When was the last time you learned something that materially improved your performance? Despite the regular efforts of meeting planners and participants, your last positive learning experience is very likely a distant memory. That is, in part, because the distinct differences between training — which involves teaching a particular skill or type of behavior — relative to learning — where one acquires knowledge or skills though experience, practice, teaching or study — is largely misunderstood. We recommend the following five quick tips to help make your next program a learning success:
1. Clarify the Goal – Teaching and learning, while related, are two different things. Be clear about what you’re doing and the result you want. Are you sharing information that you just want your audience to understand? Or are you sharing the content with the goal that the audience learns and does something with it? A clear goal helps participants relate to what’s needed, remain open to the information and be less stressed about expectations.
2. Make it a Win/Win – Training is often about the organization and its needs. Learning is about the individual and his/her willingness to adopt new ways of thinking, working and behaving. Be empathetic to learner needs, as well as those of the organization. Explain how this helps the company but also relate it back to the learner’s job and or experience. Place the content in a context the user can understand. Make it personal and provide real life examples.
3. Stimulate and Engage – Use your participants’ natural curiosity to gain their attention and engagement before there’s any opportunity to tune out. And then, get them involved. Learning is a social activity that happens best by doing. Ask participants to work together as a team to problem-solve and develop answers. This type of activity replicates the way they may be collaborating back at the office. The old adage that people learn best by doing has proven true repeatedly.
4. Make Thinking Visible – The thinking and memory of an instructor is an integral part of the training/learning process. It needs to be made visible to participants so they can incorporate it into their own thinking and memory banks. This can be done in both conventional and technological ways.
• Use technology that allows two way communications, such as polling devices.
• Instructors always have a white board, consider providing small, hand-held versions to learners so they can make their thinking visible, as well.
• Information persistence through visuals that are continuously available during a session can also make a strong – but subtle –impact.
I recently saw an interview of two 8 year-old boys who saved the life of a neighbor’s four month-old son. Panicked when her child stopped breathing, the mother ran outside calling for help. The children, playing in the front yard, came in to help and ended up giving the baby CPR –successfully — until EMT’s arrived. Where did they learn to do such a thing? They said they remembered it from the CPR/How to Help Someone Choking poster that hangs in the school lunchroom. “And you remembered what to do from reading that poster?” the interviewer asked. “The lunch line can be pretty long,” one of the boys noted. So, he had occasion to see and read the content repeatedly. Luckily, for his neighbor and her child.
5. Connect Through Stories – Great stories and pictures can be powerful learning tools. They help make content “sticky” or memorable in a way that stays with people. Borrowing each others’ stories can help individuals develop their own. And the emotional impact of such elements helps learners retain the information being communicated long after the training has ended.
Do you have suggestions about how you’ve turned training into learning? Please share your experiences with us firstname.lastname@example.org
VP, Strategy & Research