Over my many years of teaching, training, mentoring and coaching, I have received lots of feedback. From the varied comments I get from learners, I've developed a taxonomy of anecdotal evaluations.When learners say "this was informative", they're telling me the instruction put them in a powerless position. They felt like they were being told what to think, to swallow it whole and to limit their understanding to repeating the words I said.
When learners say "this was useful", they're telling me the message is actionable. They are seeing ways to put the ideas to use, to solve problems or to handle a situation differently. From what I said and showed them, they know what to do next.When learners say "this was meaningful", they're telling me they see something in their own life differently. They make sense more creatively, reframe the problem or change their diagnosis of another person. From the ways I played with metaphors and visualized changes, they became free to change the meaning of the same old facts in their lives.
When learners say "this was life-changing", they're telling me they feel differently about themselves. The pain they were in from their past now has a purpose. The anxiety, guilt or fear that haunted them is gone. The limitation they experienced now appears as a gift to cultivate. The failure they endured is now a different way to succeed and express themselves.Life-changing learning is the most mysterious. It depends on one of those "teachable moments" where the learner is open to profound changes. The information provides pain relief, not mere vitamins. The value defies precise characterization because it runs deep into the speechless subconscious. What has changed is the learner's epistemic frame: the game she is playing, the story he is living, or the premise s/he is acting out.
When we are creating learning experiences, it's essential to think of how the learners will value what they take in. This taxonomy is one way to keep the learners' experiences in mind.