CSAR – Better Training – Faster!

I’m a bit weird. As much as I love delivering training, I’d still rather design it. I love Instructional Design and have developed a passionate desire to assist others to create better, more effective and outcome-focused workshops, E-Learning, coaching sessions etc. How? By looking at how we write them.

The way I look at it, if you do a thorough learning needs analysis, it’s very hard to get content wrong when you’re designing training. But that’s only the half of it. That’s like a Hollywood studio saying “As long as there are superheros in the movie, it’ll do well and get great reviews!” I saw Batman VS Superman, so I know that isn’t true (or is that just my opinion?).

Structure as well as content

Along with great content, you need great structure. That’s what I created CSAR to achieve. CSAR is a simple, practical writer’s model for structuring any workshop, of any length, on any topic. If you follow the model and apply a couple of extra, suggested “rules”, then you can design learner-centred, engaging, 10-20-70-ready training without a lot of time and effort.

You literally pick the next CSAR box to fill with all that training goodness!

Being a writing and structural model, CSAR supports, and even encourages, that you go to town with everything you know and believe about adult learning styles and principles, neuro-centred learning etc. It organises all those training quality elements for you, allowing the learner to truly experience their benefits.

CSAR is an acronym for one of the oldest, most practical and tried and true learning design processes in history. I first encountered this structure in the early 1980s as I trained to be a high school teacher, but it goes back further than that. Each letter stands for what I call a different, essential “learner state”. They goes like this:

Imagine you want a group to learn then explore a model for priority management.

  1. First, we create Curiosity. That’s right, before we show the group our new model, we do something that gets them to desire knowing it.
  2. Next, now that the group is curious, we show them the priority management model – simply, clearly, calmly. In other words, we allow them to use their natural power of Study.
  3. Now we play! We use the model in some practical Application. For example, the group could analyse the busiest hour from yesterday and work out if they prioritised effectively.
  4. Finally, we ask the group to use their powers of Reflection, so that they can work out how to implement, use and benefit from the new model in their working future.

CSAR is designed to support and organise everything you currently know and believe

You can fill any of these quadrants with any of the current training strategies you currently use, or try out new ones. That’s what the model encourages – creative, open, strategic instructional design! The boxes are literally there to fill!

Using CSAR, I’ve seem novice, first-time training designers structure up to a half day of training in less than 15 minutes with punchy sections of information, varied, engaging activities and focused sections of reflection and discussion. The design “rules” I mentioned earlier make this especially easy.

CSAR is for training delivery as well

The CSAR model supports how the trainer does their job as well.  Because each quadrant has a clear strategic purpose, it suggests a mode of trainer communication to support it:

CURIOSITY = Learner emotion and fascination. This suggests a motivational speaking style of communication.

STUDY = Learner rationality and calmness. This suggests a somewhat restrained-yet-warm teaching approach.

APPLICATION = Learner activity and exploration. This suggests a supportive, coaching approach.

REFLECTION = Learner identification, open thinking, strategizing etc. This suggests a facilitator’s skill set.

In my experience of working with and observing many trainers and facilitators, very few of us, including me, use all 4 communication methods equally – i.e. consistently switching styles to remain continuously in sync with the learner state suggested in the program design.

I remember when first I assessed myself as a facilitator using CSAR. For the first time I had some objective development challenges to improve myself in the training room. The formal and informal evaluation data I have received since suggests I have improved my performance a lot. Finally, I can pull back my extroversion and truly support the learner’s Study state. This saves a lot of time and reduces learner confusion!

I even colour code my workshop leader’s guides to assist trainers to know exactly what learner state I’m designing for at any point in a workshop. It can’t hurt the trainer knowing this, right?

So that’s it. There’s still more to learn about CSAR and how to design with it, but in truth, probably less than you think.

CSAR – Better Training – Faster!
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