Monthly Archives: June 2009

Dialogue in Training Design

“Are we as human beings so immersed in conversation that, like fish in water, conversation is our medium for survival and we just can’t see it?”
-Juanita Brown with David Isaacs, The World Cafe, Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations that Matter

The most powerful insights are those that we come upon ourselves. In a learning experience, it is far more impactful to create opportunities for learners to explore their own insights, rather than sharing our own or those of the experts.

New insights begin as a conversation wtih have with ourselves. We ponder and reflect on our own experience. We then move outward and begin to notice the experiences of others. We listen, we compare, we contrast and we look for patterns. The core process in the development of new insights is dialogue.

I am often struck by how little of this happens in most “learning experiences”. How many conferences have you attended where the only conversation that is happening is the one-way monologue of the speakers?

To create a dialogue that allows new insights to emerge, certain elements must be present:

A belief that the knowledge lives within the “room”-an acknowledgement that every participant in the room brings some knowledge of the issue, the content, the “stuff” we are about to “teach”

A context that encourages meaningful sharing-a physical and emotional space that brings forth sharing

Well-crafted questions that provoke dialogue

Skilled facilitation that helps the contributors see the patterns emerging in the conversation

Think about how you can begin a learning experience with a dialogue around the big idea of the subject you are teaching. Here are a few ideas:

Ask questions:
What question, if answered, could make the biggest difference in the issue we are exploring here today?
What conversation could happen here today that could have an impact across the organization?
What experiences have you had that have shaped your perception of (the issue, the topic, the system) we will be exploring today?

Create activities that elicit what the learners already know about the content:

Moving surveys-learners walk around the room and survey other participants on what they already know about the topic

Crafting outcomes-learners review a wall chart with the outcomes for the course. Learners dialogue on the outcomes that are most important, adding depth and personalizing the desired outcome

Focus your energy on provoking dialogue-bringing forth what is already present.