Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Big Question - What I Learned About Learning in 2009


December’s Big Question at the Learning Circuits blog is “What did you learn about learning in 2009”.

This year has been interesting and eventful for me. I have had many new things to learn and some things to unlearn. If I had to identify one key take-away, it would have to be my own learning about social learning and networking. I realized the power of this by joining twitter and building my own Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Twitter has opened a new platform for me where I am meeting with and interacting with people on all things learning using only a few words. Here, the quality of your conversations matter more than the number of words you use! I have also been more active on LinkedIn realizing its true value and potential in connecting me to groups and people who feel as passionately about learning as I do.

This year, I also got a good opportunity to reflect on things that I had learnt earlier. I studied some of the theories related to instructional design and learning and shared my views and the practical implications of the same. With every passing day, I valued learning and training even more and realized the 'present continuous' nature of learning. I blogged about applying models of learning, training evaluation, need for learning objectives, value of training, and the importance of reflection itself!

Last but not the least, after 10 years of a successful corporate career, I decided to start a new journey of my work as an independent learning consultant. It has been amazing so far. I have developed a deep relationship with my new clients and I hope to offer even greater value to my clients next year. I am excited, as I am sure there will be many interesting turns on this new path in 2010. This has been one of the big changes for me this year and I am sure it will continue to offer me a new platform for my learning in 2010!


I would like to thank my readers who continue to read and encourage me in my learning initiatives. I hope to build our relationship even stronger as we step into this New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Value of Training - Perception is Reality

One of the most popular models of training evaluation has been proposed by Donald Kirkpatrick. In simplified terms, as per this model, training can be evaluated at four levels - 1-Reaction, 2- Learning, 3- Behaviour, and 4-Results. Many training evaluation forms and feedback surveys have been designed based on this model. While levels - 1-Reaction and 2- Learning are relatively easier to measure, as we move along the higher levels of evaluation, things do get difficult. Recently, a fifth level is being suggested: 5-ROI (Return on Investment). ROI expects measurable results - dollar value, volumes, percentages, growth etc. All of this is good.

However, increasingly, I see the focus of measurement and evaluation of training from the organizational perspective alienating the training and its evaluation from the learner's point of view. So, as a learner, how do I evaluate whether the training worked for me? Yes, sure I can give good feedback, pass the post-assessment with A's but does that mean I learnt and found the training useful enough to be applied on the job?

The way I look at it, as a learner, I need to perceive the training as a valuable input towards my professional/career growth. A way to evaluate the training intervention is to evaluate how far do I think the training can help me - my own perception of the value of training. For example, by what percentage do I think I can improve my performance after applying the training on the job? Another way to look at this could be a before/after perception of value. In a scenario, where an organization is bringing in new processes/changes, learners can be asked to evaluate the perceived value of the new process. After a suitable training intervention about the new processes, learners can be asked to re-evaluate the perceived value of the new processes to evaluate the training. If the organization is able to establish the value of the training and therefore, a higher perceived value of the new processes, half the job of applying the new processes by the learner community is done.

The ROI for me as a learner is whether the time spent on the training was a worthwhile investment in my career. It is the return of my own investment of time and energy spent on the training.

Yes, all this is not as measurable as the dollar value of reduced costs of operation after a successful training. However, identifying and evaluating the value of training from the learner's perspective will probably go a long way in establishing the real value of training.

Perception may be more subtle than a figure with multiple zeros, but its power is far greater. After all, perception is reality, they say!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Taking Notes - The Right Way

I was attending the LearnTrends webinars last week when I realized (yet another time), the importance of good note-taking.
People take notes for various reasons. I usually take notes to refer to them later either to schedule further events/meetings/to-dos or to learn from and reflect on things that were discussed. Whatever your reasons may be, taking notes the right way is a skill that needs to be mastered.
After 17 years of formal education based on lectures and 10 years of corporate experience with countless meetings, I have been able to refine my note-taking skills to a point where I can claim to be a good note-taker! (Now that is why I was always asked to minute critical meetings…)

Here are my best practices on good note-taking:


Listen carefully - Well, this one is simple but probably the most difficult to implement. If you aren’t listening carefully, you can't take good notes. Practice active listening. The way to do this is to remove all distractions - phones, internet etc, and listen with the objective of translating the spoken into the written. I organize my notes by building a structure – a best practice is to follow the flow of the speaker to do so. I use bullets, sub-bullets and identify the main and the supporting ideas. Of course, being an active listener helps me stay engaged with the speaker and does well to communicate a certain degree of professionalism to the group!


Use a notebook - Again a simple practice but ignored my many. I have seen people take notes on loose sheets of paper and even post-its. Note-taking needs an organized frame of mind and a good frame of sheets too! You need to be prepared to take good notes, else it won't happen. The most important aspect of preparation is to ensure that you have a notebook that helps you organize and store your notes so that you can review them at a later point easily. I use a journal with tabbed sections because it is helpful when I attend meetings/lectures on various topics of interest. This way, I can tag my notes easily within the relevant topic. The key message here is that if you can't trace your notes for a review, then what's the point in taking them!


Use shorthand, symbols – The speaker will never speak at a speed that’s ideal for note-taking. Realize this challenge and create your own way to write quickly – use abbreviations, symbols, highlights, formatting – anything that works for you. I use simple symbols like a star to highlight important things, a question mark to check something later, and write ‘to-do’ before a list of actionable. I am neat enough but don't try to be calligraphic with my notes. In the beginning, your notes may not appear readable to others but in time, you will learn to read and understand your own notes!

Review the notes – After you take notes, it is important to review them immediately (or as quickly as possible) to ensure you have covered all points. If I didn’t quite catch all the points at the first go, I often leave blank spaces and check with other attendees (if possible) or the speaker to fill-in the key points. This ensures that my notes are complete. During the review, I date the notes and put the time I spent attending the meeting. If it is required, I capture the attendee list and other details. The point of all of this is to make the notes as robust as possible for a later use.


For me, taking notes goes far beyond capturing key points. I find note-taking almost a cathartic exercise that helps me give meaning to my thoughts and ideas and helps me learn and grow. I find it energizing to review my notes after weeks, months, or even years and find a new meaning from where I left them.

The bottom-line is that good notes can be as important as you would like them to be. If you capture great notes but never visit them again, then learning how to take notes the right way won’t help.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Transfer of Learning - Theories and Implications

Transfer of learning is the goal of all training and learning interventions. We know that the often the learning context is different from the context of real-life application. However, the training objective is not achieved until the learning transfers from one to context to another. So, what is it that makes learning 'stick' and allows learners to use the learning immediately and in the future?

The Theoretical View: Understanding Transfer of Learning
Before I reflect on the strategies that aid transfer of learning, it is important to discuss some theoretical views on learning transfer.


Transfer of learning is the application of skills and knowledge learned in one context being applied in another context (Cormier & Hagman, 1987). The best known and probably the most influential theory to explain transfer of learning is the near-transfer vs. far-transfer approach suggested by Thorndike in the "Theory of Identical Elements.” Simply put, this theory implied that transfer of learning would take place only if two activities contained similar or common elements. Within this theory, near transfer means that skills and knowledge are applied in the same manner each time the knowledge and skills are used. An example would be procedural training, perhaps using a software application to perform routine tasks – creating documents in MS Word. Far transfer means that skills and knowledge are applied in situations that change. An example of this will be perhaps understanding the economic concepts associated with how the stock market functions and then analysing trends and utilizing information to build a strong portfolio.


It is believed that it is easier for instructional designers to design training that leads to near transfer skills versus far transfer skills. This is because near transfer skills are highly procedural and beyond a certain point, almost mechanical. However, the truth is that most learning situations do not render themselves to this procedural/mechanical approach to solving problems. Solving problems usually involves deep thinking and analysis, and therefore involves teaching far transfer skills.


Post this theory; many new theories have been propounded. From the Wikipedia, here is a table, presenting different types of transfer, as adapted from Schunk (2004, p. 220). All these theories distinguish transfer into different types based on two parameters – the similarity and difference between two learning situations and the cognitive process and mental analysis involved in the learning.



The Practical View: Implications for Designing, Developing, and Delivering Training

As instructional designers the implications of understanding how learning transfer happens is critical to the design, development, and delivery of training. But even with so many theories about how transfer takes places, my interest as an L&D professional is more about - what can I do to make this transfer happen – popularly phrased as how do I teach to transfer?
The way I look at it, facilitating transfer of learning starts to happen at the training conceptualization stage and continues much after the training. Here are some of my thoughts on pre-training, during training, and post-training activities that help in learning transfer:

Pre-training:

- Design training with specific objectives around tasks that the learners perform in real-life
- Include relevant case studies and scenarios to help build connections between old and new learning
- Incorporate myths and misconceptions within the training design so that the same can be discussed and clarified during the training process
- Keep it hands-on, as much as possible
- Design performance support tools such as references, checklists, and guidelines that learners can use post training
- Inform learners towards their responsibility related to their own learning and seek commitment

During training:
- Invite experts to speak and discuss about how the learning helped them in real-life
- Seek on-the-job examples from the learners
- Use analogies from your own experience and that of the learners
- Discuss case studies and scenarios asking learners to select an appropriate approach and predict the consequences
- Include opportunities to practice the learning in similar and different situations – use compelling simulations, role-plays etc
- Provide feedback, guidance, and support during the training process
- Allow learners to learn not only from the content but also the environment including their peers
- Include reflection activities that can help learners think and analyze what they have learnt
- Share best practices and tips towards application of training

Post-training:
- Assess learners’ understanding of concepts by allowing them to apply the learning without feedback or guidance
- Ask learners about how and where will they apply the new learning – new situations, new contexts – perhaps drawing out an action plan
- Acquire post-training feedback on the relevance and applicability of training both from learners and line managers
- Ask learners to build a case study around how they applied their learning in new and challenging situations
- Follow-up with learners to identify the challenges in application of training and review the action plans
- Provide coaching and mentoring to help learners overcome the roadblocks in application of learning

Increasingly, transfer of learning is being discussed with a meta-cognitive point of view. So, learning from learning is perhaps more important than learning itself! Sounds strange but what it means is to allow learners to think about learning and therefore construct their own connections between what has been learnt in the past versus what is being learnt in the present. It is about being aware of your learning and taking control of the same. In that sense, when learners manage their own learning and are more self-aware, they increase the accessibility of their learning to be applied in situations that occur in the future and help themselves in transferring their learning! In this context, our role as L&D professionals changes to helping learners learn meta-cognition skills and strategies! Interesting.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Importance of Reflective Practices

I read somewhere that "Reflection is a key to improvement as an educator." So often, we have read and spoken about experiential learning, learning-by-doing, task-based learning etc. However, what is it that really converts this experience into learning? For the uninitiated, it is Reflection.

Without getting into semantics and/or an instructional definition; simply speaking, reflection is an image - a mirror image - that we can see of ourselves and other things around us. Extending this to learning experiences, reflection is the act of looking into (at) yourself and your learning experiences. So, while we learn by 'doing'. We actually learn more by thinking about what we did, how we did it, what was the experience like, can we do it differently the next time, how will we do it in another situation etc. It is therefore clearly an intense mental exercise. Many instructional models highlight that reflection is an integral component of learning. Kolb in his experiential learning model, shares the importance of reflective observation. I am convinced that reflection is an important and practical aspect of training and education. However, I do believe that as trainers and learners, we don’t spend enough time practicing reflection.

Let’s start with the trainer in us. I often observe that as trainers we do not include structured reflective practices in our training. The reasons could be multiple – we don’t know or understand the importance of reflection, we want to finish the curriculum so more time on action, less time on reflection, we don’t know what are reflection activities, we don’t know the design and implementation decisions – what to reflect on, how much, how to etc. This blog certainly can’t do justice to all the above reasons but the bottom-line is – we don’t create opportunities for our learners to reflect – or atleast not as much as required.

So, what do we need to do?
1) Design reflective exercises and activities at the beginning, middle, and end of training.
2) Relate reflection activities to learning outcomes and contextualize the activities to the learning process.
3) Use appropriate forms of reflection – individual vs. group reflection, discussion vs. paper writing etc.
4) Use appropriate structure for reflection – open-ended vs. guided reflection

Moving into the shoes of a learner, we probably don’t spend enough time reflecting about what we have learnt. Again the reasons for not reflecting could be many - we don’t know or understand the importance of reflection, we have other urgent and important tasks at hand, but more so – the act of reflection seems so natural that we believe it is happening by itself and further, when it is happening by itself, it is happening effectively.

So, what do we need to do?
1) Set aside time for reflection. This is probably the most important thing to do! Until reflection is deliberate and conscious, there can be no learning. Realize that most learning does not occur in a formal setting. Therefore, you are personally responsible for creating reflective activities for your own self in informal learning situations.
2) Observe your individual learning experiences – success and failures - and reflect on what you did in both situations and what could you have done differently. Ask yourself key questions about the learning.
3) Use a variety of tools and methods to think about and evaluate your learning – share, discuss, write in an attempt to improve.
4) Build upon your learning to create new knowledge.

So, I guess, if as learners, we are able to improve our own practice of learning using reflective activities, we will certainly impact those learning from us in a much more positive manner!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's So About Learning Objectives

I often find myself thinking about learning objectives. Having gone through extensive research, documentation, and training on how to write SMART learning objectives, I am made to believe, they are important. But I am questioning...

How often have you found formal classroom or online training start with a bulletined list of learning objectives? Almost always...right? But does that list really help our learners? Can these words, "In this lesson, you will learn to...” actually motivate anyone? I don't think so. Atleast in my personal learning experiences, it didn't do much to see a page listing all objectives. More often than not, I skipped the page thinking ..."I will get to it when I will get to it.” Besides, with formal learning accounting for only 20-25% of all of my learning, I never start with a statement of learning objectives when I learn something informally, by-the-way. I don’t ever feel the need to see a list!

So why, for our learners, do we continue to begin all learning with a list of learning objectives?

I believe we do it because Benjamin Bloom suggested a taxonomy of learning objectives some 50 years ago that we continue to follow irrespective of all the changes that have occurred to the pedagogical approaches to learning and our learners. We continue to live in the old times where instructional design was more about teaching than learning....where instructional objectives were more for the trainer rather than the trainee.

50 years later, in the world of social learning, Web 2.0 and beyond, learners are demanding customized and personalized learning. The objectives are often only in the minds of the learners - not quite transparent for others to see. So, there is less of structured dissemination and more of informal, unstructured learning-by-doing. Where is the place for SMART learning objectives in all this?

So, if we don’t need a bulletined list of learning objectives, what do we need instead?

WIFIM – What is in it for me?

Instead of listing learning objectives, if we provide a context for our learners and establish the need for the learning intervention, they are more likely to be motivated and be ready for the training. The context has to be real and learners should be able to relate to it. And since all learning is meant to impact performance – directly or indirectly, what's the big deal about sharing learning objectives. I’d rather focus on performance objectives… not the ones listed in a bulletined form but the ones that I help my learner create in her mind based on the WHIFIM that I build at the start of the training. I want to give my learners the freedom to develop their own performance objectives and at the end of the training intervention, assess their own learning.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Now Featured on eLearning Learning

Designed for Learning! now features on elearning Learning.

Manish's blog on blogs by learning professionals and companies in India helped Tony Karrer identify some new blogs for his list of top blogs on workplace elearning.

Visit elearning Learning to view your favorite blogs at a single location and reflect on thoughts and insights related to elearning and Workplace learning.

You can subscribe to all sources individually, or subscribe to either the Full Feed or Best Of feed from eLearning Learning. Read more here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A State of Flow

I haven't blogged for a while now. Why? I ask myself. No particular reason other than the fact that I have been actively engaged in an activity that has completely taken over me. I realized that I was in a state of flow - as described by Jeff in his blog.

I learnt that "flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields."
The concept has wide application in all areas of our life including as learning consultants. The way I look at it, I need to ensure that my learners are able to seek active engagement in the learning process and therefore experience this state of flow.

The factors that determine flow as suggested by Csíkszentmihályi include:
1. Clear goals
2. Concentrating and focusing
3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
4. Distorted sense of time
5. Direct and immediate feedback
6. Balance between ability and challenge
7. A sense of personal control
8. Intrinsically rewarding activity
9. Absorption in the activity

With a learning consultant hat on, these seem to be the 'mantra' - the core learning design principles. To allow my learners to experience flow, the learning intervention that I design should include some of these 9 factors. I also feel that these factors already resonate with many learning principles that make their way through concepts like learning-by-doing, action-learning, task-based learning etc.

An interesting application of flow is in the area of group-learning or what Csíkszentmihályi calls as Group Flow. Csíkszentmihályi suggests several ways in which a group could work together so that each individual member could achieve flow. In the context of some of the Web 2.0 methods of learning and increased use of online learning and social learning, these considerations could help learning consultants design effective group learning interventions that allow the entire group to learn together.

To learn more about flow and its value:-
http://www.abdsurvivalguide.com/News/030404.htm
http://www.meaningandhappiness.com/zone-enjoyment-creativity-elements-flow/26/
http://feedblitz.com/r.asp?l=40568457&f=236900&u=11337876

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Asking the right questions

A Zen saying goes like this - "Only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer".

The importance and value of asking the right question has been established by many. What is a right question one may ask? Well, I believe that the right question has an answer that opens our eyes to better understanding and greater knowledge. A right question is also one that is asked at the right time.

On the subject of asking the right questions, some of the articles/blogs that I have enjoyed reading are:
http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2006/07/better-questions-for-learning.html http://michelemartin.typepad.com/thebambooprojectblog/2009/06/do-you-know-how-to-ask-the-right-questions.html

http://karlkapp.blogspot.com/2007/02/questions-questions-and-more-questions.html
http://successfulteaching.blogspot.com/2009/04/teaching-students-to-ask-right.html
http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/02/asking-the-right-questions/

Asking the right questions is important towards our learning efforts both personal and professional. But I have a question. Are we giving our learners the opportunity to ask the right questions within the training that we develop for them? Are we allowing the learners to ask questions and then receive information (pull) vs. dump a lot of information and content on them irrespective (push)? How are we ensuring that in our training, learners are asked questions, given an opportunity to reflect and respond to the questions, and then provided feedback/coaching based on the response?

One of the techniques that I have used when creating training is using
Socratic Questioning. This technique is difficult to implement, is rigorous, and needs immense thought during the initial analysis and design of the training. But I believe that using such a technique can help me make better training - one that helps learners not only build their questioning skills but also critical thinking skills that are so important for any learning initiative.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Towards Meta-learning

Wikipedia defines meta-learning as '...the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized. It is the state of being aware of and taking control of one’s own learning'. In their article in the Chief Learning Officer magazine, Jay Cross and Clark Quinn highlight that 'Chief Learning Officers should take a meta-learning viewpoint to increase an organization's odds of sustainability.'

I guess in simple terms meta-learning is learning about learning. Today, learners need to take increased responsibility for their learning. With social learning and informal learning taking bigger pieces of the learning pie, it is becoming even more critical for learners to know what helps them learn better.

Meta-learning has its application for both individuals and organizations. As individuals, meta-learning helps us become better learners. The more we become aware of our own attitudes, beliefs, and motivation towards learning - the better learners we become. This also means that we take increased responsibility for our own learning and participate in learning as a continuous process.

Within an organization, meta-learning helps create and support an optimal learning environment and promotes a learning culture. With meta-learning, organizations are more focused on learning interventions and encourage learners to develop new skills. Becoming aware about meta-learning also enables individual learners to share their views, insights, and learning with other learners and highlight some of the best practices from their own meta-learning process therefore helping the organization to move towards becoming a 'learning organization'.

As an instructional designer and learning consultant, I feel a need to explore meta-learning at a deeper level to identify techniques that will help my learners learn and create simulating learning environments. I also realize that somewhere, I need to help my learners develop their own learning skills and therefore learn better using the available resources.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What color pen are you?

What color pen are you? This is a question that Dan Roam asks each of us. His book "The Back of the Napkin -Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures " offers a refreshing view about visual thinking skills. If it helps, this book is ranked as the number 5 in the business book of 2008 category by Amazon. To get a teaser of what's in the book, click on the napkin for some engaging nuggets on visual thinking. Learn about how to solve any problem with a picture, the 4 steps of visual thinking, the 5 focusing questions, and the 6 ways we see (and show).

And as Dan puts it, “Solving problems with pictures has nothing to do with artistic training or talent….”
“Welcome to the whole new world of looking at business.”
To catch a glimpse of Dan, what's inside his book, and his plans for the next book, check out Dan's blog. This blog contains a link to the video capture of Dan’s session with Microsoft. I saw it and its quite inspiring.

I have been doing visualization skills training for instructional designers for years and have definitely improvised it from where we were…but there’s lots to do. After this video, I want to apply some of the stuff shared by Dan and maybe include the video/elements from his blog/book as self-learning and include some of the concepts and examples/techniques during the classroom session…. As you can note…. I am meandering right now… but I am clearly inspired :)

BTW, what color pen are you – the black pen, the yellow pen, or the red pen?

I keep oscillating between black and yellow...
Watch the video to find out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Workplace Learning and Me - 10 years from now...





For March 2009 Big Question is: Workplace Learning in 10 years.
"If you peer inside an organization in 10 years time and you look at how workplace learning is being supported by that organization, what will you see? What will the mix of Push vs. Pull Learning; Formal vs. Informal supported by the organization? Are there training departments? What are they doing? How big are they as compared to today? What new departments will be responsible for parts of workplace learning? What will current members of training departments be doing in 10 years?"
----------------

I am not good with predictions so this one is tough to really predict. But based on what the trends are, here is what I would like 2019 to be! Through the articulation of my thoughts, I am also trying to understand and etch my role as a performance consultant in the coming years.

From Trainers to Consultants:
In 10 years or even lesser, workplace learning will be largely supported by performance consultants. These folks will not be 'trainers'. Instead they will be people who can analyze performance and help others perform a job better. These consultants will understand the business and also the development method/process and continuously strive to optimize the people and process for a profitable business. There will be no conventional 'training departments' that are constantly trying to prove their worth in organizational training initiatives. Instead, performance effectiveness will be a business function.

More Pull, Less Push:
In terms of type of training, most training will be pull-type where learners will be interested to learn and therefore connect with the right resources and acquire knowledge. The learning process will have a series of activities - some may be 'designed' or sequenced. Others will be more random and self-generated by the learners - kind of like an ‘assembly’ where the learners will customize their own learning. There will still be some space for push learning in the form of new hire training or compliance training that forms a part of the 'mandatory' requirements. But largely, I foresee the learner to become stronger and focused about their learning needs.

Collaborative and Blended:
In the coming future, I see a big role of Web 2.0 tools and technologies that will encourage social and collaborative learning. ‘Traveling for training’ will become the least preferred mode. Learners will want that they should spend the least time away from work for training. Considering these expectations, blended methodologies will find a higher place in the scheme of learning scenarios. Training will break from traditional classroom barriers and formal methods to more online and more informal with increased social interaction. Personal Learning Environments will be identified, developed, and shared. Learners will network with other learners to learn. Much learning will be on-the-job, just-in-time, and just-enough!

My Role:
Although, I have already started to walk this path, I see myself moving away from the ‘traditional R&R of a Training Manager’ towards the ‘Performance Consultant’ role. I see myself moving away from ‘designing, delivering, and managing training’ towards a more business-focused, consulting role. In this role, I will be responsible for creating and nurturing learning environments across the organization – and these learning environments will impact the performance more strongly than before. Along with ‘training need analysis’, I will focus more on ‘business needs analysis’ and design suitable opportunities for people to learn and impact the business positively. I will have the bigger, holistic picture of the business and its learning needs and will interact with other functions including the HR towards creating a comprehensive talent development plan. I may still be within the ‘training department’ but will be a facilitator, coach, mentor, guide, catalyst, and a leader of learning!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What is Good Writing? - My View...

Tony Karrer blogs about Good Writing here. Tony has interesting views on the topic and I agree with many points. The question, 'What is good writing?' often comes up in many of my discussions with budding writers and seasoned instructional designers. There are multiple rubrics that are used to grade writing. I designed one in my current organization and used it to assess and calibrate the writing skills of all authors and designers. Automated systems are also making their presence felt. And we have rolled out a certain application too. However, if you notice the criteria across writing rubrics - many items in the list don't match. Sometimes, items contradict. Therefore, there are no fixed 'rules' about good writing. But we all recognize good writing when we see it!


In this situation, how do I define 'good writing’? I say that a piece is well-written if it meets its objective. For example, if I need to write an essay about the role of media in the world today – it should have an introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion to do justice to the nature of content. But if I need to write an ad copy about the same thing – shorter is always better!

I agree with Tony on writing for skimming. But skimming is nothing new. Since the inception of web, editors and reviewers have been stressing about brevity. And not only the web, we almost always skim through much of other material including newspapers, journals, books, and manuals. Do you remember the last time you read the manual that came with your digital camera, word-by-word? Guess not.

Therefore, if your writing is aligned to its purpose, to meet the objective, it is good. I would just look at some of the traditional principles of instructional design and use those as factors to be considered when writing anything! Two things that help me define how I want to write include:
1) who is my audience (audience analysis)
2) why should they read the piece of information/what do they want to achieve out of it? (task analysis)
When I align my writing to the specifics received by answering the questions above, I am likely to write well. Applying principles and rules of grammar and punctuation and an ability to write using Global English are things that further add clarity to my writing. But I don't believe that a grammatically-correct piece of writing is 'good' until it helps the reader achieve what it meant to! So there's my story.

But if you are interested in more...here’s an interesting link to explore on what makes good writing. This is by ‘Teaching That Makes Sense’.
What is good writing (HTML)?
What is good writing (PDF)?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

7 Things You Do Not Need to Know About Me

Manish Mohan tagged me in the ongoing meme on the 7 Things You Do Not Need To Know About Me ...
Here are 7 things you don’t need to know about me:
1. I learnt how to swim by being thrown into 12-feet deep water by my coach!
2. I recently learnt that for the last 3 months, on an average, I sent 300 SMSs each month.
3. If I was not a full-time training professional, I would have been a full-time traveler doing shows for the Discovery Travel & Living channel!
4. I read many self-help and management books. But not the 'chicken soup' variety.
5. I love to bake...
6. I am intrinsically motivated at most times and a die hard optimist!
7. I'd love to go for long walks on nature trails but currently do most of my walking on the treadmill, between my office buildings, and in shopping malls! :-)

Most of my blog contacts have already been tagged. However, if you are reading this and want to participate, please go ahead! If you don't have a blog, just put the 7 things in a comment and let me know who you are!