviors improving successful.  Few new leaders understand the importance of reflection.  As a result they do not understand which traits lead to success so they can repeat them, nor which actions impede them preventing them from avoiding similar actions in the future.  Leaders achieve effective reflection by following some easy steps.

Record what happen.  In another piece, I described how and why to conduct post event reviews (  Another example of recording what happened is a leadership journal.  Use a few minutes every day to write down something you learned, someone you helped, how someone helped you, an important task you must accomplish, or anything else you feel you may want to remember.

Document how you can use what you recorded.  Think about and write down ways to modify your behaviors to improve success.  How you can implement a lesson learned?  Decide which behaviors you helped another person.  Identify behaviors of others that were both effective and not effective.

Path-J-O_Eriksson.jpgPeriodically review your reflections to adjust your course.  Taking time to figure out where you are is an important step in the goal achieving cycle.  Reviewing things you allows you to consider the path to achieve a goal.  You may see a lesser traveled trail is more effective.  You may realize a new behavior provides access to the express lane.  Either way failing to apply what you learn unnecessarily lengthens time of achievement.

Recording reflections on successes and mistakes allows leaders to become more effective.  Using a leadership journal is one way new leaders can improve their reflective skills.  Writing down key ideas on your journey ensures they are captured for future use.  These lessons and ideas help leaders adjust course seeking to accomplish goals.  A few simple steps, and a little bit of time, allows improvement of success for leaders through reflection.


Photo Credits

All Photos are from under a Creative Commons license.

Reflection by Theophilos Papadapoulos

Path by J-O Eriksson


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Posted in Leadership
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