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Dishwasher - communication lessons

After months of washing up by hand we have replaced our dead dishwasher. Although not a top of the range model, it came with a 40 page handbook. I scanned or tried to scan the relevant sections. We loaded it but noticed the rotating part (the thingy?) was hitting the plates on the lower shelf. How to fix this? We also noticed that the dishwasher had 6 programmes. Which to use? The manual seemed to offer nothing - at least as far as I could tell from the contents page and re-reading the relevant sections. It just said ‘select the relevant programme.' Yes, that's great, but how?

You will be pleased to know that we have resolved both issues: there is a description of each programme hiding in pIain sight on the inside door of the dishwasher. There was also an excellent 2 minute YouTube clip showing us how to raise the top shelf. Problem solved.

I wonder what our struggles with the dishwasher tells us about communicating, training, teaching. So here are some brief reflections:

1. First it is important that we answer the questions that people are asking. There was a vast array of information in the manual but nothing like the 'quick start' guide with screenshots that we might get on a new printer for instance. There was no FAQs. As teachers we are generally good at knowing where our classes are. As CPD trainers we are probably less good at this and, particularly working online, we don't always have much information about our audience. Of course we may also have different people at very different points. Start where people are.

2. Second we have to be mindful of the amount of information we are providing. I believe the fancy word for this is Cognitive Load. This can make it difficult for people to see the wood for the trees. So what are the 2-3 key messages or ideas? Whilst I hope we have moved on from the days of timed limits on teacher talk, we do generally know when our class has taken on board too much, so we chunk things accordingly. We are not always as good at this as trainers (I include myself here), we have to wary of wading through slide after slide of explanation particularly if we are aiming for learning rather than merely imparting news or information. Too much in one go tends to overwhelm people.

3. Finally what the Youtube video did was to reinforce the importance of modelling. There are times when showing how something is done is far better than telling. This is particularly true when we are encountering a topic where we are not an expert. As teachers and trainers we are experts in what we are delivering; we may think what we are saying is obvious - we forget what it is like to be in the novices’ shoes. We are dishwasher novices. The combination of a few words and the simple step by step Youtube tutorial provided a model that could be followed in a way that 40 pages of dense manual did not. Seeing someone else doing it meant we were then able to have a go ourselves.

There is probably more that could be said but I have to go now and load some dishes...

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