It is a common enough question: Who was your best ever teacher at school? For me, it was a dead-heat between two. Ms Campbell taught me in Year 5, when I was an academically gifted child struggling with moving house for the first time. She was so kind; she said “Call me Rosemary”, tutored me after school and listened to my travails. Mrs Dubickas was a Scottish, Japanese speaking English teacher. She introduced me to the concept of verbal diarrhoea (a cool analogy to a 14 year old) and inspired me to read again after confidence was belted out of me by schoolyard bullies.

Their actions shaped me, and I still remember and appreciate them. Everyone has memories of great teachers that employed caring support, individual attention and a sense of timing. But I guess as a child I was willing to be shaped, and there to be shaped. Theoretically it should be more difficult to attain the same legacy when guiding fully-formed adults with their learning.

Something along those lines unexpectedly unnerved me last week in Darwin. I was doing a ‘what-do-you-know-already?’ activity debrief with the group, as the workshop was a more advanced version of one they had been through before. As we went through what they already knew, the pax kept mentioning “Oh yeah, Jane* taught us that…”. A former colleague of mine, Jane* is an intelligent, humble and thorough facilitator. I was surprised, because it is so rare for adults to remember who ran their training several years ago, let alone that much content. I thought to myself repeatedly “I need to meet that standard this week.”

Back at the hotel that night, I thought long and hard about what I had done so far and what I could do in the remaining time. I wrote down my list to embed learnings and inspire, as follows:

What I did today:
• Several minutes of informal chat after every break to help pax get rid of thoughts of what was happening in the office next door.
• Spatially anchored several key learning concepts
What I can do the next three days:
• Recap quiz, 2 questions each, then draw out of a hat. First thing in the morning, and then at lunch
• Explain the methodology of learning the complex content, e.g. the staggered practice; to help them feel OK about having the full four days to have it be entrenched
• More silent reflection time. Use a pause until a participant breaks it with their own contribution in the discussion. Let learning come to them.
• Wait until each of them has finished their note-taking in the mock-interviews before proceeding
• Share positive stories of success when in Risk Analysis section

When you facilitate day-in, day-out, you mostly don’t really know how effective you have been, you just have to back yourself. That’s why it was so encouraging to see how effective facilitation can have the results that were there to see from Jane’s* legacy. It certainly did give me a kick up the bum though, and caused my reflection. I was able to try my ideas while still warm from the oven, but it could be years before I would know if they were that effective. Next time I’m up in Darwin I’ll find out, and you’ll be the first to know!

* To retain anonymity, Jane is a pseudonym.

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