The Tyranny of Goal-Setting

A combination of writing Learning Objectives at work, and hearing people talk about either NOT setting New Years resolutions, or HOW to create good ones has got me thinking about the tyranny of goal-setting.

I regularly use and talk about the SMART model in my work (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Based, in case it’s a model you’ve not heard or have forgotten about it’s so old).

But sometimes that gets in the way of the big audacious, fuzzy, exploratory goals. So this year I’m going to make more conscious decisions about when they have to be precise, and when they have to be fuzzy.


Experiential Learning in Yoga

I had a job interview last week, in which one of the questions was about experiential learning. My answer was incomplete, as job interview answers always are (seriously, I need Hermione’s Time Turner. Please?), but it go me thinking about Yoga.

I’ve been doing Yoga with some regularity for about seven years, and every once in a while, I realize how far I’ve come in terms of strength, awareness of my body and balance. But I digress.

My favourite yoga teacher at my favourite yoga studio is Emily. I’m on to her approach now: in an 80 minute class, the first two-thirds are poses that are accessible to intermediate students. Some refinement is needed, but these are poses I know. Poses that I practice, refine and improve. It’s familiar learning. And then sometimes at the end, she’ll point out that all that was in prep for a pose that is advanced; a surprise culmination of what we’ve been working doing.

What she’s done is broken down a complex and intimidating pose (a performative task) into smaller, achievable goals that we’ve already demonstrated mastery over. She takes all these successes and together they form a stretch goal (pun entirely intended). And sometimes I fail at the stretch goal, but I see how it fits together and how my building blocks are improving and how they fit into the developement of a more advanced knowledge and mastery.

So in conclusion to my interviewers; experiential learning is partly about breaking down a task in to smaller components, and then having the learner demonstrate mastery of those steps though repetition and refinement, until they can culminate in the practice of the summative evaluation.


What does a good day look like?

I had a job interview yesterday, and one of the questions was “what does a good day look like?” I’d not thought of that before, and it’s SUCH a good question. My initial (insufficient) answer was:

  1. Opportunity to casually throw around an idea or process with a colleague; not a debate, but a series of “what ifs”and “what abouts”
  2. Putting on my headphones and deep focussing on something, be it writing or planning.


And I think both of those things are true, I’d elaborate. It’s about;

  1. Brainstorming: the bouncing around ideas with a colleague OR members of the larger community (I just participated in an #npmc Twitter Chat, for example), but what’s important is the feeling of excitement and of new possibilities.
  2. Puzzle-Solving: Figuring out a knotty problem (I’ve been known to fist pump in my office!), outlining a project plan, writing some beautiful prose, editing some prose to be half the size!


An even shorter summary: ideas and implementation.

Desk Discoveries

I found this sticky note – I’m sure it’s an interesting idea, but I can’t decipher some of the key words and the list is a mixed bag of platforms, media and outcomes. What was I trying to work through?!

I’ve experimented with print notebooks, online notetaking, an office whiteboard and of course sticky notes to track ideas and process.

Maybe I should work on my penmanship.

Key accomplishments

I’m looking for work now (our operational contract was not renewed, so we’re winding things down), and thinking about key accomplishments.

Accomplishments can get lost in the daily gains and losses at work. I can see the lost opportunities, and things I want to get done so clearly, but it’s worth celebrating the success, too. What is the norm now, wasn’t necessarily there 5 years ago.

When I started here, our communications strategy was adhoc, off the side of a few desks, and I’ve slowly modernized and formalized our approaches.

  • Visual Consistency: We have consistent branding for our different resource areas, and we use these logos throughout the website, print materials and emails. We’re creating visual reminders for people.
  • Feedback: We’ve always used evaluation forms for our live events, but now we summarize them into one Excel spreadsheet, which includes key quotes from participants that I can use for our marketing materials.
  • Infographics: We reach big in the office, which means that we can’t do it all. A few years ago we ran out of time to do a public Annual Report, so I took the stats from our funder and Board reports to create one-page Infographics:
  • Writing: we have a style guide and checklist for our online and print materials, so that we remember that all print materials need the month/year for example. We always know which is the most current.
  • Social Media: from nearly nothing, we now reach up to 6,000 people a week through Facebook.
  • Strategy: Also known as the “If Amy Gets Hit By a Truck” document; what we use, why and where it all is, our Communications Inventory 2017.
  • Analytics: Beyond the number of visits is a wealth of information. Where do people land? Where do they do next? Do our newsletters drive traffic to the website (spoiler: yes).

And more, but that’s a good summary for now.

Asking for feedback; not just for annual surveys

Inspired by a #NPMC chat on twitter today, I’m reviving a dormant goal I had for my online videos project.

I’m proposing incorporating a one question poll into our monthly newsletter; low-stakes, it’s a means of collecting feedback from the larger community. I hope that the questions would help recipients reflect, normalize their own questions and fears, and direct them towards resources.

I can use Google Forms to embed it right in the email, and the following month, suggest resources related to the answers.

What’s New?

George Siemans writes an article that captures one of my personal pet peeves – the ideas that this generation is “astonishingly unique”. Some time ago my grandmother sent me a copy of the valedictorian address that she wrote in in the 1930s. She spoke of the world that her generation were facing, their responsibilities and how the world was entirely different from her parents world. My father could have written nearly the same speech 25 years later, and so on.

George has taken this idea and written a blog posting on the skills an effective educator needs (regardless of the year, decade or century):

A few things that struck me was the need for experimentation. I feel sometimes that I’m asked for the perfect blueprint. It’s not that. It takes reflection on your own process and results. The learners need autonomy: have your learners lost that drive to ask and experiment? What patterns have they learned throughout the years of schooling?

It’s a nice concise look at the de-contextualized skills that are needed.

Cross-posted at: