Friday, February 12, 2016

SLIG 2016 Review: Solving Problems Like A Professional

This is part of my ongoing series featuring guest authors who have agreed to review one of the courses offered at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. I am excited to to have these friends share their perspective on the institute and the education they received. This one is written by Mike Bronner on the newest SLIG course offered in 2016. 

SLIG 2016 In Review: Solving Problems Like A Professional

Instructors: Michael G. Hait, CG; Catherine Becker Wiest Desmarais, CG; Paul K. Graham, AG, CG; Melanie D. Holtz, CG.

                                     Paul Graham, Michael Hait, Melanie Holtz, Catherine Desmarais

Initial Expectations

I think most of those attending Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) each year have a difficult task given to us. We are asked to choose only one of the many courses offered each year. SLIG 2016 was no different. When registration opened that Saturday morning last June I had 3 courses on the top of my list:
·         Beginning Genetic Genealogy (Blaine T. Bettinger, JD, PhD)
·         Solving Problems Like A Professional (Michael G. Hait, CG)
·         Writing A Quality Family Narrative (John Philip Colletta, PhD, FUGA)
As you can see, each course was scratching a different itch. My focus was on establishing a solid foundation for genealogical research built on methodology.
From the description it appeared geared to professionals, or those considering becoming one. Specifically, I was looking forward to learning more on being a self-employed genealogist:
·         research projects management strategies
·         workflow optimization
·         client research reporting
·         project planning
I felt this would compliment the other methodology courses I had already taken.
As always, it was a long 6 months between registration and class-time. But once SLIG started, it would go by all-to-fast.

Course Topics

The course topics actually read like a client report outline. (I hadn’t noticed this until going over the syllabus when I got back from SLIG. Recognizing class arrangement can tell a lot about a course.)
·         defining the research question
·         review previous research
·         planning first steps of research
·         research strategies
·         document analysis
·         indirect and negative evidence
·         information correlation
·         conflict resolution
·         reporting conclusions
·         planning next steps

Course Strengths

The Genealogy Standards (GS) provide a near-complete framework outlining requirements for producing quality research. Every class in this course re-iterated the underlying fundamentals that the GS provides.
Each of our instructors made a clear effort to allow for questions and discussion in each class. That alone makes any course worthwhile.
During the week-long course we received three homework assignments. Each walked us through steps in creating a research report of our own choosing. (Finally time to work on our own families!) These were due the following morning, on which we would get feedback at the end of the course. On Friday we split up into discussion groups with each of our instructors. There we had the opportunity to discuss our work before hearing the instructor’s feedback.
This was such a powerful and motivating tool. It gives insight into different thought processes and procedures, letting you draw on experiences from others. I look forward to other courses implementing this type of interaction. (This was the first time I experienced effective group work at SLIG. The key component was that each group had an instructor at its center.)

Course Weaknesses

There were some technical and organizational hiccups, but nothing that impacted the positive experience.
 For some reason they thought me certifiable.

Final Thoughts

Looking back on the experience now, I would like to thank and credit our instructors. Thoughtful and meticulous planning resulted in a great course experience. A lot of effort went into class organization, making sure the homework was relevant, and tying everything together at the end.
I could argue that it didn’t quite match up with my expectations. And perhaps that much of the material was not new to me, but I feel that is beside the point.
I came out of that class having learned valuable lessons that apply to my work. It provided an experience that I can draw on for future clients. That is what’s fundamentally important.
Yet, I realize now that my explicit focus on genealogical research methodology is coming to a close. If much of the content of a course is familiar, it reminds us that new horizons await discovery. (Law of diminishing returns, and all that.)
Should this course be offered in the future, I would recommend it to anyone who feels they need to hone their report-writing skills.
SLIG 2016 was my most enjoyable SLIG experience yet. I also met many new people, saw old SLIG-buddies from previous years, and made use of the Family History Library (FHL). Now that SLIG 2016 is behind us, we all await Registration Day.
See you next year, SLIG! I miss you already.
Mike Bronner (@mikebronner on Twitter) is a free-lance translator who runs GeneaLabs in Los Angeles with his wife Myelene. Besides German-English translation services specializing in old German print and handwriting, they also provide custom web development solutions.

@mikebronner should link to: 
GeneaLabs should link to:  

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