Tip #147: Teaching in a University Degree Program

During the years I had been teaching in the evenings for UW-Madison Extension and the Madison Area Technical College, I had held down a day job working for the State of Wisconsin in personnel management. Therefore, when I saw that Cardinal Stritch College was looking for ad hoc instructors for their Continuing Education Programs for Adults, I felt confident enough to apply. They required a Masters Degree, which I had earned at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Once my application and resume had been accepted, the next stage of the selection process was to present a ten minute program. I think I may have done mine on Win-Win Negotiation, incorporating all that I had learned from my studies with Dr. Madeline Hunter to make the training educational, interactive, and entertaining. I know I brought koosh balls and bowls of candy, as well as my colored cartoon overheads.

It was quite an education to sit in on all of the presentations. I was amazed to see how much a ten minute presentation revealed about a trainer’s skills! Later, when I interviewed trainers for my own company, Laurel and Associates, Ltd. ., I remembered and used this process. From that point on, all of my skill-building training programs (in communication, presentation, facilitation, negotiation, conflict management, assertiveness, and train-the-trainer, etc.) have included skills practice for ten minutes.

I was delighted to join the ad hoc faculty to teach in the first evening continuing education program in management for adults that was offered in the Madison area. Cardinal Stritch offered an Associate Degree, a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Science degree. The program involved four-hour sessions offered weekly for 56 weeks. The students took one course at a time, with each course lasting for four sessions. I was hired to teach two courses for the Masters of Science in Management program: the very first academic course they received, which was Personnel Management- and one of the last, which was Organizational Development. I also taught the very first session that students in all of the programs attended: Orientation.

The students were all working adults, ranging in age from their middle twenties to their late fifties. They came from all over the area, some driving more than an hour one way to attend the classes, which ran from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

I learned so much from them:

First, that they were creatures of habit. When I returned to teach the last class, they were all still seated in the same arrangement they had assumed over 50 weeks prior!

Second, because of the travel and class time, many were tired and hungry. I found that encouraging them to bring something to eat and giving them ten minute breaks every hour kept them much more alert. It wasn’t until much much later that I learned that the brain gets saturated after fifty minutes and needs that time to relax and reboot.

Third, they were already living and working what we were teaching. The classes only served to give them a common vocabulary to discuss their experience. Their examples and stories brought every management principle to life.

Fourth, given the opportunity to propose questions for their examinations, they came up with questions MUCH harder than anything I would have asked!

Fifth, once they had reviewed the class and homework requirements for earning an A, a B, or a C in the course, almost every one of them contracted for an A and achieved it. They proved the power of setting goals and accepting personal responsibility for their own learning.

Sixth, they did a terrific job on their research papers, continually teaching me new information, new perspectives, and new applications.

Seventh, that four hours was a good period of time for learning.

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