by John Goldberg and Jeff Knorr
A quick way to design experiential learning activities using metaphors.
- To explore metaphor as a way of viewing training design
- To explore metaphors as aids in designing experiential learning activities.
- To practice using a metaphor in designing an experiential learning activity.
Four to fifty.
- A copy of the Metaphors handout for each participant.
- Paper and writing instruments for each participant.
- A flip chart and a felt-tipped marker for recording.
- Masking tape for posting flip chart sheets.
A room large enough for the groups to work without disturbing one another. Writing surfaces should be provided. Wall space is required for posting flip chart sheets.
1. Introduce the session by explaining that metaphors can be used as an aid to more quickly design experiential learning activities. Distribute the Metaphors handout. Ask participants to brainstorm a list of animals, ideas, places, and things. Allow approximately three minutes for the task. Point out that some of the brainstormed examples may fit into several categories.
2. Divide participants into small groups. Ask each group to select a topic about which they would like to design an experiential learning activity. Allow approximately 3 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 1-minute warning before calling time.
3. Ask each group to decide on the objectives for the learning activity they want to design. Objectives should be as practical and specific as possible. Allow approximately 5 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 1-minute warning before calling time.
4. Ask each group to brainstorm a list of metaphors they could use in the learning activity. Remind participants what metaphors are and how they can work. Many metaphors are direct (e.g., “Our sales group is a baseball team”.) Some metaphors extend beyond a single comparison. Allow approximately 5 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 1-minute warning before calling time.
5. Reconvene the whole group. Ask each group to share the topics they chose and the list of metaphors they brainstormed. Explain that it is likely that metaphors most useful for the purpose of designing learning activities are those that contain several categories.
6. Ask each group to choose one metaphor to use in the learning activity they will design. Allow approximately 10 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 1-minute warning before calling time.
7. Ask each group to discuss how the categories of the metaphor they chose relate to the topic of their learning activity. Allow approximately 5 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 1-minute warning before calling time.
6. Ask each group to write a brief outline of a training activity using the Metaphors handout. Tell participants that you will be available as a resource to the groups. Point out that, using the baseball team example, participants might see how on a team there are infielders and outfielders. There are those that pitch and hit and those that are utility players. Participants might also see that the infielders have a different skill set than the outfielders and that even in the infield, the third baseman has a different set of skills than the second baseman. Participants might also note that the infielders have a different personality than the outfielders. Ask participants to explore the baseball team as an extended metaphor for the sales group, having fun with how the skills, personalities, responsibilities, and strengths all combine to make things happen as a collective team. Allow approximately 30 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 5-minute warning before calling time.
7. Reconvene the whole group. Ask small groups to report about the learning activities they designed. Allow approximately 10 minutes for the task.
8. When all groups have finished reporting, ask the following questions, using flip chart sheets to record significant issues and posting the sheets as necessary:
- How did it feel to design an experiential learning activity this way?
- How were you able to use the metaphor you chose?
- What could you do in the future to make this process work better?
- How can you use what you learned today?
Present a slide show or display a poster with the list of metaphors and the elements of an experiential learning activity, rather than providing a handout.
About the Authors
John Goldberg provides training in leadership, communication, teamwork, and career and personal development. He served for seven years as Manager, Organization Development for a Fortune 500 company. John teaches at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management. He is active in the California Network of Learning Professionals. John lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.
Contact information: John Goldberg, MBA, 442 T Street, Sacramento, CA 95818-2122. Telephone: (916) 444-3353. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: JohnGoldberg.com
Jeff Knorr is the past Chair of the English department at Sacramento City College where he is Professor of Literature and Creative Writing. Throughout his teaching career he has designed curriculum and trained faculty in curriculum implementation. He is the author of six books, most recently the collection of poems, The Third Body (Cherry Grove Collections). Jeff is currently the Poet Laureate of Sacramento.
Contact information: Jeff Knorr, Sacramento City College, 3835 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento, CA95822. Telephone: (916) 558-2013. Email: email@example.com
The following are examples of categories of metaphors:
Elements of an experiential learning activity design:
- Number of Participants (can be a range)
- Time (can be a range)
- Materials Needed
- Setting (space and equipment)