Archive for May, 2009

An important element to any commuication is understanding your audience. This criticality of audience familiarity likely increases for the authoring and presenting of training. Regardless of the type of training (procedural, technical, behavioral, etc.) it is important to understand not only the demographics of the audience but also their background and culture.
As the training materials are developed, audience demographics, background and culture always play an important role in determining the best approach to gain attention and stimulating recall of prior learning. But culture and background can also provide us with important information about how learners processes inforomation. Understanding someone’s learning style is critical to developing the right interactions and learning sequences.
One of the components of audience analysis that is often over looked is influence of socio-economic factors on how we learn. Ruby Payne, in A Framework for Understanding Poverty, describes several factors that contribute to how we process information and make decisions. Some of the factors she discusses include language registers and story structure.
Language Registers
Payne describes the following language registers:
  • Frozen – language that is always the same. For example, the Lord’s prayer, wedding vows, etc.
  • Formal – The standard sentenece syntax and word choice of work and school. Has complete sentences and specific word choice.
  • Consultative – Formal register when used in conversation. Discourse pattern not quite as direct as formal register
  • Casual – Language between friends and is characterized by a 400-800 word vocabulary. Word choice general and not specific. Conversation dependent upon non-verbal assists. Sentence syntax often incomplete.
  • Intimate – Language between lovers or twins. Language of sexual harassment
In some socio-economic situations, casual register is the only one used and children growing up in that environment may not experience the Formal register that is used in business and higher education. It seems that most formal training developed for the corporate environment is also based on formal register. This could signficantly impact the successful implementation of a training program and the performance outcomes desired.
Story Structure
Closely related to language registers is story structure. According to Payne,
  • Formal-Register Story Structure moves from beginning to end with a plot, where the plot is the most important part of the story. 
  • Casual-Register Story Structure could begin with the ending or the part with the most emotional intensity. In this format stories are told in vignettes with audience participation. The story typically concludes with comment about the character and his/her value. In this structure, the most important part of story is the characterization.
It is easy to see how very different these structures are. And it leaves me thinking about the following questions:
  • How does this difference in approach to story structure impact learning sequences and activities?
  • How can instructional designers and trainers help those more comfortable in the Casual Register Story Structure increase their comfort with the formal register structure used in formal training?
Payne points out that educators can, and should, work to provide opportunities to help students learn to be successful in their context. She does not suggest that one story structure is better than another or that one language register is better than another. However, she does point out that various contexts have hidden rules that expect its partcipants to know. And as learners better understand the hidden rules and what they need to know to be successful, the more likely they are to achieve success in that context.
You can use the resources below to learn more about Ruby Payne’s research or pick up a copy of her book at Aha! Process.
Podcasts on iTunes


YouTube videos:





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Leadership in a Down Economy

We engage with many organizations on the topic of leadership development and it’s approached from a variety of perspectives. They range from the viewpoint of a discretionary training investment to a strategic imperative vital to the growth of the business.

What’s become very interesting to is how leadership manifests itself in the current economy…and what organizations are doing to implicitly develop the character of leaders during these times. We can teach people all day in a classroom what they should and shouldn’t do in various leadership situations. But difficult times challenge the character of any leader and that is where real leadership is learned.

The opportunities presented to us for leadership development in the current climate are unprecedented. But unfortunately most organizations will miss them. Those organizations that have a real commitment to their future and to building the leaders of tomorrow can leverage the current climate to define what their organization is about.

It’s interesting to take a look at the organizations (formal and informal) you’re a part of and ask the question of how future leadership is being developed and defined through the events of the current economic climate.  The future cultures and character of organizations are being defined every day.

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