Diving Into Program Design

I’ve been excited about thisWoman diving into blue water from boat class since I started reading the text by Caffarella and Daffron.  In my current position I spend a lot of time with program planning; whether it is in setting up an eight week long surgical intern boot camp, a four week long surgery elective for fourth year medical students who are going into surgery, a two hour course featuring a specific surgical skill or coordinating an entire year long surgical skills curriculum.  I am tasked with recruiting the faculty who will instruct, assisting with the development of  goals and objectives and assessment tools, as well as pulling together and setting up all the materials and instruments needed for these courses.

However, it was not the details of my current responsibilities that were in the forefront of my thinking as I read through the first couple of chapters of the book.  Rather,  as I read I reflected upon where we, as an organization, once were in terms of simulation training; where we are today and how we got there.  It was a virtual walk down memory lane, reflecting on the contextual elements of organizational culture, leadership and political influences which have transformed over time to allow for the present state of support for both the quantity and quality of the simulation training that now exists.  Developing course content, structuring how information will be delivered and how learning will be evaluated has been secondary to navigating the groundwork of the contextual complexities.  Successful program planning rests, in part, upon the planner’s ability to understand, incorporate and cooperate with an organization’s structural, political and cultural context.  Cafferella and Daffron emphasize this when they say, “A major skill and an art, discerning the context is an essential component that planners continually explore as they design education and training programs for adults” (p. 99).  Additionally, to point out the skills which might be required to interact with those in a position of power, the authors add, “. . . an effective planner should be a tactical agent who understands the planning situation well and is able to use a variety of power and influence tactics according to the situation” (p. 92).  I never quite realized how multi-faceted the role of the program planner could be; ranging from that of an investigator, to interpreter, to coordinator to negotiator!

Much like a swimmer should contemplate the depth of the water, the temperature and the water current before executing a dive, it is incumbent upon the program planner to assess the various environmental entities which may impact the outcome of their program planning. Thus, I find myself consumed as much with the contextual aspects of the program I am contemplating developing for this class as the content and learning structure.  Prior to “diving in” I’m trying to take a close look at the organizational structure, leadership and culture, as well as the wider environmental boundaries in which the organization exists. Finally, I realize that careful consideration must be given to entities of power and influence which may impact the success of this planning.  Taking all of this into consideration may not ensure the success of the program, however, it may serve to negate a few of the frustrations that would inevitably come were I to neglect this part of the planning process.

Caffarella and Daffron (2013) Planning Programs for Adult Learners: A Practical Guide, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

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2 Responses to Diving Into Program Design

  1. lsniestrath says:

    The component of program planning and execution that seems to allude those in training is the investigative component, When I speak with individuals about programs that they’ll present, I always ask “How do you know?” “How will you discover…?” The response is generally a baffled look and then a continuation with the remainder of the their conversation. (Yes, I always say, “Ask them!”) The idea that a program planner needs to assess the learning needs of the participants is so crucial to the success of any program.

    It’s interesting how with each Adult Learning class we develop a different a new set of lenses with which to view our personal and professional learning events. Last Saturday, I attended an all day Literacy Volunteer Training in my community. In all fairness to the organization, the training was planned and the trainers truly understood the clients that they serve. However, no assessment of those who would participate in the training occurred prior to Saturday’s event. In one of the afternoon activities, the room was so loud (no accoustics) for so long (over 2 hours) that it was very difficult to hear the leader and the discussion at the table. The environmental entities, as you suggest, did impact the outcome of the learning at my group’s table. The discussion was about a topic for which I had no experience and relatively little comfort. How can learners participate when they can’t hear? Sigh….

    I look forward to following your blogs to discover what program you will create and teach to the class. You put forth a tremendous amount of effort in planning, I know. Good Luck with those “ABO’s!”

    • Laurie, so great to hear from you! I really miss seeing you in class. Sorry to hear that you recently had a less than “rewarding” learning experience. I’m finding this class quite challenging and helpful in planning adult learning. Hope we run into one another here soon!

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