What a Pithy: Making Classes Memorable - Karen Pryor Clicker Training
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What a Pithy: Making Classes Memorable

Kathy Sdao - Portland 2017

“Pithy” means “concisely cogent.” It describes an essential skill of the best training instructors. We work in challenging conditions: teaching two species simultaneously a series of precise physical skills, often in less-than-ideal environments. We must communicate unfamiliar concepts to our human students quickly. Explore creative ways to present this information concisely (i.e., in few words) and cogently (i.e., in a powerfully convincing way). 

Summary of Presentation

Part of the job of a pet-dog instructor is to communicate basic learning principles—about reinforcement, timing, criteria, cues, generalization, and more—to novice students. But we are limited in the amount of verbal explanations we can provide. Extended lectures lead to bored and noisy dogs. If we challenge ourselves to be creative, we can devise teaching approaches that are brief, memorable, and effective. Metaphors, analogies, parables, and anecdotes can convey broad or advanced concepts meaningfully. Cartoons can also express ideas succinctly; just think how much impact a political cartoon can have.

This presentation will be an exercise in generative thinking. It will attempt to spark your own ingenuity and give you fresh ideas for classes that may have become stale after years of repetition. Come prepared to learn innovative instructional tools that can bring life to your teaching.

Learning objectives:

1. To learn to use language in creative ways to convey jargon and complex training concepts to students

2. To become familiar with several forms of narrative devices instructors can use to simplify and clarify their information

This Session will focus on: 

Teaching as performance art

How to be “sticky” 

Metaphors and analogies 

Stories and parables

Perspective shifts


Avoiding clichés 

A few examples of concepts we can use as practice


Total run time: 1:33