In my ongoing research on great communicators I just finished a book by Ken Bain entitled, “What the Best College Teachers Do” and there were many solid ideas for everyone who stands before an audience and teaches, preaches or leads.
Here are 7 things great teachers do.
1) Create a Learning Environment.
a. What is the problem, issue or provocative question you plan address? Be very clear about this and as specific as possible. Is it possible to eradicate poverty in our city in 5 years.
b. Provoke the listener to face that issue or problem. Why MUST they listen? Cause them to engage, synthesize information, analyze ideas, evaluate the information – it is NOT enough they remember it. Clever acronyms and alliteration might help people remember the content outline, but do little to promote learning. It is not enough to help the poor – we must transform their lives.
c. Where do we go from here? Now that we have answered the big question/problem, what is the next question that must be addressed? Now that people know and understand the plight of the poor and a call to action, what is our next step in solving this problem?
2) Keep Attention.
Stories, video, case studies, dialogue and props are all possible means for doing this. Creative communication must accompany clear communication. Great Communicators avoid clear and boring which is no communication at all. For the next 5 minutes we will watch a documentary on a local homeless shelter. You will take notes, discerning the strategy of this shelter, how effective it is, and what local citizens can do to partner with them.
3) Begin with the Student, not the Content.
I agree with this most of the time. The point is to get into the heart and mind of the learner early in the presentation. Where is the learner? I want you to describe what a day without coffee, food and water would mean to your routine, combined with 10 hours of manual labor.
4) I am responsible to help you learn. You are responsible to learn.
The student/learner must own their learning. Make them grapple with how they will learn more. Lets break into groups and create a process for understanding the plight of the poor in our city – where do we start and how will you accomplish that learning this week?
5) Learn Outside of Class.
It is difficult to create enough stimulation, motivation and curiosity to provoke a learner to learn between classes, sermons, lectures, etc. Teaching them to ask great questions and probe deeply into issues are transferable skills that must be learned. I am giving you an article to read this week, and a website to review. Create a list of questions you want answered by that article/site before looking at it, and email them to me.
6) Provoke and Teach Critical Thinking.
It remains a mystery to me how few people think about what is taught. A bias for action is the mark of a strong leader. But so is a bias for thinking. Is this the best approach? What case does the author make? Why should we believer her? Is this an argument based on fact or opinion? How is the data being interpreted? What is missing? What needs more study? Should we do a pilot program?
7) Create Diverse Learning Experiences.
Stories, dialogue, role play, group work, monologue, video, case studies, live site visits, cross-cultural experiences, trips, debates, games, on-the-job feedback, props, and design-your-own-experience are a few ways to stimulate learning. We are asking each of you to spend 2 hours this week/month at a homeless shelter, food pantry, or job center, volunteering your time or participating in the experience. Keep a journal of thoughts and observations, and any transformational moments you experience.
Great leaders become great communicators; and great communicators create great learners.
How do you create a learning culture in your work? Share your ideas with us!