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.

Bob Ross taught skills one happy cloud at a time.

Bob Ross was the host of The Joy of Painting, an instructional television show that aired on PBS, from 1983 – 1994. Bob Ross demonstrated with each brush stroke how to paint landscapes in oil. Watching him show us how to create “happy clouds” in his calm yet upbeat way was deeply satisfying. He taught specific techniques for landscape painting, by showing how to make key elements, such as sky, trees and clouds.

How could Bob Ross’s methods be used in workplace learning?

Bob Ross’ consistency and demonstration of skills set his instruction apart. Observational Learning is a subset of Social Learning Theory, and describes the learning from watching and mimicking the behaviors of others. Techniques of Observational Learning include modeling, shaping and chaining. Observational learning is common with children as they tend to naturally to copy adults. However Observational Learning can be used to teach on-the-job skills.

New skills are often developed by shadowing– for example, having a new hire observe a more experienced employee doing the job. Video tutorials and recorded screen captures are also forms of Observational Learning. But not all experienced employees are natural teachers like Bob Ross. And not all recorded software simulations are broken into the right-sized “chunks” to promote learning.  Instructional Designers should perform a detailed Task Analysis and “chunking”. Chunking is a way of breaking the content into key pieces and ordering them so that they are more “digestible” to the learner.  Bob Ross taught painting one “happy tree” at a time.

Another reason Bob Ross was so consistent was because of his impeccable planning of the show, down to the word and making 3 copies of each painting for each show. Making facilitation look spontaneous and effortless takes a great deal of planning!  Planning, prepping and storyboarding are key factors to quality workplace learning design and facilitation.

Key Takeaways

To design instruction like Bob Ross:

  1. Include demonstrations or simulations. Provide guides to support workplace shadowing.
  2. Break up material into logical, well-ordered “chunks.”
  3. Prototype your learning assets.

To facilitate like Bob Ross:

  1. Plan each lesson in as much detail as you can.
  2. Be prepared for each class or session, and show up with all the tools and supplies- this includes all the digital media for a presentation.
  3. Having planned and prepared, relax and project a calm yet upbeat attitude during the session.

Learn more:

Check out the rest of this four part series!

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

Comment to let us know: Have you ever had shadowed someone as part of on the job training? Was it effective?

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