Picking a Topic and Goal

Marc DeArmond L2, USA

Marc DeArmond L2, USA

Picking a Topic

When you’ve made the decision to present at a conference it is most likely that you have some idea in mind of what you want to talk about. You may feel that you have a particular insight into some area of judging that is generally unexplored by others or even that you have a keen understanding of one of the more troublesome spots in a judge’s understanding of the rules. Either way you will generally start with some idea of what you want to talk about. If you’re interested in giving a presentation but don’t have any specific topics in mind, you can find a list of commonly requested topics on the judge wiki. Once you have an idea for a topic, it is time to refine it from a topic into a lesson.

From Topic to Goal

Good lessons are created through a three step process: identifying a desired result, determining acceptable evidence, and planning instruction. Rather than sitting down to begin planning a lesson by diving into the topic, it is important that we begin by deciding the point we want our participants to reach at the end of the lesson. One place this philosophy is evident is on the Submittal Form for the Knowledge Pool questions. It specifically asks not only what area is your question covering but “Why this needs to be taught/refreshed: What situation have you noticed this area to be particularly problematic in?”. This question is specifically asking what do you want people to be able to do that they may not be able to do now. This reflects focusing on the results or goal of your lesson before building the lesson itself.

Recent studies in education have shown that simply having an interesting topic does not a good lesson make. Your students may leave the seminar “thinking about things” but you can’t be sure you’ve actually given them something they can put into practice unless you know what it will look like when they’ve put your lesson into practice. Knowing that your lesson will be on recruiting new judges, or understanding layers, doesn’t get down to the issue of what you want participants to be able to do. You need to start by finding the point that you want your participants to end.

From Goal to Objective

Once you have identified the desired result you next need to determine what it looks like when someone has achieved that goal. In many conference presentations we leave the session without the presenter ever confirming that we can have learned what was intended. This is frequently because the presenter never decided what acceptable evidence of attaining the knowledge they are teaching really looks like. In education, we boil the acceptable evidence into a simple statement. These statements take the form of learning objectives that indicate what your students should be able to do by the end of the lesson. A clear learning objective could be “State the order in which layers affect the board” or “Clearly explain how time-stamps work and when they are used.” An unclear learning objective could be “understand layers better”.

Notice the difference between clear and unclear learning objective. Unclear objectives have no way to measure success and very general boundaries. They also don’t give any real designation of who the lesson is intended for. If your topic is for everybody, it’s probably for nobody. An objective aimed to help those who don’t have a strong understanding of layers in general is different from helping those who don’t have a clear understanding of time-stamps. While these two objectives could be included in a single presentation, they are two separate learning objectives. Learning objectives should specifically state what you want your students to be able to do by the end of the lesson. This can be simple things like “Correctly writing a penalty on a Match Slip” to very complex objectives such as “Properly identify an appropriate penalty from the IPG.”

A few learning objective I’ve seen from Judge Conference presentations:

  • Be able to explain the needs of several different kinds of participants involved in an event.
  • Be able to explain how public perception of you is affecting your judge personae.
  • Be able to write a cover letter that gets you accepted to events.
  • Write a solid review.
  • Have a few new tricks for dealing with agitated players.

A few bad ideas for insufficient goals and what they look like revised:

  • Judge a two-headed giant event. (We can all do this already) -> Feel confident enough to step up to head judge two-headed giant events.
  • Know layers. (Too broad) -> Recite each layer in order with a brief summary of its contents.
  • Understand the IPG. (Too general) -> Correctly apply the new HCE penalty.
  • Give a better floor ruling. (Better how?) -> Follow the 5 steps to a better floor ruling.

From Objective to Lesson

Once your goal is in place and has been transformed into an objective it becomes very easy to shape your entire presentation about furthering that objective. Frequently, a topic has many narrow passages you can take off down. A goal helps you stay on track to what you’ve deemed is important for your participants. When deciding what to include in a presentation you need only to ask, “Does this further my learning objective?”. If the answer is no, it’s primed to be cut from the presentation. If the answer is yes, then clearly you should find a spot for it. It is also important to be aware that you aren’t limited to one objective, an hour long presentation can easily fill two or three different learning objectives. But if you find yourself with a half dozen things you’re expecting people to learn in your hour lesson, you’re likely pulling yourself in too many directions. Either way, knowing and having a learning objective allows you to measure how much you want participants to walk away with and gives you some idea of how far they’ve come.

Wrap up

When you plan a lesson with your topic in mind, it really is vital to move that into a goal and learning objective. Knowing your learning objective is vital to structuring a lesson which leads to the intended goal. Starting with the objective in mind shapes your entire lesson to lead to the goal that you have set for your students. Additionally, you’ll find that once you know what you want your students to be able to do, creating the path to get them there becomes much easier and they will end up there much more often.

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