BYTE Session Recap
Blended learning strives to align learning objectives with the most authentic treatment. Want to improve your sales team’s in-the-field sales skills? Teach them the company’s methods using the technology they’ll use in their day-to-day jobs.
It sounds simple, but creating that thoughtful learning experience can be tricky. How do you balance learner needs with organizational goals and limited budgets, time, and technologies? Instructional designers struggle with this conundrum on a daily basis.
Guest BYTE speaker Phylise Banner has a surprisingly simple solution to an improved instructional design process: listening.
Back to Basics
As humans, we spend a lot of time engaged in communication, and most of that process involves us listening to others. Phylise highlights the magnitude of this fact:
“About 75% of our time is spent communicating. Of that 75%, 45% is spent listening. So, it’s just not important in our work. It’s important in our everyday lives.”
We often rely on context clues to infer messages from others. For example, if someone reads off a list of Valentine’s Day-related words (think: Cupid, candy, flowers), and you’re asked to write down all of the words you remember from the list, you’ll likely write down the word “heart” even if it wasn’t spoken. Without purposely meaning to do so, your brain extrapolated out to include a term commonly associated with the holiday in question. This tells us a lot about how we listen, and how miscommunication happens.
10 Ways to Listen Better
Phylise shared her top ten listening tips that can improve our instructional design practice. Try them out and see how your modern learning programs evolve.
- Stop talking. “This is so important. A lot of times we’re trying to get our ideas across to the client and it’s time to stop talking. If someone else is talking, stop and listen. It’s important to be mindful and thinking to get the message."
- Prepare to listen. “Focus on the topic and put other things out of mind. We’re being interrupted constantly. Get into a mindset that says, 'What do I need to do in order to concentrate on what’s being said?' I find that I really listen better when I shut my mind off and lean forward.”
- Put the speaker at ease. “I have had so many instances when I go and I’m excited and talk to a SME. They don’t want to share or move materials to other formats or get involved in another project. It’s important to remember to take that extra bit of time to identify what concerns they have, and what needs they have. It’s important to show that you’re listening and you care.”
- Remove distractions. “Focus on what’s being said. It’s so important to create that space where you’re listening. It’s as simple as leaning forward to me sets my mind up and it gets me clear and listening.”
- Empathize. "Active listening requires you to communicate to those around you that you not only hear what they’re saying, but also understand why it matters to them. Make it clear you recognize the connections between their thoughts and the bigger learning picture."
- Be patient. “If you’re trying to listen and someone pauses, wait to jump in. Wait a little longer and make them aware that you’re there and available and you’re listening.”
- Avoid personal prejudice. “I can finish other peoples’ sentences in my head over and over, and I need to stop doing that.” This goes back to the previous example: more often than not, making assumptions results in miscommunication, rather than clarity.
- Listen to the tone. The tone of the communication can provide additional insight into the goals, attitude, and importance of a piece of information. Get in tune with not only the language your audience uses, but also how they speak about it. Use that to inform decisions in your design process.
- Listen for ideas. As instructional designers, we don’t always have to come up with the most creative approach. Sometimes our SMEs or stakeholders provide the foundation when we’re collaborating with them in the beginning (or end!) stages of a project. Listen to the ideas they’re expressing, and, when appropriate, work them into your design or build off of them.
- Wait and watch. “See what happens. I’ve worked with SMEs and when I lean forward and the SMEs felt like I cared and as I waited and watched, they became more comfortable. They shared concerns, helpful tidbits from past experiences, or an amazing approach that worked well for the target audience.”
How will you use these listening tips to improve your next training program design?