When I started training, I taught topics. Lots of topics!
Nowadays, thanks to some help from Marian Willeke and her incredible understanding of how adults learn, I get to teach capabilities instead. It’s much more fun. This is how I do it.
First off, because I’m into BDD and hypnosis, I sit and imagine some scenarios in which people actually use the learning I’ve given them. Maybe they’re the Product Owner of a Scrum Team, or using BDD for the first time, or they have a good understanding of Agile, and now they’re learning how to coach. I watch them in my head and look at what they do, or I think about what I’ve done, in similar situations.
As with all scenarios, the event that’s happening requires capabilties; the ability to do something, and do it well.
So, for instance, I imagine a team sitting together in a huddle, talking through BDD’s scenarios. Well, you’ll need to be able to use the different strengths of the different roles. And you’ll need to be able to construct well-formed scenarios, and to differentiate between acceptance criteria and a specific example.
If I get stuck thinking about what capabilities I need to teach, I go look at Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the Revised Cognitive Domain – I really like Don Clark’s site. Marian gives some advice; when you’re teaching adults, aim higher than merely remembering; give them something they can actually do with it. The keywords help me to think about the level of expertise that the learners will need to get to (though I don’t always stick to them).
So for instance, I end up with capabilities like these:
- Explain BDD and its practices
- Apply shortcuts to well-understood requirements to reduce analysis and planning time
- Identify core and incidental stakeholders for a project
If I’m training, I use these in conjunction with a bit of teaching, then games or exercises that help attendees really experience the things they’re able to do for the first time, and give me a chance to help them if I see they need it. The learning outcomes make a great advert for the course, too! And I use them as a backlog while I’m running the course, so I always know what’s done and what’s next.
More recently, I’ve been using this technique to put together documents which serve the same purpose for people I can’t train directly. I put the learning outcomes at the start: “When you’ve read this, you will be able to…” It’s fun to relate the titles of each section back to the outcomes at the beginning! And, of course, each capability is an embedded command to someone to actually try out the new skill.
Best of all, each capability comes with its own test. As the person writing the course or document, I can think to myself, “If my student goes on this course or reads this document, will they be able to do this thing?”
And, if they do actually take the course, I can ask them directly: “Do you feel confident now about doing this thing?” It gives me a chance to go over material if I have time, or to offer follow-up support afterwards (which I generally offer with all my courses, anyway).
You can read more about Bloom’s Taxonomy, and see the backlog for one of my BDD courses, on Marian’s site.
Now you should be able to create courses using capabilities, instead of topics. Hopefully you really want to, as well… but the Affective Domain, and what you can do with it, is a topic for another post.
I’m not a coach. But I think I can use this when I want to learn something. Something like: instead of focusing on learning the topic BDD, why not focus on what capabilities I’m after?
Do you think that would work?
Yes. Particularly, if you can think of a scenario in which you’re performing the thing you want to be able to do – for instance, actually running an automated test through Cucumber, or standing up in a room and teaching others – and really imagine it, you’ll know whether the capability you want to learn is a) achievable and b) realistic. SMART criteria apply as much to these as to any other thing that people need!
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