Maish interviews Thiagi: Thiagi: My

Maish interviews Thiagi:

Thiagi: My specialty is to avoid all specialties and become a rigid eclectic. I specialize in reconciling paradoxes. I take light things (such as play and laughter) seriously and serious things (such as e-learning dropout rates) lightly. I specialize in being a global nomad and a cultural marginal. This helps me think like an Asian and like a non-Asian with equal fluency. Some days, I am Gunga Din and other days I am the Pukkah Sahib. This split personality also helps me interact with people from different cultures with equal incompetence.

I specialize in performance-based learning in both senses of the word performance: I focus on improving participants’ measurable performance. I also focus on applying principles and procedures from performance arts. I have been a street-corner magician, stand-up comedian, and an improv actor. I learned more about motivation, instruction, and performance improvement from these experiences than from my doctoral work on instructional systems and cognitive science.

Generally I shy away from long quotes in this blog, but I think Thiagi is on target with regards to design.

Maish: Lately you've been advocating an alternative ID process: the 4Cs (Continuous, Concurrent, Creative, and Co-design) instead of the usual 4Ds (Define, Design, Develop, and Deliver), Can you expand on this?

Thiagi: Actually, I advocate a wide variety of alternative ID processes, including the traditional ISD model—which I use every 29th of February.

One of the alternative approaches that appears to have high face validity (because I see light bulbs going on tops of people’s heads) is the 4C model. It’s not a procedural model, but rather a series of beliefs and principles. And the four C’s are not mutually exclusive; they overlap with each other.

The first C stands for continuous. Among other things, this principle recognizes that the development of an instructional package does not have a clear beginning or ending. Things constantly keep changing-- participants, content, technology, and workplace—and you keep revising and improving the training package. By the same token, you never begin any instructional design from scratch: You build upon existing content and activities from your previous work and other people’s work. You may call this creative plagiarism, benchmarking, or not re-inventing the wheel.

Here’s a brief example: Recently, we "completed" designing an online training course for a high-tech client. In this training package, we used several games that require learners to become fluent in recalling and applying different facts, principles, and procedures. We saved the shells from these games for future use. Right now, I am designing a course on conflict management. Although the technical content of the original course and the "touchy-feely" content of this course appear to be very different, I use the game shells to rapidly design highly interactive training episodes.

The second C stands for concurrent. The concept is the same as "blending," but I have promised not to use this buzzword. Concurrency refers to the act of conducting instructional analysis, design, evaluation, and revision activities—all at the same time.

An important application of this principle is to combine participants’ job performance with their learning. We try to design all our instruction as OJT. If that is not possible (as in the case of training recruits to fly a plane), we try to simulate the on-the-job environment as closely as possible.

Here’s an aspect of concurrent instructional design that combines delivery and design: If I am the subject-matter expert, I teach a small group of people in a face-to-face situation. We videotape this session. I teach another group, trying to make the second session as different from the first one as possible. Then we analyze the videotapes, figure out which parts can be self-instructional, which parts require collaborative learning, and which parts require a facilitator. If I am not a SME, we use a version of extreme programming. The SME and I sit at the same computer, sharing the same keyboard. I ask the SME to type a question that will require a demonstration of the mastery of a key principle or procedure. I continue with questions based on a template that suits the type of learning. The SME types the answers. I grab the keyboard and edit it. We continue with this dialogue until I am able to respond correctly to the original mastery question. We then bring in a representative learner and have her go through this learning segment, as a test to see if the training segment works. While the learner is going through the segment, we keep our mouth shut unless the learner is absolutely lost and starts screaming in total frustration. Even then we communicate only by changing the text on the screen. This is our approach to combining analysis, design, delivery, evaluation, and revision.

Any training package that is deadly dull and boring is almost invariably produced by the application of the traditional ISD.

The third C in the 4C model, creative, is my reaction to the fact. I want my training package to be surprising and I want participants to show off their mastery through creative responses. For example, in my change-management workshop, the facilitator is missing and participants see a message on the screen, asking someone to turn the TV on exactly at 8:30 AM. A robot appears on the screen and walks participants through a collaborative exercise to explore the essence of change. After 30 minutes of this activity, the facilitator enters the room and debriefs participants about their reaction to the unexpected icebreaker activity. As another example of creativity, later in the session, participants are required to respond by drawing pictures and composing pieces of music.

The fourth C, Co-design, refers to empowering the inmates to run the asylum or the learners to teach themselves. Just to practice what I preach, why don’t you tell me what Co-design means?

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