The above image reflects the learning taxonomy introduced by Dr. Benjamin Bloom in 19563. It reflects a hierarchy of learning with Remembering being at the bottom and Creating at the top. With Remembering, an individual is able to recall or remember concepts. At the top of the hierarchy, learning and cognitive abilities have reached a point where creative thinking is engaged and new approaches to problems are applied.
We keep Bloom’s taxonomy in mind while conducting learning events with a focus of helping participants progress to higher levels in the hierarchy. Of course, reaching top levels requires sustained growth and effort over a longer period of time than shorter courses can provide.
Do note use of the word Learning instead of Training. The world learning better captures my intent during delivered courses. Learning is Active. Training is more passive.
“Often the terms ‘training’ and ‘L&D’ are used interchangeably. They are however, quite distinct. In his book, Helping people learn: strategies for moving from training to learning, J. Reynolds states “learning is the process by which a person constructs new knowledge, skills and capabilities, whereas training is one of several responses an organisation can undertake to promote learning”2
Here are a few of the favored approaches refined through years of course delivery.
1. Motivation: Prior to starting a course, I attempt to understand and tap the participants’ motivation for attending. Why are you here? What do you hope to get out of this course? Finding what drives the individual’s reason for attendance sets the table for the rest of the course.
2. Hands on Practice: This is another common method that I whole heartedly follow. Every one in my courses gets a computer to directly practice principles taught. Passive listening is not a good way to remember material. Perhaps at times I’ve taken this to the extreme encouraging participants to ‘break the Maximo system’. In other words, participants are encouraged to really push the system to fully understand the underlying principles.
3. Audience Participation: A wide variety of participation helps everyone. The instructor has one small slice of experience. Everyone attending can provide a different perspective and personal experience. Beyond questions and perspectives, I encourage those attending courses to bring their own examples or issues from their work environment. Working out complex problems engages all in the learning experience.
4. Breaks: In an article by Kaylim Islam, he notes that “Research by Dianne Dukette and David Cornish (2009) uncovered that adults can only sustain attention for about 20 minutes. The same study uncovered that the short-term response to the stimulus that attracts attention is only eight seconds.” With our relatively short attention span, what are the chances training will be effective if the Trainer drones on for an hour without any break? I personally use humor and other mental breaks to keep the full attention of participants. I refer to these brakes as mind shifts. Focus on course material, change focus, return to the material.
5. Class Length: I’ve seen many courses hold training classes that last eight hours. This seems to make sense in that this is the typical length of a work day. But, a training day is different. I’ve generally held classes for 6 hours with a one hour break for lunch. Again, as with breaks, the focus is to ensure that participants are achieving maximum memory retention. Intense focus on training materials for 8 hours is a bit too much in my opinion. The times that I’ve pushed beyond 6 hours, it’s become obvious that people are burning out and losing attention.
6. Quizzes. I go alone with the standard training advice to present material as follows: tell them what your going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. In other words, repeat material over and over again. It’s the way we learn. Thus, I’ll start with an outline and preface different lessons, teach the material, and then follow up with quizzes and interactive exercises. Now, for me, the quizzes are also intended to be fun. I believe you learn more in a fun environment. Thus, prior attendees to my courses may remember completing Jeopardy Games or even Pac Man to enforce learning materials.
7. Follow-up: This is not a common area explored as part of the learning environment. I too seek to improve on follow-up. Long story short, the formal course may be over but some forms of follow up can help retain learning. Reminders and an offer to provide assistance in the future helps both class participants and the instructor. This might include surveys after the fact to tap both what went right an what can be improved for future participants.
These are just some of the methods We’ve practiced as part of course delivery. Again, the focus is to impart practical learning that is applied back at the participant’s job. Sometimes, this has included follow-up visits to a participant’s work site for one and one coaching. Sometimes, remote support has been offered.
Do let us know what you’ve found effective in delivering and attending either formal classes, informal coaching, or even one on one learning opportunities.
1 Attention Span and Performance Improvement, Kaylim Islam, March 1 2013, Training Industry
2 Training versus Learning and Development, Stacey Hinton, October 23 2013, Boyce Learning and Development
3 A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Dr. Benjamin Bloom, 1956