Friday, April 01, 2011

The Class

I sat in on a workshop of another consultant years ago. It was very civilized. He had great material and an overhead projector. He sat on a stool next to the projector and would occasionally select a slide from a rather large stack, slip it onto the projector and then slowly talk about its points.

Somehow, it worked. The approach fit his personality and the audience received excellent guidance.

I thought of that yesterday while teaching a workshop on Equal Employment Opportunity for a group of managers. My style is completely different. I wander about the front of the room, use a lot of case examples and primitive visual aids, employ trick questions, examine the concepts and the politics behind the laws, editorialize about HR, insert a great deal of humor, encourage questions and interruptions, and keep the class moving at a rapid pace. The class is engaged as we go on a journey to so many subjects that it resembles "Europe in one day."

Invariably, by the end of the class, I'm exhausted and want to crawl off somewhere and stare at a ceiling, but it's worth it. The class members often cite four things they like most about these sessions: Making a dry subject interesting, substance, humor, and the pace.

Teaching is one of the few jobs that we have seen in action since we were children. We've watched the good teachers and have cringed at the poor ones. We know effective styles can vary and that one of the most important things an instructor can do is to select a well-fitting approach and then tailor, tailor, tailor so it fits even better. As a consultant, I've taught management workshops for over 30 years. The evaluations are great, but I'm still learning. In my case, the instructor is always a student.


Eclecticity said...

I'd love to see you in action. E.

Michael Wade said...


Thanks! I'll let you know when I get to your neck of the woods.


Bob said...

Well I know who's course I would rather be in. Looking back I have experienced both, though your style Michael is more of a rarity, since it requires so much more effort and a comforting confidence with the subject matter, and personal preparation. It also shows you are prepared to accept a lack of control, which is hard for most people, to throw concepts out there without really knowing what you'll get back. A class should be an experience rather than a lesson...I am sure your students appreciate it :)

Michael Wade said...


You put your finger on the key point: preparation. I think back on some classes that I've taken and conclude that the instructors spent little or no time considering how to communicate the material in an effective manner.