John C. Wilkinson ('75)

I am a Teacher, I am a Consultant

John C. Wilkinson

Consulting can be terrifying, because it is not a regular job with the predictability and stability of both responsibilities and remuneration. This fact is one reason I’ve migrated back and forth between consulting and employment. Whether on my own or employed by a company, I have been asked to consult. Recently an institution needed a program to teach employees how to use a new tool to manage computers remotely. There was anxiety over the cost and whether the new program would solve the problem.

As the consultant, I was asked to help figure out a way to make the tool useful to the company. As the teacher, I created instruction and taught trainers. In time, 200 people were successful users of the new program and thousands of computer users were more productive. Consulting with clients on problems like this is satisfying to me because it is teaching.

Training in the Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology prepared me to consult. I was taught the discipline of evaluation—by which problems and the quality of solutions could be measured and described. I learned research methods, including earning what amounted to almost a minor in statistics (21 credits), which helped me think accurately about solutions.

My professors taught me to apply evaluation and research methodology to produce products that helped solve problems. I learned from Dr. Bunderson how to think about problems and solutions; from Dr. Van Mondfrans how to evaluate the impact; from Dr. Harrison how to develop solutions that work and how to exercise the discipline required for productivity. In fact, Dr. Harrison inspired me to study instructional psychology by inviting me to teach an elementary student for a few minutes every other day. I felt like I helped her solve her learning problem, and I wanted to do more of that.

Thirty years have passed, and my projects today are a lot like the experience with the fourth grade student: solving learning problems. I’m trying to figure out how health professionals in rural Nevada can learn new techniques when they are hundreds of miles away from the medical school; I’m working with a team on the development of an early childhood literacy program; I’m assisting in the creation of an installation guide for a learning management system; I’ve been asked to help create a Web site to communicate best practices for parents.

These consulting jobs with various clients are all teaching. The principles of teaching and learning play a role in everyone’s experience. I appreciate the education I received in the McKay School of Education that helped me become a consultant—a teacher.