Saturday, September 21, 2019
Mix and Match:
Presentation Styles and Learning Styles
It's been a blast observing speakers trying cutting-edge presentation styles at this week's APG conference. If there would be any place suited to experimenting with new teaching approaches for genealogy, it should be the Association of Professional Genealogists.
Since the beginning of the Professional Management Conference this Thursday, I've particularly enjoyed the "gamification" approach utilized by Paul Woodbury of Legacy Tree Genealogists. While he, as a speaker, provided a thorough handout in the syllabus, explaining models of instructional design—particularly focusing on the design element of evaluation—when it came to class time, we all jumped right in to the "Genetic Genealogy Mystery Escape Room." Providing each team in the class with a puzzle to solve, including additional clues unlocked for teams whose members completed preparatory tasks, the race was on to beat the clock and arrive at a final answer. While teams answered a series of questions based on what was previously learned in class, of course the instructor could also see whether students had actually grasped the information in a meaningful—and usable—way.
The APG conference provided venues for a variety of learning modalities. Besides the traditional lecture format, there were opportunities for engaging in round table discussions, question and answer sessions in panel discussions, and free-ranging "poster sessions" where everyone, on our feet, moved from display to display and listened to brief, informal presentations given in a small group format.
The beauty of such presentation variety is two-fold. First, it breaks the mold from the traditional lecture format, a teaching style which, overused, may have signaled the downfall of the conference model of gathering together within interest groups. Secondly, on behalf of the learners, such variety begins to address the many different learning modalities present in any group, allowing material to be absorbed in such a way as to engage those who take in information in one of many different learning approaches. Those of us who learn better by hands-on action will process new ideas differently than those who learn better by listening rather than reading, for instance. Not only does each learner need to grasp new material in his or her own way, but to be able to demonstrate that the learning process has come full cycle: to demonstrate that, when it comes to new information, they have "got it."
A venue such as the APG conference has made its mark as a place for speakers to experiment with different types of instructional design—a good thing, considering how much of the field of genealogy involves training not only professionals in new skills, but avocational researchers in these new concepts, as well. It's been an enjoyable time for me, watching these training experiments unfold—certainly providing inspiration for my own adaptation of new presentation concepts. The overarching goal, after all, is to see that our students are equipped with the very concepts they've come to us to learn. More capably matching that instructional style to the learning styles of those in our audiences will be a plus for our efforts as trainers.