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Take a Page From K-12 Education With Explicit Instruction


Wed Oct 11 2023

Take a Page From K-12 Education With Explicit Instruction

End passive training for good.

For too long, learners have been accustomed to listening to a trainer in front of the room, sharing content from a PowerPoint slide deck with few expectations from participants. As learning and development professionals know well, employees who experience that type of training event aren’t going to learn what they need to. They won’t return to their work with the knowledge and skills they need to perform more effectively.


This can all change when L&D professionals take a page from a framework primarily used in K-12 education, explicit instruction.

In “Improve Training With Active Engagement,” Adam Hockman explains how.

What Is Explicit Instruction, and How Can You Use It?

As educational consultants Anita Archer and Charles Hughes explain, explicit instruction features 16 elements, among them focusing instruction on critical material, breaking complex skills into smaller instructional units, providing guided practice, and requiring frequent responses.

While these facets may seem straightforward, learning designers and facilitators may experience gaps in their materials. It’s worth taking a step back, beginning with the needs analysis and seeing where your learning may be improved upon.

Based on your interviews, observations, and other information you’ve gleaned during your needs analysis, craft your instructional objectives. What behaviors do learners need to demonstrate to show that they have met the desired performance?


Designing and Delivering Instruction

Keep the tenets of explicit instruction front and center as you move on to designing training materials. As mentioned, think about how you will break content into smaller pieces for instruction and incorporate opportunities for learner response. From earlier interviews during the needs analysis, you may have gathered examples and nonexamples from managers and the everyday workplace that you can use in your training. Hockman uses an example throughout his guide about managers providing feedback; the situations he related demonstrated both appropriate feedback conversations and feedback examples that were missing key elements, like the behavior the employee exhibited that was the impetus for the conversation.

When facilitating, the active response strategies you might use include:

  • Oral, such as choral or individual responses

  • Written, either marking or circling a response or answering a question, such as on an erasable board

  • Active, using the body, such as a thumbs up or down or by pointing

  • Click or press; for virtual instruction, learners can submit their answers to multiple-choice questions or choose from a drop-down menu

Choral responding, as Hockman explains, is a five-step process, with the facilitator providing a focus cue, time for learners to think, a verbal cue that the facilitator expects a response imminently, a pause, and then the response cue. Having all participants respond first can get them used to the practice and help them learn the material; the facilitator then may call on an individual to respond as a review of the material to ensure everyone’s understanding is solid.

Practice for the Facilitator

Explicit instruction, including active responding, may not just be new and unfamiliar to learners; it may also be different for the facilitator. Thus, learning professionals—especially ones new to the field—can ask a colleague to observe their training session.

The observing individual can note many times that the facilitator incorporates active response activities, offers feedback to learners, and uses other aspects of explicit instruction such as stating training expectations at the beginning of the session. After the training, the facilitator and observing colleague can discuss strengths, areas for improvement, and next steps for the facilitator to improve their instruction.


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