District 39

Where Leaders Are Made

Where Leaders Are Made


In 2010, the Toastmasters Board of Directors crafted a five-year strategic plan that laid out the goals and objectives for the organization over the next five years. The plan’s centerpiece? A call to revitalize the Toastmasters education program.

Much of the communication track hadn’t been updated since the 1970s, and leadership became a separate track in 2005. The Board stressed the need to modernize the communication track and to renew the focus on leadership learning in the leadership track.

That original vision marked the beginning of a hugely ambitious effort to enhance the education program. Scheduled to roll out next year, the program will offer members more opportunities to learn and grow, highlighted by greater access to educational materials, expanded tools and resources, and a customized learning experience designed to help individuals meet personal and professional goals.

Currently, the project is referred to as the revitalized education program. The actual name of the new program will be Toastmasters Pathways learning experience, reflecting a journey of possibilities and progress.

“Our organization is all about helping people fulfill their potential, and Pathways embodies that concept,” says Toastmasters International President Jim Kokocki. “This is such a dynamic program for members: You’ll have the opportunity to develop more skills than ever before—skills that will help you succeed inside and outside of Toastmasters.”

Keeping the Key Concepts
Pathways is not a departure from the current education program. It maintains Toastmasters’ guiding principles and educational concepts. Club meetings will still be at the heart of the Toastmasters experience. The new program builds on the best of what we have now. It takes the education program to the next level, but at its foundation, Pathways is anchored in the vision of Toastmasters’ founder Ralph C. Smedley.

pathsThe educational content has been built and developed meticulously, grounded in the most current, effective principles of instructional design. In addition, the content has been thoroughly vetted by members, who have praised it as innovative, engaging and relevant to members’ needs today.

The positive response can be traced to the countless hours of hard work, and teamwork, that spurred the revitalization process. The end result isn’t just the handiwork of Toastmasters’ education development team at Toastmasters’ World Headquarters: Creating the new program has required a tremendous collaborative effort among the Board of Directors, the education team—and other departments—at World Headquarters, vendors and experts, and thousands of members.

Members were asked to play a vital role in the process. Early on, more than 270 members were chosen to be Learning Masters, a group that offered valuable feedback to the Pathways team on the educational content and learning experience. Other members were chosen as Chief Ambassadors and Ambassadors, to share information about the program with members, making them aware of the many benefits it offers, providing updates on its progress and answering questions.

The Board’s vision set the revitalization project in motion. Then, to build the foundation for an education program that would best serve members, the team immersed itself in research and analysis, studying data and reviewing feedback from current and former members about what they wanted to see in an education program. The team evaluated the Toastmasters learning experience in great depth.

What ultimately emerged is a more robust education program, one that enables members to develop an array of skills that are relevant in their personal and professional lives.

At the Board’s direction, Pathways was developed with these benefits for members:

  • Recognition that comes earlier and more often in the educational journey
  • New technological resources to improve speeches and support meeting roles
  • Mobile access to educational materials (tablets)
  • Expanded video and digital content to facilitate learning among our global community of members
  • Stronger evaluation and mentoring components

“Pathways is going to be a world-class program that will help members succeed, and thrive, in an evolving global society,” says Kokocki.

The Structure
As Ralph Smedley realized, communication and leadership are inextricably linked. In the new education program, they will no longer be separate tracks—they will be combined. From its review and analysis of the current program paired with the leadership experience, the Pathways team identified the five core competencies members can learn by participating in the new program:

  • Public Speaking
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Leading and Managing
  • Leading Strategically
  • Building Confidence

These are the core competencies, but within those broader areas are many other competencies (and sub-competencies) as well. The Pathways team took foundational competencies in the Competent Communication and Competent Leader manuals (like learning basic speech structure, effective delivery and how to communicate well within a team) and built upon them. The current education program teaches 68 competencies; Pathways adds more than 250 competencies members can learn.

Do you have any questions or would you like to help with the roll out? Contact Tracy Bowman Fletcher