A new Path, a new goal

We continue our travel through the ideas of our members who have had the chance to try both the Competent Communicator classic manual and Pathway.

This time, it is Moira Beaton, DTM, to tell us about her impressions between the previous and the current program.

“As an active member of Toastmasters since July 2004, I had been fully immersed in the traditional education programme and reached Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) status in 2011. Many DTMs start again by delivering speeches and earning the same awards all over again. I decided to explore the advanced manuals I hadn’t already completed.  It was interesting but meant I had no clear goals, and no awards to pursue.

I hadn’t been completely idle, though. I took on leadership roles in the clubs and District 71, took part in contests, looked after the club website and written blog posts for the club and for the division. But, something was missing – a greater challenge.

Then along came Pathways and, in 2017, I became a Pathways Guide. This entailed attending online webinars hosted by Toastmasters International, visiting clubs in Division S to deliver presentations about Pathways, hosting weekly virtual webinars for club VPEs, answering members’ questions and, generally, be available to help with the changeover. This meant that not only was I helping the clubs but I was also gaining in-depth knowledge about how Pathways works.

Change isn’t easy and members greeted the new programme with mixed feelings. Some looked forward to the challenge, some viewed it with suspicion, and some didn’t want to hear about it at all. Like anything, it has its pros and cons. Here’s my view:

On the positive side:

  • Pathways is more focused on the member’s individual needs. With ten Paths to choose from, members start off by taking an assessment to help them choose the Path that’s right for them. In the traditional system, all members work from the same set of manuals with the same projects and objectives.
  • Pathways is delivered online although you can request printed materials. It’s available twenty-four hours a day, on multiple digital devices and members have access to their Path, projects, information, videos, and tutorials. And you can start straight away after you join – no waiting for manuals to arrive by post.
  • Members have to take more responsibility for their own learning. Pathways forces you to stop and consider your speaking abilities by completing a short questionnaire at the beginning and end of every project.
  • Evaluations are more targeted – there are individual evaluation forms for every project, all easily downloaded. And they have easy-to-score evaluation criteria to help you evaluate.
  • There is more emphasis on mentoring and it’s an integral part of the learning, more so than in the traditional programme.
  • DTM – you now have to undertake a ‘capstone’ project before you can become a Distinguished Toastmaster rather than reach DTM status by default after you have completed multiple awards, as you can under the traditional programme.

On the negative side:

  • There is a lot of information on Basecamp to help members navigate through the programme and that can be confusing.
  • Members need more time and focus to understand the projects than they did when all you had was one manual. You can miss an important step if you’re not careful, e.g. Level One, Project Two – Evaluation and Feedback states you have to deliver two speeches and one evaluation and the evaluation has to be evaluated like a 2-3 minute speech with a designated evaluator.
  • The Paths lean heavily toward communication and leadership with only one Path – Presentation Mastery – focussing solely on communication skills.
  • Pathways is an online programme, although printed materials are available, and that may be difficult for those who don’t use a computer. However, club officers and members can often help with downloading materials.

On the whole, I think the introduction of Pathways was a necessary step that Toastmasters International had to take. It had the difficult task of bringing the organisation up to date with the ever-increasing desire for online learning and, at the same time, continuing the legacy of its founder, Ralph C. Smedley.

I think Ralph would approve of Pathways because he was an innovator and, although the vehicle that delivers the learning has changed, the heart of Toastmasters – the club meeting – has not changed. When he first had the idea of teaching communication skills in a club rather than in a traditional adult-learning class, he said it was because “we learn best in moments of enjoyment”. That’s still the aim of Toastmasters – enjoyable club meetings where members learn skills and put their learning into practice. And I’m sure Pathways won’t change that.”

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