Focusing on how the topic is introduced and encouraging participants to discuss what they are learning and come to their own conclusions helps participants to apply and implement learning immediately.
Even in 2012 our corporate training sessions are still often set up and delivered with the thought that because we're teaching adults we can give them a PowerPoint content dump and quickly get them back to work. It's time for this to change so employees can leave the classroom with practical knowledge to enhance how they do their work and profit the company.
This will happen by redesigning the look and feel of the classroom, streamlining and customizing the learning content, and using interactive techniques and activities to ensure that employees are trained so they can use their new knowledge right after they leave the classroom.
What is it?
Taking a consulting approach to understand learners, and then incorporating proven adult learning and interactive—and enjoyable—facilitation techniques, results in training that learners actually understand, have fun with, remember, and, therefore, put into use.
Why it works
It's all about putting the learner at the center. No longer is the classroom about the subject matter expert who instructs a class. Instead, it's about empowering those in the classroom to be responsible for their own learning by enabling them to experience and test new skills in a safe environment.
To implement this type of training you need to consider the following design outline.
Set expectations up front. What should learners expect when they enter the classroom? In a learner-centric classroom, this isn't just about sending an agenda in advance, but letting people know they will be engaged and expected to actively participate and to make presentations. Let them know that there will be no PowerPoint presentations or long lectures. Pass on this information before the training program to help people show up with the right mindset for learning.
Set up a nontraditional classroom. Take out tables to create an open and interactive classroom where people will feel comfortable having the tough conversations that really challenge everyone. Only use chairs and set them up in a U-shape (depending on classroom size). To give learners a sense of what will happen during the session, place visual displays on the walls to show what people will learn and place flipcharts around the room for interactive use. Play music when people arrive to create a good ambiance and encourage learners to talk to one another.
Facilitate learner connections. Ensure that the facilitator has connected with all learners and, in turn, that the learners have all connected with one another at the beginning of training. Instead of introductions in the round, offer a short connecting exercise or an icebreaker. Perhaps give everyone three tracks of music and have them introduce themselves to as many people as possible, offering three things about themselves. At the end of the music tracks the facilitator could choose three people to introduce all of the people they met. This makes it much more interactive and memorable than the usual introductions in rounds. Tailor the exercise to the audience.
Warm up learners for interactivity. The first activity will be one that is interactive and meant to get people in the right space for the learning they will be asked to do. It is not just a simple shout out of "what's in it for me," but also a warm-up for the brain, and often is done in a small group. Possibly ask learners about their expectations or inquire about the challenges they are trying to address.
Facilitate learner self-discovery. Lessons that feature live case studies of actual work, role plays with feedback from peers, and the opportunity to create a new process that learners can implement when they return to work are the type of learning that participants will get during the training session. These lessons are longer in length. They are created in a way that the facilitator sets the ground work or information to be learned, then enables the learners to self-discover what they need to know to implement the topic in their work environment the following day.
Review and reflect on the learning. Finally, give learners time to make notes, think introspectively on what they have learned, and share that learning with others to make sure what is learned is being retained. This will happen at key points throughout the training.
A good way to measure the success of this training is by comparing answers to questions about the learners' experiences before and after the training session. What did they feel their level of knowledge was before and after the training? What was the quality of work they expected to produce and their intent to use the tools they were taught? We consistently see a 30 percent jump in knowledge when we ask these questions.
When people speak about great learning experiences, they don't often say, "When I listened to someone tell me about a subject for eight hours, I learned everything I needed to know on the subject." Instead, they talk about a time when something didn't go well, what they learned from that experience, and what they learned to do differently. Or they talk about a time when someone gave them advice about a problem and how successful they were when they took the person's advice. These experiences are what last with us throughout life and what we remember.