Trainer's Notebook: The Feng Shui of Good Teaching and Learning | Beth's Blog

Trainer’s Notebook: The Feng Shui of Good Teaching and Learning

Instructional Design, Trainer's Notebook

All of my work these days is focused on designing and delivering effective training for nonprofits -primarily on the topics of social media, strategy, networks, and measurement.  I’m also doing a lot of training of other trainers.   So, expect to see regular reflections on good instructional design and delivery for any topic, but especially technology related.

Feng Shui is an ancient art and science developed many years ago in China.   The practices are intended to balance the energies of any given space to assure health and good fortune for people inhabiting it.   This is a very important concept for instructional design -the way the room is set up effects how people learn.    I strongly believe that a workshop, panel, master class, or even a keynote that is interactive is more engaging, people pay attention, they make connections to what they already know and are far more likely to apply it.   Certain room set ups encourage interaction between the participants and the workshop leader, others do not.

Last week I designed and facilitated a day and half  session for the Nonprofit Leadership Institute co-sponsored every year by Pepperdine University Nonprofit Management program and Ventura County Community Foundation.   The event kicks off a semester long internship for students working with nonprofits.  The design was intended to create an opportunity for cross-generational learning, peer sharing, and lots of interaction and it was exciting to work with faculty members to design the lesson plan.  The first day was a master class included content and interactive exercises for the nonprofit develop a network strategy, integrated marketing strategy that incorporate social media, measurement, and culture change.    The second day was for the students and nonprofit mentors and focused on thinking about a career path in the nonprofit sector.    It kicked off with a keynote, followed by a world cafe.

I had my ideal training Fung Shui — roundtables in a room with space to move around, projection, the ability to move the group outside for some of the sessions, and wall space to showcase the products of learning.

You don’t always have flexibility in room set up and I have found myself “hacking” the physical space (moving around furniture) to create an environment that invites interactivity, peer learning, and engagement.   I designed and facilitated a peer learning workshop at SXSW last week.   While the room was set up as theatre or “military” style, there was enough room for people to do small group interactive exercises without feeling chained to their seats with attention totally on the instructor.

The room also accommodated small groups to go more in depth on topics discussed during the workshop and since the seats were not fixed, there was not a barrier to peer learning.

I did a measurement workshop at SXSW and we were in a traditional college lecture hall – fixed seating that rises, desks on the seats, and no room for small group interaction.    It takes a little bit of hacking to create some interaction, but it was a challenge.

How does the room set up support or fight your instructional design?

8 Responses

  1. Susan says:

    Love your article! As a long time Feng Shui practitioner, I apply these concepts to the trainings and events I coordinate. I work with Dena & Lauren at VCCF and was sorry I missed the event at Pepperdine and meeting you. Hopefully we can put together another training sometime in the near future!

  2. Beth says:

    Susan, what specifically have you learned from Feng Shui that you’ave applied to events? Would love to know

  3. Great post Beth!

    Wall space, wall space, wall space! And walls that you can actually tape paper to. Being able to access the walls without having to stack all the chairs out of the way would be brilliant too.

    I do a lot of training in hotels and clearly they have been designed for traditional bums in seats types training and banquet style events. Drives me slightly nutz. I have lately discovered that the newer libraries have excellent rooms available for training. Pretty stoked about that 🙂


  4. Beth Kanter says:

    Jamie – yes, definitely – wall space and always keep a roll of masking tape in my purse too!

  5. Beth says:

    A good response blog post from Marti who is also a teacher:

    His preference for room set up varies by number of participants. This gives me an idea to create a little chart for myself with room set up preferences and number of participants

  6. Interesting post, Beth.
    The classroom setting is my least favorite. If possible, I like having first part of training in a room with no computers, sitting in a U shape but without tables. After that, switching to hands-on in a classroom.

  7. Beth says:

    Thanks Ma’ayan – I hate doing hands on computer training in a lab because they are usually not well ventilated or please .. and usually in military style … but I love creating on the fly laptop labs … in great spaces.