Look, let’s shoot straight. Too many training experiences involve a talking head at the front of the room or on a computer screen and you find yourself wishing you had brought your laptop to the meeting or had a second screen to answer email. Really? You would rather respond to email? Only because our minds want to be productive (unless that new season was just added to Netflix) and given the choice, email is more productive than some training situations.
So, what is the problem with some training situations that we would rather be doing email work, than participating in a professional development experience?
First, telling ain’t teaching! Lecturing is a style of teaching that has been around for ages. But, unless we employ some scientifically backed educational approaches, lecturing is boiled down to telling, and telling doesn’t do much for transfer of training to on the job performance. When was the last time you saw someone learning how to golf from a lecture (someone telling them how to golf)?
True learning happens from doing, and no, I am not talking about learning styles. I will leave that debate to professional educators.
Second, unless you are working through real-world problems don’t count on this going from short-term to long-term memory. Professionals need to be engaged with real-world problems if you want them to be interested enough to actual learn something. There is a reason your kids ask you “when am I gonna need to know this?”
Third, you need to activate in participants a desire to learn by helping them recall existing knowledge to help learn new knowledge. This is the ‘unknown from the known’ variable where if you can relate new information to information and knowledge someone already has you have a greater chance of engaging participants in new material to be learned. Think Jesus with his famous parables.
Fourth, you have to demonstrate what it is a training participant is supposed to know and do. You start slow, methodically, helping participants understand the ‘whys’ and the ‘whats’ so that they ultimately won’t resent the ‘hows.’
Fifth, to take an experience from telling to training, you actually have to have the participants do things during the training. Learners have to have opportunities to apply new practices, policies, procedures, and protocols in the safe environment of the training room to really start to make some connections to what you are telling them. Engage them in an activity that requires some cognitive input.
No matter how many times you read the instructions to a new game, you just have to get in and play the game.
Finally, you have to create an environment where learners can take back what they have learned and apply it in their jobs. Some research shows that this transfer of training is most often achieved through a boss and colleagues who support and reinforce what you learned in that half-day training last Tuesday. Too many training scenarios are left in the heap of training trash thrown out because the trainees were never supported in their seats on the job.
So, in closing, remember that telling ain’t teaching and that following some important principles will improve the next training and development scenario:
- Use real-world problems
- Activate prior knowledge
- Demonstrate what they should know and do
- Have participants apply and practice in a safe environment
- Integrate the new knowledge on the job through colleague and supervisor support.
[I give credit for much of this content to M. David Merrill and his First Principles of Instruction model.]