Building a Checklist to Help Observers Mentor Instructors

At RSM, most of our instructors are volunteers who spend the rest of the year doing their jobs as auditors, consultants, or tax advisers. For most of them, the only formal instruction they’ve had for how to be a great teacher is our internal two-and-half-day introduction to facilitation course.

Our instructors take their role seriously and they do a great job. We are interested in giving them the tools to grow as instructors and become even better. The big question here is, “what separates a good teacher from a great one?” Without first defining where we want instructors to get to, it would be impossible to build scaffolding to help them get there.

We couldn’t find a pre-made rubric that defines various skill levels of instructors, which suggests either we didn’t look hard enough, or that the task is impossible. In any case, we sat down to write one and came up with 24 skills that define instructors.

  • Voice, from difficult to hear to animated.
  • Tone, from visibly unhappy to be there to conveying a real love of the content.
  • Eyes, from reading off the slides to knowing the material so well that they never have to really look at the slides.
  • Body language, from rigid to purposeful movement.
  • Personal experiences, from using up time telling irrelevant stories to meaningfully injecting your own experiences to bring the content alive.
  • Personal enhancements to the leader guide, from injecting the course with time-wasting gimmicks to giving a course instructionally meaningful flourishes.
  • Confidence, from an undermining lack of confidence to an offputting arrogance to finding a balance of confidence and humility.
  • Respect, from acting disrespectfully to passive respect to active respect for course participants.
  • Situational awareness, from doing whatever the leader guide says no matter what to taking steps to meaningfully gauging whether participants are learning and getting what they need.
  • Clock management, from panicking and skipping the most instructionally useful content (valuing coverage over learning) to making good choices in the face of limited time.
  • Disruption management, from ignoring blatant disruptions to dealing elegantly with distracting behaviors by participants.
  • Support of co-instructor, from being absent when your co-instructor is teaching to actively contributing (but not overcontributing) useful clarifications.
  • Support during small group work, from using that time for prep work to actively working with groups to challenge them and ensure they are working effectively.
  • Networking support, from doing nothing to help participants network to actively facilitating networking (often, the connections you make are more important than the course content).
  • Dealing with diversity of participant experience, from assuming everyone has the same level of knowledge and skills to actively figuring out what diversity exists and dealing effectively with it.
  • Technical accuracy, from making significant content errors to conveying information elegantly, suggesting deep insights into the subject matter.
  • Technical empathy, from speaking way over the heads of participants to drawing analogies to content that they know well (schema theory applied).
  • Professionalism, from demonstrating or boasting of behavior that would be inappropriate for participants, to consistently acting in a professional manner.
  • Organizational advocacy, from criticizing the sponsoring organization to actively supporting it.
  • Coaching less experienced co-instructors, from embarrassing co-instructors while they teach to to providing active, discreet coaching.
  • Connecting content to strategic initiatives of sponsoring organization, from drawing no connections to drawing connections that show insightful understanding of the strategic goals and models of the firm.
  • Technology, from frequent avoidable mishaps to seamless incorporation.

Obviously, not all of these will apply to situations outside of internal professional services training.

What am I missing? What are the visible behaviors of excellent instructors that should be on this list?


3 thoughts on “Building a Checklist to Help Observers Mentor Instructors

  1. Ellen

    I believe that your instructors are using presentation materials that the company has provided, and since you are there, I’m sure they are good. But at the U of M, I would add to the list something about the ubiquitous Powerpoint slides, from “illegible due to color combos or text size, etc.” to “trying to include every word of the lecture (and then reading the slide)” to “effective and clear, providing high points, summaries, or useful graphics.” My favorite way for a prof to use Powerpoint is to make the slides available before class, so I can print them in “notes” format and annotate the slides during lecture.

    Another not applicable in your situation, I think: Uses copyright material ethically. “Scans and posts entire book” (He claimed that he thought it was out of print; he didn’t know (he said) that it had recently been reissued.). Or “scans book chapter and posts on Moodle without identifying the source, except for the title of the chapter.” Or “knows and follows fair usage law and checks with library staff if not sure.”

    1. robertmulcahy Post author

      Thanks, Ellen! As you sensed, I am trying to separate out instruction from design, which is a little strained because in most cases they are normally intertwined. We do have a use case of SMEs who develop and teach their own courses; I believe eventually we will put together an expanded set of principles for that case, which would incorporate everything you note (and a great deal more).

  2. Pingback: Be Careful Using Radio Buttons in Excel | Engaged

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