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Well on my way towards earning a PhD in Education, a well designed and powerfully executed three-day course on facilitating learning proved to be a game-changer – not only for my role as teaching assistant, but for my career as educator and professor of education and psychology.
In the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), the essential aspects of adult learning, motivation, and communication theories came alive in a well-integrated, applied, and inspiring format. The three-day experience became one of the defining moments in my work as a facilitator of learning.
Hands-on and peer-led, the workshop offered a real-world challenge to discover my authentic style of teaching in an environment where experimenting was encouraged and perfection was not expected. I left excited and brave to try more of what worked for me and my learners.
I went on to certify as an ISW facilitator and trainer, joining a network of educators keen on helping colleagues have an easier time teaching. Not lecturing or presenting, but facilitating learning: supporting learners in their exploration of new things, and applying learning to practice.
Over 20+ years, I have had the privilege of bringing this mighty little workshop to corporate trainers, university instructors, and leaders at a range of levels, helping them discover the power of supporting the learning of others across sectors, from corporate to non-profit to government.
The ISW is a professional development program for educators. Offered online or in person, it involves 24 hours of exploring and practicing effective teaching: understanding learners’ needs, thoughtfully designing lessons, and delivering them in engaging, applied, and impactful ways.
What makes it work is the hands-on practice as part of a small group of 4-6 colleagues learning, experimenting, and reflecting together. Participants design and teach three short lessons to the rest of the group being learners, and then share ideas for taking their teaching to the next level.
Many participants find themselves immersed in thoughtfully considering for the first time who their learners really are, what they need to know and be able to do as a result of learning, what motivates them, and how best to engage them and support them in a course or training session.
Well versed in their subject matter, trainers taking the ISW discover effective ways of supporting others. For instance, centering each lesson around the learner (rather than the trainer) can help motivate and engage, create powerful learning experiences, and yield the desired outcomes.
The ISW was originally designed in Canada to support college and university instructors new to teaching. The thing is, faculty are typically experts in their area of research, yet they do not have formal preparation in teaching. That was certainly my case as well, back in my graduate studies.
But this workshop is absolutely for everyone who supports others in their learning – from corporate trainers to coaches and facilitators to managers and leaders helping teams stay current in their field, or master new areas of professional practice. The focus here is on being supportive.
The supportive environment of the ISW offers space to get inspired, try new approaches, and see what works for me. One trainer may be a great storyteller, while another may be really good at demonstrating skills. ‘Hooked’ by the right question or scenario, learners will be ready to engage.
So whether you are tasked with putting on a series of sessions on health and safety, or with helping colleagues use new software, or with supporting new team members in getting up to speed on things, the ISW is a great investment in your skills and practice of supporting others.
With the ISW Certificate under your belt, next time you get tapped on your shoulder, valued for your expertise and invited to train or help colleagues in your area of work, you will know exactly how to approach the challenge. And your learners will be grateful for your thoughtful support.
Participants leave the ISW with the competence and confidence to support others’ learning in ways that are engaging, effective, and satisfying. A key for many is the importance of being clear on who their learners are, how learning will benefit their practice, and what motivates them.
Narrowing down what the learners are intended to be able to do (not just know or understand) as a result of a training session is another powerful ‘move’ a trainer can make. Articulating the intended learning outcomes helps drive lesson planning as well as guide the learners’ attention.
Well defined learning outcomes inform what needs to happen in the ‘body’ of the lesson – the activities, questions, discussions, group work, hands-on practice, etc. – to make sure that the lesson and the trainer support the learners on their journey towards the intended outcomes.
The ultimate benefit of participating in the ISW is the action: actively exploring ideas as part of a small group, trying new approaches, being inspired by others’ courage. It is the playful and less formal experimentation that helps you discover your teaching style and get comfortable with it.
The ISW can be offered online or in person, to support trainers’ practices anywhere in the world. The ISW Certificate is recognized by a large number of institutions worldwide. Organizations may request an online ISW for groups of 4-6 individuals, on their desired dates, here.