StoryTelling and Growing Expert Instructors

Posted on Updated on

On 4/18/16 at 10:30am, I attended the Online Learning Consortium Conference Session Commuity College Summit—StoryTelling and Growing Expert Instructors online session, NC co-presented by Nicolette van der Lee of Hawaii Maui College, Maria Fieth of CSU-MERLOT, and Brenda M. Perea, Director of Educational and Workforce Strategies at Credly

Community College Summit – StoryTelling and Growing Expert Instructors

StoryTelling and Growing Expert Instructors
Community colleges face many challenges and we will address two distinct and persistent ones:

First, communicating the power of educational innovations takes more than a 30 page report – it takes a good story that engages your audience and gets them to care about your innovation.  How do we craft good stories for career and technical training programs?

Second, industry experts are essential subject matter experts that deliver the “job-driven” curriculum in community colleges and prepares our students for success in the workforce.  But frequently, being an industry expert doesn’t translate into an expert instructor.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s SkillsCommons project has produced free and open tools, templates, and strategies that everyone can use to address these challenges. In this session, we will briefly review the strategies and resources, and walk through how these two tools have been applied in higher education and at the industry level.

Collaborative Ideation Challenges

At this point, the presenters had us use the chat tool to discuss one of the topics. This was a bit awkward, as several different conversations were happening at once and I do not type very fast. Some conversations were very animated, others were not responded to quickly enough, and got pushed offscreen. After finding some posts to answer to by scrolling up to find them, and typing slowly, the conversation was actually gone already. It was a little chaotic, and probably worked better in a seated session.
The presenting panel asked participants to consider and choose one of the two challenges, and to explore the SkillsCommons resources on their own devices, giving out the URL for us to explore on our own. They then began a short discussion on how to deliver the right tools, at the right time to faculty and staff to successfully overcome the challenges and increase collaboration across their participants institution.

How do we craft good stories for career and technical training programs?

I’ll try to sum up the communications which were happening about these conversations here:

Communicating the power of educational innovations is tough. Usually this is handed down to us in a slick sheet— this is a graphic design term for a single-page description of a new, exciting item. It isn’t an in-depth tutorial. These sheets try to sell the sexiness of the product without a major focus on the practical methods.

As an instructor, we really have a dual role: We have to educate the class, but we have to capture their imaginations and impress upon them how these tools we are teaching are essential OR at least will help you in a successful career. In many cases, we have to walk a fine line: We have to explain as much as possible in an effort to clearly make the use and practicality know, but we also have to motivate students to learn to do this on their own, capturing their imaginations and encouraging them to discover the materials on their own.

We love stories of practical experience where things go very right, and stories were things go very wrong, and times when we pulled a project back from the brink.

being an industry expert doesn’t translate into being an expert instructor.

I’ll try to sum up the communications which were happening about these conversations here:

Many community college instructors (most really, and I know because I’m one of them) are lateral-entry. Specifically, this means that we enter teaching from a job in the field, rather than entering teaching directly from school. What makes us into good instructors— lets leave behind the idea of expert just for a moment.

Coming from the workplace, we’re used to business communications where we’re speaking to a group of industry experts and workers: the vocabulary is known, the audience is clear, and vision is pinpoint, and everyone is working toward a similar if not the same goal: profitability. There is no need to talk basic concepts, no need to discuss fundamentals, no need to check anyone’s work. Poor performers are corrected and/or let go, and new workers are chosen because they are the best of the pool. In most community colleges, there is no barrier for entry: anyone can enter without many basic skills in reading, writing or mathematics, etc. Basic communication skills or a determination to complete are not required to take a course. If you’re working in a marketing firm, you’re not expected to have to reread every single proposal for spelling and grammatical errors, or determining whether or not the addition of charges adds up— these come with the territory. Without the realization of change being needed, many lateral entry teachers end up being coached, and they can find that to be demoralizing and offputting, detrimental to their careers.

Many lateral entry employees give their talks and discussions in matter-of-fact ways, and this doesn’t really capture the hearts and minds of our student populations. However, when sharing the stories of the client that just wouldn’t quit, the big budget issues, the project which was saved by spellchecking, the employee who was fired for procrastination, etc., students are very quickly entranced. Sharing your experiences and stories can really give extra emphasis to the materials you are bringing to bear in the classroom.

Coming from an academic-only environment, many instructors also feel that they are dealing with students similar to those they’ve left behind- interested, motivated students with a clear goal in mind. Unfortunately, not all students are motivated, have goals, interested in their education, or directed. Some students need direction, goals, and commiseration. Stories relating the teacher’s experience to theirs can be really helpful and creating the connections, but stories are great for adding direction. Many students find that they “get by”. They “got by” in high school, jobs, etc., but now they are in college and they are not “getting by” anymore. Experience is a great teacher, but demonstration alongside a story of how large obstacles can be overtaken is even better.

If education-based teachers focused on how they were able to complete, there would be a far greater emphasis on motivation. A teacher who discusses how their student group was formed and then split into categories might help others to do so. A teacher who tells that they “stayed up so many nights working from 8pm to the wee hours of the morning that their neighbors knew if the lights in her house were out… then the neighbors needed to go to bed too!” might encourage students to give that ongoing, continuous effort that really brings things together. Discussing how one teacher breaks down an assignment to research and write a paper can be helpful to a whole population. Share your knowledge!

 

Challenge Questions:

  • In why ways would storytelling benefit your college’s initiatives?
  • What is the first story that needs to be told and to whom?
  • Imagine your college implemented the IE2EI course with industry experts. After one year, what are the targeted outcomes. How do you celebrate?
  • What did you hear today that you could use in the next 3 months. What are the first 3 steps toward making that a reality?
These questions were nice, but the answers were really ones which should come from within. Of course, the chat exploded, and the presenters hit on major talking points.

Scheming Time, Applying StoryTelling and Expert Teaching in Your Setting

Panelists showcased an example of selecting one story and discussing it. It was a math example for real-life situations about the size of a fence perimeter. They then showed one module from the IE2EI course and the audience was asked if they had considered something like it. This was helpful to many but had little relevance to me, because we do something similar but a bit more advanced at Wake Technical Community College.

Wrap-Up and Summary

There was a minor Question and Answer session. Relative to SkillsCommons IMPACTcommunities Panel, there were few questions. Most participants did not want to leave the session to view the materials. The co-presenters all ended with a brief summary of highlights and resources from each of their perspectives.

Presenters

Lead Presenter: Nicolette van der Lee, University of Hawaii Maui College

Nicolette van der Lee is a Program Coordinator at the Office of Continuing Education & Training for workforce, sustainability and contract training programs at University of Hawaii Maui College. Through the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui, she coordinates non-credit based community outreach and development activities in sustainability across disciplines including clean energy, sustainable agriculture, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education. She is also a StoryTelling Ambassador for the StoryTelling Network at SkillsCommons, supporting community colleges to share solutions addressing the challenges of offering industry-aligned education and job-driven workforce development. Her current doctoral research at Johns Hopkins University focuses on the sustainability of innovations, and developing strategies to build social networks, successfully engage stakeholders, and achieve sustainable outcomes in higher education.

Co-presenter: Maria Fieth, MERLOT

Maria Fieth, M.A.2, RTC. Maria currently serves as program manager responsible for communications and community building for CSU-MERLOT SkillsCommons. During the last 26 years, Maria has worked with businesses and PK-20 educators providing guidance for refining and sustaining healthy learning and working environments and building partnerships and community among stakeholders. Maria’s background in federally funded project management provides a strong backdrop for national level accountability and performance. Her work has received honors for building exemplary educational settings and community partnerships from Kevin Jennings of the U.S. Department of Education and Auburn University among others. Maria holds a dual Master’s degree in English and in Education, a Master’s degree in Psychodynamics and certifications in Reality Therapy and from the National Institute for School Leadership. She has numerous certifications as national trainer for organizations such as Ruby Payne’s Poverty Framework, Olweus Bullying Prevention, Discovery Communication Model, and Crucial Conversations. She and her husband, Andy, have three grown sons, a lovely daughter in-law, and one beautiful grandbaby.

Co-presenter: Brenda Perea, Credly Inc. & SkillsCommons

Brenda M. Perea, Director of Educational and Workforce Strategies at Credly, brings twenty-five years of experience spanning secondary, postsecondary and workforce educational fields to help learners identify and target workforce skills not apparent in traditional credentials. She successfully led CCCS to implement a system-wide badge initiative. She believes identifying competencies is critical to establish career and educational pathways in conjunction with business and industry to ensure to post-secondary education and career training is relevant for today’s workforce. She works with the international Open Recognition Alliance and IMS Global to shape the national conversation on recognizing learning where it happens, industry and business engagement in post-secondary education and workforce credentialing. Brenda is also a SkillsCommons community Ambassador whose mission is create affordable innovations in workforce education and workforce development programs to be easily and widely adopted and adapted by teachers, learners, industries, and professional organizations. Brenda also speaks nationally on open educational resources, data analytics improving student success and digital badges.

Advertisements