Saturday, April 22, 2017

Powerful questions in coaching

















Powerful questions are a cornerstone of coaching. These questions are sometimes called ‘magical’ because they can support a coachee to step around perceived barriers or familiar ways of thinking into a space where they are more creative. Their concrete context (i.e. resources, issues, etc) hasn’t changed, but the way the they are thinking can become more positive, increasing motivating and boosting self-confidence.
The two types of ‘magical questions’ that I frequently use are:
  • Imagine the results, and
  • Time shift

Imagine the results
The ‘imagine the results’ questions invite a coachee to hurdle over the messiness they can see in their here and now, and to step into their world in the future where they have done the hard work and are experiencing the desired outcomes - and can see the purpose behind what they want to do or achieve.
Take, for instance, a coachee who is trying to split their department into self-directed teams, in a way that will increase efficiency and autonomy, but without losing the great sense of collaboration that the department already has. The coachee is, however, facing a range of issues and their mental wheels are spinning in the mud that these issues are creating. One way to support this coachee might be with the following statement and questions:
Imagine that your department is working in teams. Why are they working in teams? What does it look like? What does it feel like? What is different? How was it possible to achieve this?   
When I use the ‘imagine the result question’ with coachees I find that sometimes they take a while to get their head into that space, but when they do they are able to focus on what their situation would look and feel like. It helps them focus on the future, rather than barriers or issues that are in the way. Also, in some ways, by stating what they see and by understanding their purpose, it helps it feel more real, and, as a result, helps them develop a plan to move forward (they know where they want to go, so putting together the ‘map’ becomes easier).

Time shift
Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by focussing on all the things that we still need to do and the amount of effort that it is going to take to reach our desired outcomes. Sometimes it can be tough to move our focus back to the positive results we are aiming for, and thereby to muster up the energy and motivation we need to get things done.
The ‘time shift’ questions, similar to the ‘imagine the results questions’, can help a coachee look into the future - but with ‘time shift’ it asks the coachee to focus on a general point of time in the future rather than on specific desired outcomes.
Using the same scenario - the coachee who is trying to split their department into self-directed teams - I might use a statement and questions such as:
It is now August 2018. You have achieved your goals. What can you see? What happened? What did you do? What were the main steps in your plan that got you there? How did you start?
The ‘time shift’ questions helps my coachee look into the future and imagine, quite vividly what it would be like for them. They are also able to describe what they did to get there, and by the end of the session are likely to be way more motivated to jump back into their ‘to do’ list and action plan. Often, the coachee will want to revisit the structure of their existing action plan, because they have identified key priorities and steps that need to be included, or that need to be adjusted.

Leading with curiosity
The two open-ended question approaches that I have discussed can be powerful. However, you still need to make sure that you approach every session with true ‘curiosity’, and are fully present (Hess, 2010). When you ask questions because you are curious, rather than because you feel that the question is useful, it keeps everything open. Your curiosity will help you select just the right question for that coachee at that point in time, which helps avoid the possible trap of falling back on questions that you have found have worked previously. It means that you may (often) be surprised by the direction the coachee takes you with their response - and this is where such questions, I would suggest, can be magical. By leading with curiosity and selecting open-ended questions from this basis, the process can be transformational for the coachee in part because they too are surprised by the direction their response take. I have had coachee’s laugh with delight and wonder, asking ‘where did that come from? I didn’t even know I was thinking that!’.

The transformational, magic moments don’t happen every time and you can’t force them (Hess, 2010) - but by using a combination of curiosity and powerful questions, and ensuring you are fully present during a session, the likelihood of such transformational moments occurring, increases.

Reference
Hess, R. (2010.). The Essence of a Great Coaching Question. Retrieved from http://www.prosperouscoachblog.com/essence-great-coaching-question/

Image
Question finger 6. CC ( BY ) licensed Flickr image by Josh Tasman: https://flic.kr/p/RSSjyK

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The art of designing meaningful assessments

Assessment is an inextricable part of learning, and it can be something we do 'in the moment' ("hmmm, that was OK but I need to do X next time"), or it could be a high-stakes formal assessment designed and administered by an official organisation.

However, there is a real art to all types of assessment. For instance, with the in the moment example, the key here would then to decide what the next steps would be, when they would happen, and whether we need the input of anyone else. With more formal assessments the art is ensuring that the assessment is meaningful by ensuring the needs of the learners align with, and are given at least equal (maybe greater) importance than the needs of the assessing organisation and wider stakeholders.

First, a quick question - why do we assess?  We assess to provide information (i.e. quantitative evidence) that helps us make informed decisions about ourselves, individuals or programmes, to find out, for example how we are progressing, and what we need to develop more.

So, what is assessment? John Dewey suggests that “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life but is life itself”. I would like to invite you to swap out the word education in the quote, and replace it with ‘assessment’. It then starts to provide an insight into meaningful assessment that provides a bit more depth than ‘making informed decisions’.  For example, what does the act of assessment mean for students? A challenge, a game, fear, whakama (embarrassment), grief, anxiety, a lifechanger, a promotion, a sense of pride...or loss. The list goes on - and something that can be forgotten in the act of designing - and doing - assessments is the ‘human aspect’. It’s not just about the grade.

With these points in mind, I have set about drafting an eight-category checklist to help with the design of meaningful assessments, that will also help you avoid some of the possible pitfalls along the way. It is a draft and I would love any input or suggestions on how you feel it might be improved - what have I missed out? What isn't reading well? Please jump into the comments below and let me know.


You might also want to have a quick look at the presentation that complements the checklist.



Image: Assessment. CC (BY SA) licensed image by JPhotoStyle.com: http://jphotostyle.com/handwriting/a/assessment.html

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What is a good Moodle course?

Moodle has been used for over 10 years, and yet 'What comprises a good Moodle course'? is still a hot topic.

Some top tips from Yong Liu include:

1) Mobile learning is key, and gamification is built in as much as possible (although it can be heavy on the budget), plus integration of social media. It is important to automate as many of the processes as possible, while also personalising the learning. However, using an animation or the latest technology, may remove the focus from the learner.

2) It is important to offer opportunities for students to link exiting knowledge with new knowledge. Multimedia can help people learn by helping them select organise and integrate information and understanding (Mayer, 2016). We can only take in visual and aural input, but not two aural inputs at the same time. We can also only take in a limited amount of information at one time. To help alleviate the stress we need to remove redundant and gratuitous graphics, place text near graphics, and explain graphics with audio instead of text if possible.

3) A good Moodle course should simplify complex content, by, for example, segmenting content into small chunks. Information should be precise and exactly what they need, without additional information. Activities also have collaboration, peer teaching - activities where the students do the work themselves. We foster generative processes (Mayer, 2016) by letting the student 'pull' knowledge and selecting what they want when they need it. Use conversational tone and pedagogical agents.

What tips could you add to this list? What have you found works a treat for your learners in Moodle?


Image: Design. CC ( BY SA ) licensed Flickr image by Miquel Lopez: https://flic.kr/p/5oQgCo

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Changing customer experiences through Moodle

At New Zealand Language Centre the students tend to be English language learners, where there are over 25 nationalities represented at the school.
Pete Jones shares that, he sees his 'customers' in relation as the students, the academic staff, and the administrators. Prior to implementing the Moodle project all the diagnostic, placement tests were completed as paper based and had to be manually marked, within very tight time frames. Now students complete most of their placement test online, and the reading, grammar, and vocabulary tests are now automatically graded.
Moodle was a catalyst for NZCL to review and update their placement test. The existing test had many of the gap fill type questions, where the responses are sometimes not cut and dried. It also encourages students to learn the language in a decontextualised way. The new test has an embedded cloze type test that offered a contextualised scenario, where the organisation could be more confident in the responses that were being given in the test. It has been well worth the investment.
Previously, student would write their contact details onto a form, and then someone had to decipher the handwriting and add the details to a database. 
One of the next steps is to develop a theme for Moodle, that would also complement the new web site.
To sum up, the Centre has met their original objective. Over 70% of students said they preferred this system "it is more convenient than the paper test". For those who didn't prefer it the reason given was previous familiarity with paper based tests. Some of the unintended consequences including having to look at the whole orientation of new students, which has meant providing more time to welcome the students - and this has resulted in a longer timeframe for the placement tests removing a lot of stress for the academic staff. In addition, some of the staff have signed up to the Learn Moodle MOOC.

Image: HP Mini. CC ( BY NC ) Flickr image by Tuesday Digital: https://flic.kr/p/6tg3kw

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Creating meaningful assessments...

What does a meaningful assessment look and feel like? How can Moodle be used to enhance a learner's assessment experience? In this session I covered a few of the key factors to consider when designing assessments, as well as some of the activity types in Moodle that can be used. I dipped into a couple of examples to illustrate what can work well ... and what might not. By the end of the session the idea was that people would have some additional ideas to take away and use when creating assessments in Moodle, along with considerations that would help ensure that the assessments work for your learners and for you.

The lived experience of sing Moodle for online exams

At Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (on the South Island of NZ) all of the exams are paper based. In the Bachelor of Nursing (Year 1 course), there are 2 multi choice exams requiring 90% pass rate. They get the questions the week beforehand and work in a study group to debate the responses, and then come in to respond to the same questions.

Printing costs were massive, with exams being 6 or more pages in length, and had to be printed twice. The exams were also all hand graded. So they turned to Moodle.

All of the exam questions were uploaded into a Moodle forum to download or print them off themselves. The students were still able to get into their study groups to debate. In preparation to do the exam on a screen 'spot tests' were administered throughout the semester to familiarise students. There was also discussion around etiquette for once the results were released because the feedback was not released until after they had finished.

Some of the benefits were:
  • questions were randomised
  • cheating was minimised by the format of the exam (questions provided in advance, and randomised questions, so there isn't such an advantage to going through and highlighting the exams)
  • automatic marking
  • results released immediately
  • printing and paper costs reduced
  • it was easy!
There were some challenges including:
  • PC lab room availability
  • increase in number of invigilators
  • iPads were not so user friendly (the Moodle page kept freezing, and wouldn't change the page and created a lot of anxiety. Students were persistent and carried on, and everyone passed)
  • WiFi connections (60 students were all accessing the same thing at the same time)
In terms of the future, at NMIT there is a focus on moving more exams online, and ideally for all the students to use their own devices and sit the exam in one room.

Moodle at Northtec: Past, present and future

Before using Moodle at Northtec, in 2000, they ran a pilot in WebCT using applied writing. The Campus License from WebCT put the cost beyond Northtec's means. They then transitioned across other Learning Management Systems before settling on Moodle.

In 2003 the Flexible Learning team created the Bachelor of Nursing, and built on the 'we just did it' champions. In 2008 'Cyclone Vasi' hit, with a passion for students and learning - and a wide range of ideas. Her managerial skills brought a structure and a methodology with eLearning. In 2009 the 1st instructional designer joined Northtec, and helped identify key design principles which were essential for course design. At the time they had three Moodle instances running. One of them is the 'archive site', which provides a copy of existing courses, which means that Northtec don't have to have sophisticated disaster recovery processes and backup.

By 2012, Northtec was trying to provide some rigour and structure into the quality control of courses. On the 'live server' (NorthNet) they have a 'development category' with restrictions (for example, teachers can't enrol students into courses, nor can they change the name, or shift the course into another category. They used a student focus group to get the look and feel right. The students were looking for something a bit more dynamic.

Northtec are about to move to 3.1, and Moodle is still hosted off site. There has been some feedback around the lack of communication around version changes, so they have made a big effort to address this.

For some of the students (in particular Nursing) Northtec have developed a version of Moodle that installs off a USB. They can install the version onto their hard disk, and they can get to all of their course materials while 'off the grid'.

Plans for the future are dependent on the ability to upskill staff. How do you put a good online course together? Standardisation of courses is important, although they only have one instructional designer. There is a planning process to work through before releasing to students. The keys are staying flexible, and adapting as needed.