Published on 2012/04/13

An Effective Collaboration

—Co-written with Tom Mucciolo | President, MediaNet

An Effective Collaboration
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together requires a meeting of the minds and compromise. Photo courtesy of MediaNet.

Aside from the letter “E” what do an economist, an endodontist, and an engineer have in common? While this sounds like the beginning of a joke, the funny thing is that when it comes to communicating information, they each share the same desire — to be effective.

In early 2005, Tom Mucciolo and Leila Jahangiri, two individuals from different disciplines crossed paths, and then crossed disciplines to collaborate on a special project aimed at helping people become more effective in teaching and presenting. What makes our collaboration effective is that although our individual experiences are widely different, we share a common goal of finding ways to help teachers teach better, leaders lead better, and in the process, allow teachers to become leaders.

For many years, we have been observing the presentation and teaching skills of a number of different groups of people from a variety of fields. Tom has the advantage of more than 25 years of interacting with industry leaders, corporate executives, and government clients. Leila has nearly 20 years in academia, with a focus on education, faculty development, as well as being an experienced clinician in the healthcare profession.

From a chance meeting, we discovered that although we operated in seemingly diverse environments, we shared a common interest in effective presentations and effective teaching.

We note that teaching, leadership training, and public speaking are not dissimilar and that there are many overlapping skills.

Later in 2005 when Tom joined NYU as an adjunct faculty we first collaborated to observe select groups of instructors at New York University. The goal was to collectively evaluate the effectiveness of each faculty, in order to improve the overall quality of teaching through helpful feedback.

However, we realized that this time and resource intensive observation process may not be practical and is not a model that could be easily duplicated in other institutions or departments. It was clear that not every teacher had access to an expert or peer observer. Even if that were possible, not every instructor was comfortable being evaluated by another person on a continual basis. But beyond having a subjective evaluator, many instructors wanted clarity on the evaluation criteria itself. The question became “What am I being judged on, exactly?”

The challenge for us was in finding an agreed upon set of criteria that could be used to judge or evaluate a faculty. We believed that reaching such a consensus would require a student or learner’s perspective based on preferences. In other words, we wanted to know what learners most desired from teachers. This was the beginning of our series of studies, interviews and analyses. Later, we examined and confirmed these learner preferences with those of experts and peers.

The research to uncover learner preferences is described in detail our book, A Guide to Better Teaching, but to sum it up, a two-question, open-ended survey, asking what qualities students liked most and least in a teacher/presenter, was given to learners. Responses were coded and grouped according to similar relationships, resulting in the emergence of 21 skills or “preferred characteristics”.

The results of these findings led to the most effective part of our collaboration – developing a series of interactive assessment tools, the story of which is the subject of our next article.

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Readers Comments

Chuck Schwartz 2012/04/13 at 2:23 pm

Interesting how such variant backgrounds can come together to produce such a specific and valuable resource.

What will be in the next article??

    Leila Jahangiri 2012/04/20 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for expressing your interest. Our next article discusses the details of the interactive assessment tools that measure effectiveness across different audience types.

    You can read the article in this forum: Diary of an Electronic Assessment

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