Chunk, the Superhero of Learning

I recently presented at a conference with someone who has lived and breathed grantwriting for a long time. We were working over our presentation, and I found myself in the same conversation I often find myself in with experts in the field. “They need to understand this. And this. And this. And this. And this.” The thises go on and on, and I get lulled as one does when Ferris Bueller’s teacher states his absent student’s name over and over and over in a monotone voice.

5PointsGrantwritingChunk to the rescue. “Bottom line: What five things do we need people to know to be better grantwriters?” There are countless things that these newcomers to grantwriting could and possibly should know. But if we are going to move them forward, we are going to need to prioritize and simplify. Our message is better heard and internalized when we amplify these five bottom line nuggets and modulate our voice around information that pushes more experienced practitioners in their practice. In education-ese, that’s scaffolding: “Using a variety of instructional techniques to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process.” Imagine a room full of people walking up ladders with five rungs, each one placed at just the right height to move them comfortably upward.

superherochunkAs I have shared Chunk Flip Guide Laugh with people thinking about how to better teach adults, Chunk has emerged as the superhero of learning. “Your chunking approach had me rethink the book I am writing…. I came back on a mission to make sure every chapter zeros in on 3 to 5 ideas.”

Simplicity can be revolutionary. Let the chunking begin.


The start of something new

2015-09-05 16.22.03We often don’t think about why we do what we do until well after we have done it. Such was the case with Chunk, Flip, Guide, Laugh, an educational approach that I have subconsciously been developing over the past 15 years without an intentional focus on the purpose behind it. It took a colleague’s request that I share my thoughts with others for me to take the time and write them down.

In reflection, Chunk, Flip, Guide, Laugh resulted from a chunking process on the plane ride out to that talk. It was the end of the training season, and I was tired. I hadn’t packed any supporting materials and had no intention of doing a powerpoint. I asked myself: Bottom line, what do they need to know about my approach to education? Chunk became a part of my professional vocabulary after a graduate school leadership professor spent a quarter talking about how we needed to “chunk the work.” Flip is commonly associated with the “flipped classroom” and Khan academy. Guide and Laugh flowed naturally from our work with rubrics (which we call “pathways” as a friendlier word) and humor to break up such serious subjects. The notes I scribbled on that plane ride became the basis for more thinking on how we teach so adults can learn.