Friday, March 26, 2010

Keep the Discussion on Track

I attended the 2010 HVACR & Plumbing Instructor Workshop at the National Conference Center in Landsdowne, VA this past week. This past couple of weeks has been both tiring and rewarding. I often pick up ideas and teaching tips just by watching other people work. I went to see Wes Davis of ACCA discuss system efficiency and picked up a simple and effective idea for handling questions that could possibly sidetrack the discussion. I am particularly bad about exploring questions and ideas that students pose during my lectures because my lectures are often more discussions than lectures. However, if the discussion gets too far away from the outline, you run the risk of missing important points and losing most of your audience while you are engaging in exploratory oratory. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you should encourage questions. However, it is important to also keep the discussion moving forward in an organized and logical manner. Wes had a large flip chart with the title Parking Lot at the top. Whenever a question came up that did not fit well into the flow of the lecture, he wrote it down in the parking lot. The idea is to acknowledge the question and come back to it, while avoiding a possibly distracting trip down a side alley of thought. I noticed that many of the parking lot questions were eventually answered later on in his presentation. He addressed the ones that were left at the end, and this discussion created more questions and discussion. Putting questions in the parking lot allowed the flow of the presentation to continue while still encouraging questions. Actually writing the questions down insured they would be addressed and showed that he was not just dismissing the questions. Then when the questions were addressed it seemed to get the group’s juices flowing and created lively discussion. There were many good power point presentations that will be put up on the CARE website. You have to be a member of CARE to see many of them, but one good power point presentation is worth the $25 cost of joining CARE. I would recommend that you join CARE and go to the resources they have on their site for their members. The CARE website is

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