Stone Soup: How to make the most in a Continuing Education Program


Lainey Feingold emailed me asking for advice about using Stone Soup in an upcoming Structured Negotiation training for lawyers and advocates from legal services organizations.  The training would include a case study and two role-play exercises.  She asked if there are some Stone Soup questions she might ask and here’s how I responded:

Thanks for your question about how you might incorporate a Stone Soup shared-learning approach in your training.  Here are some suggestions, perhaps more than you would want to include in total, but this gives you a menu to choose from.

I think that one of the best questions is about the problems that participants experience in their work.  This is a great question to ask at the beginning of a program because it can help presenters relate the material throughout the event to participants’ own experiences.  It is particularly useful for people to hear about the problems that others have, in part to validate their own similar experiences and also to alert them to problems they may not be aware of.  I think it is also a very valuable piece of information to learn and share generally.

If you debrief the simulations, as I assume you will, it can be valuable to capture people’s reactions.  In addition to any specific questions I want to ask about any particular simulation, I usually ask two general questions – what worked well (or that someone like a mediator did well) and what might be done differently.  Again, this can produce very valuable learning from experienced practitioners who can relate the simulated interactions to their real experiences.  So this is worth recording and distributing with other insights from the training.

(BTW, there is a great temptation to let simulations go for quite a while as people often want the satisfaction of completing their task.  I think that, after a while, there are diminishing returns from allowing a simulation to continue and that time would be better spent debriefing the simulation instead of letting people complete the task.  Indeed, instead of some simulations, you might prefer to present some hypothetical cases and have the audience discuss them in small groups and/or with the entire group.  This would enable you to control the time better and make sure that the discussion stays on track.)

You should also think about this as a learning opportunity for yourself.  Even though you live and breathe practice, I’m sure that there are things you still would like to know about others’ experiences and perspectives about particular issues.  What do people really do in practice?  What makes sense to them – or not — about particular problems?  What are their hopes and aspirations?  Do they use any nifty techniques you haven’t thought of?  Etc.

Think about the balance between the amount of planned material that you present and the amount that you elicit from the audience.  As presenters, it is very tempting to share our ideas indefinitely, and we could probably fill up the entire allotted time — and then some.  When the audience consists of experienced practitioners, there is a lot of value in considering them as co-presenters and not skimping on the material that they can contribute.  This not only engages them as an audience (as opposed to having them feel impatient as passive recipients of knowledge) but it also generates valuable new knowledge for them and for you.

For general suggestions about conducting, recording, and distributing information in a continuing education programs, take a look at this post.

You are hereby deputized to say that part of your training is for the Stone Soup Project, which can provide some legitimacy to your information collection and sharing.

And I would love to have you write a post for the blog, summarizing some of the things you learned in the training, both substantively about your material and/or about the process of using Stone Soup.  Your post could cover some but not all of the material you collect.  (This offer also is open to other readers of the blog.)

John Lande
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