Teaching the “Top Guns” at Directors School

By Jan Geden | Posted on June 12, 2013

How does one do it?  How does one prepare to teach park and recreation professionals generally already considered at the top of their game? It might be something you’ve wondered yourself or thought about as you considered professional development opportunities.

Jan Geden, former Director of the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation and current faculty at Directors School  writes about her experiences getting ready to teach the “Top Guns” of the field of parks and recreation.  

I had no clue what to expect when I was asked to be an instructor at NRPA’s Directors School. I never attended a school at the National Training Center and had only heard about Oglebay in passing. I remember thinking this was certainly going to be an adventure. It turned out to be the experience of a lifetime. And every year I think back on that experience as I prepare for the upcoming school.

What does it take to be on the faculty of Directors School? 

To begin with, months and months of preparation – reviewing CAPRA standards, researching best practices, determining the most relevant elements of topics that usually are taught over several semesters, developing meaningful learning objectives, and determining the appropriate delivery methods to ensure maximum training impact for adult learners. Not a small task…

Adult learners – people like you reading this blog – are unique. You are motivated to learn especially when you need to solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. You want to know why the information is important and how you can immediately apply it at work.  Sound familiar?

Adult learners only retain a certain degree of information making it important to focus content on what they need to do versus what they need to know. Adult learners bring experience to the table and as a training professional I would be remiss not to recognize, acknowledge and incorporate that asset into the learning process. And finally, the adult learner can only take in what their bodies can endure so a relaxed atmosphere must be created and planned breaks incorporated. These are the things I consider as I work on my presentations for Directors School. 

But for me the most important element in my preparation is determining the best possible activities to facilitate learning. Adults are audial, visual or kinesthetic learners. They remember 10 percent of what they hear, 65 percent of what they hear and see, and 80 percent of what they hear, see and do. So off the bat I know I will lose them if I lecture for three straight hours. I also know that Directors School participants have made a significant financial investment to attend so I must include time to talk about their expectations. Then I carefully plan activities that relate to all three adult learning styles and encourage active participation, self-discovery and fun. There’s a lot to think about in the planning process but it’s all worth it when you see heads nod and light bulbs illuminate. 

Finally the last part of my preparation is practice, practice, practice. Practicing helps determine if my content logically flows and my transitions make sense. I practice out loud in my office, my car, my hotel room, in front of my dog (my best critic), any place or time I get the chance.  

Ultimately I know at Directors School I am teaching the “Top Gun” of park and recreation professionals. They are the best of the best! And the last thing they need from me is to crash and burn

What are some expectations you have when taking education sessions or professional development learning opportunities? What qualities do you think make a great learning experience for a professional already in the field? What kind of adult learner are you - audial, visual, kinesthetic or all three?

Editor’s Note: There is still time to apply for the NRPA Directors School and experience a great learning environment centered around your learning styles and dedicated faculty you can learn from. Have questions? Email the team!