Book Review: The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning

What if you were successful only 15% of the time? Would you continue  working in that line of work? Here is an example from the book The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results* by Calhoun Wick, Roy Pollock, and Andrew Jefferson, what if FedEx only got 15% of their packages to their destinations on time… would you consider FedEx successful? Probably not, yet, typical corporate training departments only have a 15% success rate for participants applying what they learned to the job. Read more

What factors affect your instruction?

Last night in class, we had a discussion about the factors necessary to take into consideration when planning a lesson. These factors affect how you will deliver a presentation and the type of strategies that you will use in the lesson.

Number of participants

What are possibilities when the number of participants changes? What strategies can you use based on number of learners? It only makes sense that the number of learners present will affect how you deliver your lesson. Working with an intimate group of learners allows for different strategies compared to presenting to a stadium crowd. Smaller groups will strengthen specific strategies, and larger groups will make different strategies more useful.

Amount of time

How does the lesson change when the amount of time changes? How long will you spend on specific topics? What strategies can you use within the time alloted? Referencing the strategies in Wlodkwoski’s book, Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults, some strategies can not be used if there is not enough time. Some strategies need a lot of time to develop and add meaning to learning, while others can be accomplished successfully in minimal time.


What can you do with the space you have? How is the instructional environment set up, and can you change it? While not impossible, it is more challenging to gather in groups if they are sitting in theater seating. Thinking about Extension, if you are talking about ranch operations, bringing learners outside makes learning more realistic and relevant than sitting indoors watching a PowerPoint presentation.

Resources available

What resources can you bring to bear? Do you have enough resources for each learner, or do you have to split them into groups? Are the resources as realistic as possible to the actual environment? Prior to World War II, the military was training warfare tactics using sticks as guns because there were not enough guns. Do you think this negatively affected learning? Rather than show a slideshow about a new piece of equipment, actually show the equipment, and letg users work with it in a hands-on activity.

Prior experience

What experience does your audience bring to the session? Is the lesson an introduction or another in a series? What is the make up of the group? Polling your learners in terms of experience is a great way to start so that you can adjust your lesson. You do not teach down to your learners, and you do not want to present material that is too far over their heads. The examples you use in the lesson also have to be relevant to learners in terms of age, race, gender, economic status, etc.  An example in class referred to the television show called “The Waltons.” Would today’s generation be able to related to the example? Also, can you leverage the experience of the learners to lead a discussion. What a learner already knows and what experience they bring to the session will affect the lesson.

Relationship with audience

Will you see the audience again? What you present to an audience you will never see again may be different to a group you work with on a weekly basis. With a regular audience, you can better tailor your lessons to fit their needs. It is a lot harder to do when you have no idea who will attend and what experience they have.

Putting together a lesson that leads to true learning when just focusing on the objectives is challenging enough. By adding these factors, the possibilities and challenges increase exponentially. Each factor provides educators with options, options that must be taken into consideration for the best learning environment.

How do you weave motivational strategies into your instructional design?

Over the past two weeks, I have been focusing on the Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching developed by Wlodkowski and Ginsberg. This framework is presented in its entirety in Wlodkowski’s book, Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults*. I have personally found this book to be inspirational and it provides 60 motivational strategies for helping adult learners get the most from a lesson.

Wlodkowski and Ginsberg incorporate four essential elements to building motivation to learn. In previous posts, I have focused on each of these elements:

It is now time to explore methods for weaving these strategies into your instruction. As Wlodkowski points out, motivation must be intentionally planned into your lesson. The strategies are to be mixed and matched, they complement each other and help to strengthen your lesson.  These strategies can be used when designing a new lesson plan or when enhancing an existing plan.

Wlodkowski encourages selecting activities based on the motivational strategies. The strategies can be used linearly; for example, including strategies from establishing inclusion and developing attitude at the beginning of the lesson, enhancing meaning during the body of the lesson, and engendering competence towards the end of the lesson. However, any strategy can be used where appropriate. Depending on the length of your curriculum, you might have to use inclusion strategies at multiple points. You might have to use assessment strategies to close different sessions throughout a workshop.

Just to provide a frame of reference, Wlodkowski spends about 20% of instruction time on inclusion strategies. In his book, he provides five examples of lesson enhanced with the motivational framework. The lessons range from 3-hour sessions to a two-day six-hour per day workshop. In the examples, Wlodkowski weaves in 10-18 strategies per day, or roughly 3.3 strategies per hour. The key is to become familiar with the strategies, understand the objectives of your lesson, and be able to assess the time for activities. It is then a matter of selecting the right activity with the proper motivational strategy to plug into the lesson.

Thanks for following along as I take a hard look at this great book. Once again, it is book that should be on every adult educator’s desk.

For more information on Raymond Wlodkowski and the motivational framework.

* In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase this item through my link I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
Plus, when you order through my link, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. 🙂 Thank you, in advance for your support!

Follow up on Adult Learning Webinar

This week, I gave three sessions on How Teaching Adults Impacts your Instruction. A number of you asked if the session was recorded. Well, it was. Here are links to the recording, as well as, the slide presentation. I hope you find them useful.



How do we assess adult learners without necessarily testing them?

In the last section of Wlodkowski’s Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching from his book Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults*, he focuses on engendering competence among adult learners. Wlodkowski poses an issue that must be resolved. First of all, adult learners want to become competence in their experiences. However, many adults are not keen about the idea of tests. They like the idea of having their competence assessed but they do not want to be tested… what is an adult educator to do?

I find this observation from Wlodkowski interesting. Personally, I find it to be true. I am currently taking two graduate level courses. In each of these courses, we are assigned a number of papers, reports, etc. and I am very content in knocking them out. However, we also have two final exams, and it is driving me crazy. If they called them something else I would have probably been ok… but they are exams.

Wlodkowski also addresses the idea of giving grades. As he points out and I agree, grades tend to be meaningless, and the threat of adults receiving a low grade can actually be a demotivator to learning. I know a number of people who have dropped a class because they worried about the grade rather than what they could learn. Assessing the learner with learning contracts, portfolios, or rubrics could strengthen this part of assessments.

Wlodkowski provides 13 strategies for assessing learning in an authentic and realistic manner. The key to assessment is will it inform the learner about their strengths and weaknesses. Here are some assessment strategies that resonated with me:

  • Strategy 48, Provide Effective Feedback – I see this as a no brainer. Feedback can be provided at anytime, and it can be used to incrementally adjust learning.  It is important to not only provide feedback when a learner is not meeting a standard of performance but also when they are exceeding it. Feedback must not only be informative but also be specific,  constructive, prompt, positive, personal, and frequent enough to aid learning.
  • Strategy 51, Use Authentic Performance Tasks to Deepen New Learning and Help Learners Proficiently Apply This Learning to Their Real Lives – Basically, this referring to performance tasks. The key is that the tasks resemble the actual real life task as much as possible. In my opinion, the Air Force did a good job in their training because they would build simulators where you could practice a task. The assessments were often conducted in the actual workplace thus adding to the realism.
  • Strategy 52, Provide Opportunities for Adults to Demonstrate Their Learning in Ways That Reflect Their Strengths and Multiple Sources of Knowing – When applying this strategy, it is important to use different types of projects, papers, reports, etc. to assess learning. These assessment types can be spread across the entire curriculum so they will not overwhelm the educator. Portfolios are ways to collect and assess these different projects.

Other strategies that may help keep adults motivated include providing constructive criticism as necessary, although I personally believe providing effective feedback is more useful. You may also want to provide incentives as  a treat to good performance. I believe it is also important to let learners know what the consequences are in regards to what they have learned and how it applies to the larger picture.

Well, I am almost done talking about Wlodkowski’s Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching. This is perhaps one of the most practical books I have found on this subject. He has provided 60 strategies that I can use to improve my instruction. In my next post, I will discuss how Wlodkowski recommends weaving these strategies into your lessons.


* In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase this item through my link I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
Plus, when you order through my link, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. 🙂 Thank you, in advance for your support!