AOG: Primed for Learning

    Hello friend, I'm Kathryn and I'm a learner, a teacher and a reader. I design professional learning for educators, so the question I'm working to answer is how can I apply what I've read to the sessions I create and facilitate.

    Today, I'm reflecting on a tiny part of one of my favorite books, The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I first heard about this book during an interview with Priya on the podcast, Curious Minds with Gayle Allen. So I've been thinking about how to implement ideas from this book since 2018. During that original podcast interview, Priya shared a story that was her motivation behind chapter five, Never Start a Funeral with Logistics.

    Her story had a huge, immediate impact on how I start my professional learning session. And I want to take a deeper dive into all the ideas in that chapter, but I'm starting with priming. In the book, Priya suggests that your gathering begins as soon as others hear about your event or when they receive the invitation, not when they walk into your door.

    She calls this the moment of discovery. So how can we prime our guest for our event before the gathering actually happens? For my professional learning sessions, that moment of discovery might be when participants read the session description in our organization's calendar, when someone sees a tweet advertising the session, or when a colleague forwards some information.

    I've thought a lot about this moment of discovery, and I know I can make it more impactful, but one small change I've made is to work on my session details and description in our registration platform. I've added specifics about the session's purpose, the audience, and level of expertise. There are some constraints with our program, but I've worked to format the details with headings and font colors too. I also consider what kind of confirmation email participants receive.

    Priya also says priming is part of a social contract and provides an opportunity to share what will be expected when you say yes to the invitation. So in my session description, I also mention what participants will do: they will be joining breakout rooms, reflecting individually, following along with an app, creating a video and so on.

    And that gives everyone a better idea about the expectations of the session. One idea where I need some help is how I can use naming as priming. Priya reminds us that the name signals expectations of the gathering. So how can I create titles that convey the purpose of a session? There's a big difference between a meeting, a workshop or a brainstorming session.

    In The Art of Gathering Book, she shares examples of the names Community Table versus Office Hours, or Visioning Lab versus Workshop. Artist Mixer was not well-received but Happy Hour was, so how can I get more creative and descriptive with my session titles? Formative Assessments with Google Forms needs a lot of help.

    One other idea that I've utilized to prime session participants is to send a pre email. The email may contain some logistics, but I often include a pre task related to the content of the session. I might also include a way to build community or provide a few more details about the learning experience.

    My friend Laura is even including an image of one of her sessions slides, so her pre emails really look like invitations to the learning experience, so that's one next step for me. So what am I missing? What else can I do to enhance that moment of discovery? How else can I prime session participants for our learning experience?

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