Planning Employees' Development à la Ken BainIn two earlier posts, I cited Ken Bain's main findings concerning how the best college teachers handle their job. Having gone back through Bain's book, I realized it would also be useful to highlight Bain's specific findings concerning how outstanding teachers prepare for a course.
Good teachers design their courses with the aim of fostering learning. To business trainers, fostering learning may seem an obvious goal, but the fact is that many college teachers define their primary mission as "covering the material" of whatever portion of their discipline a particular course addresses (which may be part of the reason for concern that college students are often underserved, as discussed in these posts).
Bain lists "a baker's dozen of specific planning questions we heard most often" from the best teachers. In the summary below, I've taken the items in his list that are most relevant to employee development and adapted their wording to the business context.
Accordingly, Bain-inspired recommendations for fostering employee development include asking these questions:
- What skills, abilities, or qualities will we help employees develop, and how will we encourage their interest in these skills, abilities, and qualities?
- What mental models are employees likely to bring with them that we want them to challenge? How can we help them construct that intellectual challenge? (For more, see this earlier post.)
- What information will employees need to understand in order to progress in their skill-building and to challenge pre-existing assumptions? How can they best obtain that information?
- How will we help employees when they have difficulty with specific learning tasks?
- How will we confront employees with issues that require creative thinking, and encourage them to grapple (collaboratively, as appropriate) with the issues?
- How will we find out what they know already and what they expect from development activities? How will we reconcile any differences between our expectations and theirs?
- How will we help employees learn to learn, to examine and assess their own learning and thinking, and to assess information more effectively, analytically, and actively?
- How will we find out how employees are learning, and how will we provide feedback?
- How will we communicate with employees in a way that keeps them thinking?
- How will we spell out the standards we will be using in assessing employees' work? Why do we use those standards? How will we help employees learn to assess their own work using those standards?
- How will employees and we best understand the nature, progress, and quality of their learning?
- How will we create a natural critical learning environment, i.e., an environment in which we embed the skills and information we wish to teach in tasks that employees will find engaging authentic tasks that will arouse curiosity, challenge employees to rethink their assumptions, and incite them to examine their mental models of reality? How will we create a safe environment in which employees can try, fail, receive feedback, and try again?