As a well-known writer, speaker, and practitioner in the world of learning and development, Jane Bozarth is passionate about sharing her experiences and helping others grow. She is the Director of Research for the eLearning Guild [now the Learning Guild], and author of Show Your Work: The Payoffs and How-Tos of Working out Loud. Jane also writes the popular monthly “Nuts & Bolts” column in Learning Solutions. And she co-hosts #lrnchat, a weekly discussion on Twitter for people interested in how to help other people learn in formal, informal, social and mobile ways.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, Jeff talks with Jane about her role at eLearning Guild, the focus of their research, and what she hopes to accomplish with it. They also discuss Jane’s concept of “showing your work” including its related benefits and how to empower learners to do it.
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Listen to the Show
Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Jeff interviews Jane Bozarth, Director of Research for the eLearning Guild.
[01:20] – We noted in the last episode that we’re going to begin offering a reflection question or two to go along with each episode.
You might consider the reflections questions on your own after listening to an episode, and/or you might pull the team together, using part or all of the podcast episode to give you common ground and shared terminology for a group discussion.
Below are our suggestions for what to listen for during this episode that might prime you for the reflection questions:
- Listen to the areas Jane is covering with some of the current and recent eLearning Guild research. She’s tackling some areas that have come in for a lot more scrutiny lately, issues like learning styles, personality inventories, and generational differences.
As you listen, consider how your learning business is addressing these issues and to what extent are your conversations and actions really evidence-based.
- We also talk to Jane at some length about the whole concept of showing your work—what it is, why it matters, how to do it.
As you listen to that discussion, ask yourself to what extent “showing your work” is a common practice in your organization and among the learners you serve. What value might come from making this a more widely embraced practice, and what are some initial steps you might take to make it happen?
Jane’s Transition to eLearning Guild
[03:22] – When we first encountered each other, you were the eLearning coordinator for the State of North Carolina. You have since shifted to the Director of Research for the eLearning Guild. What was that transition like and how did you get up to speed and make that transition?
Jane says she was able to retire from the State and then got offered the position at the eLearning Guild. Although it was different from what she was doing, it was right in her wheelhouse and a nice change of pace. In the role, she gets to learn new things all the time and explore what’s going on with new and emerging technologies (something she was always interested in).
She says the transition has been wonderful for her and not a difficult one. But Jane stresses that she had a very good ride with the State—and now she’s having a good ride with the Guild.
Jane is especially proud of the work the eLearning Guild is doing with their Guild for Good initiative where they are trying to put good out into the world. And trying to encourage and support community members interested in charitable work.
Research Focus at the eLearning Guild
[08:35] – Say a bit about where your research has been focused lately at the eLearning Guild – and what’s coming?
Jane shares that most of her job is to create a research report and publish it every month. In the past, it has been the Guild’s habit to do a salary report every year, which they did this year (2018 Global eLearning Salary & Compensation Report).
Sometimes she works on things that are tied to upcoming events such as their 2020 Realities360 Conference & Expo, focused on AR, VR, and mixed realities in learning and development. They also have the DevLearn 2019 Conference & Expo, and they have been working on a report on the current state of xAPI.
Sometimes her work is related to general population interest. For example, last year she wrote, The Truth About Teaching to Learning Styles, and What to Do Instead?.
And recently she did a report, Personality Inventories: Fiction, Fact, Future and they will probably be doing one on generations in a few months.
Also, often when they have an expert doing something interesting, they will ask them if they want to write/work with her to write about it. For example, Dr. Will Thalheimer who is interested in changing the way we do evaluations did a report for them, Evaluating Learning: Insights from Learning Professionals.
See our related episode, Rethinking a Dangerous Art Form with Dr. Will Thalheimer.
And Steve Foreman did a report for them about the different learning platforms, Trends in Learning Technology about how many organizations are moving past just needing a learning management system.
Jane says the reports vary so sometimes they do a survey or deep dive into the literature. So it’s a mix all the time, which makes it really interesting work.
[12:00] – I know our audience is definitely interested in where VR and AR are going. We also have listeners who are interested in xAPI and where that’s going. Do you have any preliminary commentary on that?
Jane says she doesn’t yet but what they wanted from their survey around xAPI is to hear from people who are using it—and also from people who aren’t. They are curious to hear what the barriers are and how people who have adopted it got prepared for it.
Jeff notes that he loves how the eLearning Guild often ties/complements research with events and/or vice versa. He says it’s a great strategy and something that listeners could pick up on.
Jane shares that at their events they take time out of a session to talk about the most recent thing they’ve done to try to drive people to read the reports. For instance, at DevLearn, she will talk about the salary report and Julie Dirksen will talk about what works in e-learning for AR and VR.
See our episode, Design for How People Learn with Julie Dirksen.
Related to the salary report, Jane talks about how her predecessor did a great job getting extensive data about their membership and salary. But in looking at the report, there was so much she didn’t have room for so Jane wanted to explore more using that data.
What really came to light was how much the instructional design role has changed in the last decade. And she found that we have really lost sight of what that role is—we don’t have clear definitions of what an ID does, we don’t have clear demarcations between Level 1 and Level 2/initial and senior level, and we don’t really define designer vs. developer. Jane hopes to get the group interested in this when she presents about it at DevLearn.
Note that the reports at eLearning Guild are now free with a free membership (but you do have to log in).
[17:24] – If you’re looking for well-defined instructional design and a great learning platform to go with it, we encourage you to check out our sponsor.
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Research as the Basis for Better Conversations
[18:11] – Jane talks about what she hopes to accomplish with the research.
She discusses how when it comes to the research, particularly about things like the personality inventories and learning styles, that one of the things she wants – and one of the reasons she’s pleased the reports are free – is she wants to put some of the academic work in the hands of the people who maybe don’t have access to that, or maybe don’t have time to sit and sift through everything.
But she’s also writing it with an eye toward giving people what they need to have better conversations—and maybe some alternatives. Jane says they did the personality report two months ago and she’s received feedback saying they need additional help convincing management not to do this for no good reason.
Jeff agrees that anything that can lead to more productive conversations and concrete actions is good and we just need to get to a point where we can address our concerns more meaningfully.
Jane points out that she tries to end both of those reports with what you can do instead, how to have different conversations/be more productive. In the learning styles report, she quotes Cathy Moore who basically says you can’t really win an argument with someone who feels they are operating from a moral imperative.
See our episode, Action Mapping and Activity Design with Cathy Moore.
Jane adds that she doesn’t have anything against personality inventories and they can be fun. But it’s easy to read too much into them and take them to extremes.
“Showing Your Work”
[22:33] – Can you talk a little about what “showing your work” means and why that matters?
Jane starts by saying that all of us have experienced the problems that can occur when people don’t show their work well.
We are great at documenting things but the problem is what we are documenting about what we do is not really capturing how we get things done.
We’ve all probably had experiences where we haven’t seen the dots around an organization connect very well. And, we’ve all had situations where we’re great at capturing explicit knowledge but not very good at capturing tacit knowledge. If, for example, you have ever tried to cook something from a recipe and ended up with a dish that doesn’t seem anything like the beautiful picture on the Web site, magazine, or cookbook that you used as a guide, then you have experienced the gap between explicit and tacit knowledge.
So showing your work is a matter of figuring out how to make that tacit knowledge a little more explicit. In doing this, we often run into tension between the human being and the organization. Jane notes that we used to talk a lot about intellectual property and that organizations believe they own discreet pieces of data in your head and they can extract that onto a spreadsheet and pull it back out bit by bit when they need it. And really work isn’t like that most of the time—it’s messy and not necessarily as sequential as we’d like to think it.
But the reason we need knowledge workers is because they’re good at exception handling. So figuring out how we can better capture and share how to deal with those one-off situations is one of the things Jane is really about.
See our related episode, Becoming the Knowledge Worker with Jerel Bonner.
Showing your work and making your work more visible is one of the ways not to have to learn everything the hard way. It’s one of the ways to extract the learning from the work rather than trying to bolt it onto the work.
Sponsor: AUTHENTIC Learning Labs
[26:39] – “Showing your work” is one powerful approach to not having to learn things the hard way. Another is consistently leveraging the data produced from the learning experiences you offer. If you want help leveraging your data, check out our sponsor.
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[27:32] – Maybe if you could also address some practical ways you do this—it seems there is sort of a range across which this can happen. You note in your book, Show Your Work: The Payoffs that this doesn’t all have to be public, that a lot of times you’re just going to be sharing with a very discreet number of people. Could you talk a little about if you’re sharing with a small group, what’s that like and if you get up to sharing on something like Instagram or Facebook, what’s that like?
Jane acknowledges there are certain things you’d want to share with different people/audiences. She shares an example to highlight the benefit of thinking about who can learn from what you’re doing. So something you’re only sharing with co-workers could potentially be used with a greater audience. She points out that we often underestimate ourselves and we need to think bigger.
The other thing Jane has seen across her career and the issue changed over the years is people often take an idea like this and approach it like it’s a brand new trip to Mars. Instead, look at what you already have in place and systems that we have that aren’t very effective.
For instance, things like weekly staff meetings where people go around and share out what they did the past week. Ask, is that really useful? Would it be more useful to talk about what the biggest problem you had was, or how you solved it?
Jane shares about her experience having to complete activity reports. And also how she whited out names and then shared a screenshot of an evaluation from a training she did on social media. This allowed her to use it for marketing and it was showing her work, changing the existing method of how they had been doing it. It also expanded her reach a little bit. So finding a way to use what we already have.
She also makes the point that at hospitals – particularly teaching hospitals – doctors have M&M (morbidity and mortality) conferences to reflect on their assumptions, actions, what they would do next time etc. and asks why the rest of us don’t do something like this.
Jeff notes they often reference David Garvin’s concept of After Action Reviews (AAR), which can help spark that kind of reflection.
See one of our episodes related to AARs, After Action Review for 2017 Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD).
Jane stresses that it’s important to understand that showing your work shouldn’t be difficult and create more work. So taking a screenshot as you go, a photo when you fix something, a note, etc. And she clarifies that this isn’t always about helping somebody else—this can help save you time from having to remember how to do something.
She recommends saving things with a good title/label, making it searchable, linking to things (and not attaching), so you can teach people how to find things within your organization.
Empowering Lifelong Learners to “Show Their Work”
[37:19] – What suggestions do you have for how to empower people to have that mindset around showing/sharing their work?
Jane first points out how fascinating it is that millions of people share photographs online but they don’t think about doing this. And that probably 70-80% of YouTube videos available are about how someone did something. Yet at work, we don’t think to do this.
Jane thinks this is probably related to culture issues, there’s a perception that people are wasting their time if they make a video of how they did something, and there are situations where employees are rewarded for hoarding information or they’re rewarded for (or are) competing with each other.
She says helping people stop to be more mindful and to reflect a little more because we aren’t very good at reflective process. Learning and development people are really good at creating and pushing out content and information. But we aren’t as good about soliciting reflection and showing work.
To encourage others to show their work, consider asking:
- How did you do that?
- Can you teach me how to do that?
- How long did it take to learn that?
- What was the hardest thing about that?
This would give us more information about where people are struggling and how we can help them make what they’re working on more explicit.
Jane also suggests figuring out who the super star learners are and making sure people understand how to use tools and how to share what they’re doing—down to what format to use, where to save it, and what to title it.
She also says this isn’t about sharing everything you do and it doesn’t necessarily require any technology. For instance, it may just be changing the questions you ask in a staff meeting.
Another suggestion she has is finding the talent in your organization and then to record them doing something well (Cheesecake Factory does this). Jane says this has a big payoff because it’s a way to recognize talent, showcase it to peers, and lets it be known they notice when people do good work—and this is internal to employees.
Jane also highlights how all of this benefits the population of workers who may not be as educated or have challenges such as not being able to read or speak English.
Check out Jane Bozarth on Pinterest to see visuals/examples related to showing your work.
[46:18] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education?
Jane shares a personal story to illustrate how changing culture, behaviors, etc. can take a long time to happen—it’s not going to happen after a rollout or a launch. She stresses the importance of keeping the end in mind and remaining focused on really making a difference, even though you may not see it.
[52:10] –How to connect with Jane and/or learn more:
- Learning Solutions Magazine– Jane has a column the first Tuesday of every month
- The eLearning Guild– Jane does monthly research reports
- Jane’s Show Your Work Pinterest Board
- #LRNCHAT– an online chat over Twitter which Jane co-moderates. #lrnchat is on Thursdays at [8:30]-9:30pm ET/[5:30]-6:30pm PT.
[54:08] – Wrap-Up
- How is your learning business addressing issues like learning styles, personality inventories, and generational differences, and to what extent are your conversations and actions truly evidence-based?
- To what extent is “showing your work” a common practice in your organization and among the learners you serve? What value might come from making this a more widely embraced practice, and what are some initial steps you might take to make it happen?
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The combination of nuts-and-bolts advice and introductions to big-picture strategy and knowledge management concepts has provided me with a foundation for developing a new online education program, and sometimes a lens through which to view politics, social issues, and intellectual life. Thanks, Celisa and Jeff!
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[57:03] – Sign off