A Lesson on Productivity

As a designer and teacher, I love the thrill from a flash of inspiration. Here is one of those moments…

How Do you Teach Productivity?

The last couple days, I have been shadowing a facilitator to learn how she delivers instruction so that I can support her and the team with future curriculum builds. It’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had as an instructional designer. I’ve gotten to know the students and better understand the struggles of teaching in this context. I should have done it a lot sooner.

But, here I am! The first day, the facilitator covered topics including work ethic and absenteeism. After I had finished shadowing her, she shared with me an idea. She had heard of another facilitator using a paper bridge-building activity for students to learn the qualities of productivity. But she wasn’t exactly sure about the logistics, and the other facilitator was no longer employed there. Since our students are entering the trades, she wanted to emphasize that working productively takes time, effort, feedback, and many other factors. The point is to approach a task by working cooperatively and asking questions when needed to produce the most efficient results. *Cue lightbulb moment*

The First Try

After some discussion, we mapped out how we could “teach” productivity with minimal lecturing. I wrote a lesson plan in lightning speed (when motivation strikes, it strikes!) so she could review the plan before class the next day. Below is the first draft:


I designed the lesson plan very simply. In the past, lesson plans were designed for the training team. The team doesn’t use them because they didn’t have input and now find the plans difficult to read. I could tell the lesson plans were created with NAIT’s templates, which I quite like. But I stripped away some of the clutter, and focused on the basics.

I am a big fan of William Horton’s mantra for designing e-learning lessons (which I believe applies to any lesson): “Absorb, Do, Connect.” When I designed the lesson, I focused on 1) information students would need to absorb the learning experience, 2) an activity that put learning in students’ hands, and 3) a method for connecting and reflecting on the experience of using different skills they would need in the workplace.

Reflecting on the Lesson

I’m happy to report that students really enjoyed creating the bridge structures, and the facilitator and I had a blast supporting the learning experience. It might sound strange that pre-trades students are spending time “crafting,” but it’s these types of hands-on experiences that put theory to practice. Why not give students an opportunity to practice soft skills in a low-stakes environment?

We tweaked a couple minor things in class. After, we reflected on the lesson, and I made some adjustments. Here is the revised version:


What I like most is that the lesson incorporates game elements (time limit, restriction of materials, competition) while instilling cooperation and play. Many of the students had never worked with their group members, so it was a good opportunity for students to work with students who they don’t naturally gravitate toward.

Here are the four finished products:

It was difficult for most students to provide constructive feedback to their peers, but I think this was a good opportunity to practice!

Final Thoughts

In my initial planning, I thought it would take students 15 minutes to build the bridges. I’m glad we changed that number to 30 minutes before the class started. This lesson took a solid hour and a half. While this might sound like a long time, we covered so many concepts and hands-on skills in this block!

Once again, this affirms that it’s more important to design a learning experience than cover content. To be honest, students won’t really remember the content. But they will remember what it felt like to connect with their peers, give and receive feedback, be vulnerable and share their ideas, and contribute to a team to finish something. The process was as important as the final product!

Finally, I’m so glad that I sat down once again with the facilitator after I adjusted the lesson plan. We changed a few points, and made sure each point was as clear as possible, so that someone who had never taught this lesson could do so by themselves. It’s clear to me that designing something isn’t enough. Buy-in and being included in the process are musts!

For Next Time

  1. After reading Cult of Pedagogy’s post on discussion strategies, I realized the “discussion” aspect of my lesson plan is lacking direction. It’s important to consider how all students can contribute to the conversation, and also consider strategies ahead of time so the facilitator doesn’t end up discussing the topic for students. I like that I applied reflective writing in the lesson, but next time I would consider adding a discussion strategy from the link above. This would help avoid fisheye syndrome.

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