Picture from Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE).

The visionaries in this graphic are proof that incredible learning can happen remotely!  Each of these men were natural born teachers, and had magic all their own.

This four-part series will explore each TV show host-teacher, and how their methods can be applied to workplace learning.

Fred Rogers was more present virtually than most people can be in person.

The Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood show ran from 1968 – 2001, one of the longest running children’s series on PBS. He spoke directly to children, validating their feelings, and having them name, face and understand areas of emotional drama.  Many have written about the lessons adults can take from the teachings of this childhood mental health hero.  His techniques have been applied to leadership, HR and pedagogy. Teachers have adapted his methods to workplace learning, even going so far as using his set as a background!  Mr. Rogers’s methods share concepts of Instructional Design which can be applied to Workplace learning to bring powerful results.

How are Mr. Roger’s methods useful in workplace learning?

Mr. Rogers engaged children with open ended questions, asking them about their experiences, having them draw upon “prior knowledge.” He presented models and examples in “The Land of Make Believe”, and asked the children to connect these to their own experiences.  Jack Mezirow established Transformative Learning Theory in 1978, with the concept that learners’ critical self-reflection can lead to a perspective transformation. This is grounded in the foundational theory of Constructivismwhich is based on the idea that people actively create their own knowledge and understanding. Reality is determined by your experiences as a learner.  Learner-Centered instruction further acknowledges the differences in learners, encouraging a shift from the instructor controlling and creating the learning to the learner being the navigator, and taking ownership of the learning.

Mr. Rogers exemplified this to the degree that one can on TV.  While the children couldn’t direct the content on the episodes (which is at the heart of a true Learner-Centered approach), his show included enough other content (such as visiting factories and interviewing guests) that the emotional instruction was an “offering” rather than a lesson to be imparted.

Mr. Roger’s use of gentle guidance and questioning put the learner at the center of the experience. The following words were sung at the end of each episode: “I’ll be back, when the day is new, and I’ll have more ideas for you… You’ll have things you want to talk about… and I will, too.”

Mr. Rogers personified the Learner-Centered approach.

His listening and empathy were profound, allowing children to feel acknowledged without even being in the same room.

Key Takeaways:

To design like Mr. Rogers: Make the learner the center of the experience:

  1. Build open-ended questions into the learning experience.
  2. Have the learner draw upon their own experience and construct their own meaning.
  3. Allow the learner to direct and take ownership of what is learned.

To facilitate like Mr. Rogers be present:

  1. Slow down.
  2. Listen attentively.
  3. Respect the differences in the learners.

Learn more:

Come back to read rest of this four part series, that focus on: LeVar Burton, Bob Ross and then Steve Irwin.

Contact Wecksell Learning Studio, where learning theories are mindfully applied to workplace learning for measurable results.

Comment to let us know: Who are your remote instructional heroes?

4 comments

  1. Carolyn Lanzkron says:

    Great article! I particularly liked how you pointed out that Mr. Rogers’ emotional lessons were “offerings” as opposed to lectures. This is one of the many keys to his universal appeal.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  2. Marisa Marlin says:

    Terrific article! Mr. Rogers was the ultimate virtual learner. He was slow, deliberate, and had a manner that empowered those he sought to teach. Not an easy feat to grab the attention of children for 33 years. He is a great study for an incredible virtual learning experience. Part two please! 🙂

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