Teach with a Purpose So Your Audience Wins!

Wake-up call

“You’re boring!”

That was the unsolicited review I received immediately after finishing a class as an instructor during the early stages of a training program I worked on. Big confidence builder, right? Yet even though that comment stung, it prompted me to invest some time in reflecting on the overall instruction. I took that comment on board and thought hard about it. Was the curriculum designed around truly helping the audience? Was my contribution helping to foster a positive & effective learning experience?

Were we delivering value to the customer or just regurgitating information? hmmm…

In the same program over the next two years I had the opportunity to:

  • Work on a curriculum review project in which I was assessing material for accuracy and relevance, and proposing any necessary modifications.
  • Attend curriculum review conferences as the Western region representative. Now I had to justify the “how” and “why” for our curriculum modification proposals.
  • Direct two ‘wall-to-wall’ redesigns of 5-day coursework modules. These were opportunities to design and develop relevant, goals-based instruction packages that provided the customer tangible progress in terms of measurable results.


So this is how this works…

I quickly learned that to be successful in any of these areas I had to develop the discipline of thinking critically, strategically and holistically about the components of the instruction that I was responsible for. It was essential to think about how each part was interconnected to and complementary of the next. It was just as important to consider whether the instruction was contributing to achieving the stated goals.

I had to make it a point to mentally ‘step back’ and consider how I was thinking about the components of instruction. Deliberate metacognition, I suppose.

Finally, during all this I was pursuing my master’s degree. Working through that degree program helped me crystallize a more thoughtful perspective on the training and instruction I was doing-and had done-through the triple lens of learning theory, instructional design and over 15 years of experience. That sleepless year gave me a new, and much improved, paradigm for analyzing the whole ball of wax: goals, curriculum design and development, instruction formats, exercises, evaluations, schedules, etc.

I’m making it sound more magical than it really was.

I’ve applied thousands of hours to this endeavor and it does still require work and strategic thinking. What this transformation in my perspective and approach has provided is a better way to think about how I’ve muddled though it. A better way to apply those lessons to the next go around. So, after doing this for almost 20 years I am a lot better at it.


I realized I could condense everything I’ve learned on this topic into one sentence:


Teach with a purpose so your audience wins

So, on that note I want to share with you a collection of observations and insights on what has worked and not worked for me. The times I nailed it, and the times when I fell on my sword. The dull edge of routine and the precision in a moment of clarity. The times the audience tuned me out (remember “boring”?) and when they were fully engaged. By reflecting on what I’m rambling on about, and more importantly hearing from you, I will end up learning even more on the other side of this exploration.

I hope that you’re able to pick up some gems along the way that help you sort out the details of developing instruction and grasp the vision that creates encouraging learning environments.

So, in no particular order, here we go…


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