Ugh – a dreaded email arrives in the inbox titled “Mandatory Monthly Training Class.” Visions of a dull lecture about perceived useless material quickly infiltrate the organization. Upper management will be pleased to see a mandatory check mark next to the ‘Employee Training’ box. Outdated donuts and bitter coffee will be consumed if the attendees feign interest, eliciting enthusiastic approval of the seminar from the outside. The valuable material communicated during the event will probably soon be forgotten. Precious production time has been wasted.
Unfortunately, this scenario is repeated daily by organizations that are not properly aligned with how their adult learners actually are receive and digest information. A common misconception is that by simply presenting material, the information is understood and baked into the recipient’s memory banks. Too often, the use of outdated or misaligned training techniques creates a separation between the teacher and the student.
The disconnect is usually due to training design and instructional techniques based on: pedagogy — methods used in traditional education for young impressionable students who need exact structure. These seminars rely heavily on teaching, memorization, and exam, based on rules set by the instructor – not the learner!
However, smart adult educators use techniques based on andragogy and heutilitarianism — essentially facilitating and managing self-directed and self-directed adult learners. They provide actionable information and knowledge that adults can identify with and use for self-improvement and increased productivity.
Adapting training and education to match learners needs to be addressed in two areas: program design and program delivery.
When designing an effective educational program, the developer should build with the end user in mind. How will the student process the information? Of course, this advice may sound intuitive; however, the difficulty in the application lies in the fact that not all students learn in the same way. Personality traits, attention span, motivations and life experiences can vary wildly – even in a small group! Here are a few points to keep in mind while designing:
Beware of treating an abundance of material in one session. Diving too deeply into a topic can lead to the learner being shut down due to information overload. Hermann Ebbinghaus, a pioneer in the study of memory, found in his famous research that the average adult will have forgotten that, on average, 50% of the treated material was forgotten within an hour of being presented and 90% of it within one hour. week! To counter this, try to limit the covered content to three memorable points or ‘chunks.’
Use support materials appropriately. Simply reading lines from a projected presentation or having participants follow in a guide usually leads to a lack of retention. Your presentation should visually reinforce your points. See yourself as a narrator of a documentary and your presentation as the visual element that reinforces the message – not a crutch to rely on!
Motivate students to participate by interweaving the applicability of the content throughout the session. Participants should understand the value of absorbing the material presented and how it can positively affect their lives.
A common pitfall many educators use is the need to exaggerate credibility by displaying the mind-numbing expertise of the course materials. The goal is not to display the brilliance of the instructor, but to communicate storable information to the student. The most successful educators are discovery facilitators who simply take the public on a journey based on deep-seated experiences. Successful facilitators pay special attention to these areas:
When presenting, consider the individual personality traits and generations of the participants. By nature, speakers tend to communicate based on their own personality tendencies, but forget the preferences of the information receiver. For example, an extremely extroverted instructor may not realize that the introverted or data-driven learner does not understand the information. In addition, the younger learner may be bored with the seemingly inexplicable, long-winded stories lavishly twisted by an older instructor.
providing a safe learning environment enables students to become receptive to information. Conversely – openly challenging students in front of peers – can lead to embarrassment among participants, ultimately leading to a closure of receptivity.
Renowned andragogy expert Malcolm Knowles is credited with saying, “The learner should be actively involved in the learning process.” In his book, he notes, “Students see the goals of the learning experience as their goals.” A common best practice is to divide participants into small groups to solve problems related to the material and present the findings to the whole class. The facilitator can positively provide additional solutions that may have been missed. In addition, the facilitator may choose to employ individual students to paraphrase or “learn back”.“ previously provided information to other participants.
Learning as if you had to teach provides extra engagement and material retention incentives!
Finally, make it fun and inclusive by providing opportunities to showcase the creativity of the participants. The more ownership a learner has in their process of discovering personal information, the more engaged and receptive they will be to ideas, concepts, and acquired knowledge.
Training participants can easily be divided into two categories: those who are required to participate and those who wish to attend and learn. Properly structuring and facilitating these valuable educational sessions, based on proven adult learning concepts, can ultimately bring great benefits to an organization through the involvement, retention and application of the participants’ materials. Who knows? They may even be thrilled when they receive the following training announcement email!