Friday, June 20, 2014

Review of 'Show Your Work' by Jane Bozarth

Review of ‘Show Your Work’ by Jane Bozarth

Rachel Burnham writes: I thought I would take a different approach to my review of Jane Bozarth’s book about ‘Working Out Loud’ or ‘Showing Your Work’ as she calls it and rather than write up my considered opinion, share with you my thoughts & feelings as I worked my way through the book.  So this is my ‘Working Out Loud’ style review. I hope you find it useful.

Day 1 – First impressions
Widely excited on opening my parcel – the book looks visually stunning with a great look & feel.  The bright blocks of colours and images immediately feel enticing – I want to start reading right now!  It feels like a coffee-table book – I experience a fleeting regret at not having a posh reception area to display such a fancy book in!

As I flick through the book, I can see that it is full of examples of people showing their work.  They seem to be from lots of different fields, so there should be something that everyone can relate to.   I’m excited and filled with anticipation – this is not like a text book.   Plus, I defy anyone to not love a book with images of ladybirds in it.

Day 2 – Back for a second look
This time I do start reading and work my way through the first three introductory sections.  These explain what ‘Showing Your work’ or ‘Working Out Loud’ is and set out the benefits both for organisations and individuals.  As I have already bought into this idea, most of this material is already familiar to me, but it would be essential background for those brand new to the topic.     

There are some great diagrams included to expand on points –  I find it very frustrating that a useful-looking diagram on ‘where to share when @ work?’ is reproduced so small, so that I cannot manage to read all the detail it includes.   I start to feel increasingly irritated by finding sections printed in white on a grey background in too small a font, which I just can’t read! Only had my eye test a few weeks ago, so doubt that it is me.  Want to lap it all up and now I can’t! 

Much of the material on reflecting won’t be new to many in L&D, but it is useful to see it linked in to the idea of Working Out Loud and it will help some to find their way in to this newer approach.

Feeling noticeably less enthusiastic after today’s reading session.

Day 3 – Reading through
The fourth section explores different ideas of what knowledge is and how our ideas of this impact of what we think of the concept of ‘Showing Our Work’.   Again, most of this is not new, but it does help to connect the practice of ‘Showing Our Work’ to the wider practice of knowledge management.

The next and largest section very quickly becomes my favourite section so far.  It includes a multiplicity of examples of people ‘Working Out Loud’ – some of these examples are reproduced in full, whilst others are short illustrations designed to inspire curiosity.   I particularly enjoy the extended example of a teacher using the RSA Animate idea as a project in a school to aid young people to develop their skills in reading & understanding a text by telling a story.   It is great to hear the teacher sharing their ups and downs through this project, identifying what worked and also what didn’t go so well, plus their ideas for improving it further - this is the heart of ‘Showing Your Work’.  And this story immediately gets me talking with some friends who do creative projects in schools about what they do & why – raising curiosity and encouraging collaboration are also just what ‘Showing Your Work’ leads to.

Another great aspect of these examples is that they illustrate both different ways of recording & sharing your ‘Working Out Loud’ and also support different reasons for choosing to ‘Work Out Loud’ eg to aid others learning the same task, to inspire others, to break down misunderstanding about roles, to see help with challenges.

I’m feeling inspired again, but also have a much clearer idea of some of the different ways that I could be using ‘Working Out Loud’.

Day 4 – Digging Deeper
I finish off reading the rest of this major section and look back over it – it does include a great range of examples.  I am conscious that I have read some of these before and that you could therefore get a good idea of what ‘Showing Your Work’ is from material readily available via the internet, which may well be enough to inform & inspire some people.  However, the book adds depth and breadth which will be of value in some organisations.

I move onto reading a section on how the L&D team can get involved in encouraging ‘Showing Your Work’ which again sets out lots of ways to make a start on this and challenges L&D to act as a role-model.

I am now so filled with enthusiasm, that I can’t help getting the book out to show a fellow L&Der whilst meeting for coffee.

Day 5 – Nearly home!
I begin reading the final section and explore a super listing of practical ways to get started with implementation.   But I find this final section less coherent and it seems to duplicate material from earlier in the book.   

The fifth & sixth sections which are packed full of examples and challenge L&D are definitely practical, inspiring and I am so glad I have them to refer back to.  I’m less convinced by the rest of the book.

Perry Timms in an exchange on Twitter asked me if I thought the book was worth the price.  I paid £22.09, so this is a question well worth asking.  I give it a ‘qualified-thumbs up’ – if you have a team who are comfortable with learning from the internet and who experiment with new ideas willingly, then you could save your money.  But if your team need some encouragement and ginger-bread crumbs, then this would be a great aid.

‘Show Your Work’ by Jane Bozarth 2014 Published by Wiley

Rachel Burnham
20 June 2014
Burnham L & D Consultancy specialises in the development of L&D professionals, blended learning and evaluation
Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

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