I’ve been in instructional design for fifteen years now, and I’ve gone to more than my share of lectures on active learning. What I mean by that is a presentation where a presenter lectures the audience for one hour and fifteen minutes about leading discussions, and then holds a fifteen-minute question and answer session at the end, IF there’s time. I’ve seen so many, I tend to run when a keynoter appears at a conference, even if I know they’re good (because I’ve already seen their presentation on YouTube!). It is my dearest desire that when someone in instructional design gives a presentation, that presentation should model the basic principles of instructional design. Here’s what it should include (IMHO):
1. Some form of prework (reading, writing, etc.) to allow the participants to prepare for a meaningful discussion.
2. Any PowerPoint should be reduced to inspiring images a la Presentation Zen. No more than 1 image every 10 minutes is a good guide, unless the images are the content.
3. If there is meaningful information to be disseminated, it should be reduced to a brief, easy-to-read handout. People can read at least 2-3 times as fast as people can speak, so reading is more efficient, and saves time for conversation.
4. Time that would ordinarily be used to click through a PowerPoint should be used for asking questions. When questions are not forthcoming, participants should be guided to talk amongst themselves in small groups to generate potential questions.
5. The leader should be a “facilitator,” not a “presenter,” because the latter attitude tends to ignore the prior experience of the attendees) should then wander the room to keep conversations on target and inject expertise where useful.
6. At the end of the session, the facilitator should help the group summarize their conclusions and describe next steps.
I live in hope that someday this dream will come true. And yes, very very rarely, I encounter someone who breaks the rules and lectures successfully. To do this, they have to be either exceptionally brilliant, exceptionally inspiring, or wonderfully entertaining. That’s pretty rare.