Integrity of the Experience

For the last four years I’ve been poking in and out of the training world from various angles. I’ve updated curriculum, created my own curriculum, taught workshops by other people, and taken workshops. I love to see how other people structure their content, what resources are given to trainers, and where trainers are expected to invent their own experience is of particular interest to me.

At last week’s workshop Bob made an interesting observation: his trainers tend to be creative thinkers who may review the curriculum guides a few times, but generally have enough practice creating experiences that they don’t need the fine grained detail provided in a typical facilitator guide. In the technical training world, my experience has been with a different kind of trainer. In my “world” the trainer craves as much material as possible. Some will even copy by hand the facilitator guide to internalize the information so they can present it naturally during the class.

As I prepare to open source my own workshop, I have to think about how others will be delivering the content. I have a classroom structure that I know works for me. I know it’s repeatable (and doesn’t depend on my personality, or personal stories and anecdotes). But I need to decide: if the structure is different, is it still the same workshop? Should other instructors be forced to present the workshop my way to use the name of the course? (There are merits for both sides of the argument.)

One of the strongest arguments for a standardized classroom experience is when a standardized test is going to be given to the students. You want to make sure all of the content is covered in a way that students are neither given advantage or disadvantage in passing the test. On the flip side, different people will have different experience with the material (both students and instructors), allowing a customization allows us to personally connect with the materials and go “off track” to gain a richer understanding of the relevance to our own workplace.

A curriculum piece should eventually have a community of practice. It shouldn’t be a static document that lives in isolation of the classroom experience. But communities take time to nurture and maintain. My curriculum will probably be more descriptive than prescriptive. In other words: this is what works for me vs. this is how you must teach the workshop.

As an instructor, how do you prefer to receive a piece of curriculum? As an instructional designer, how do you maintain the integrity of the experience you’ve designed?