My two-year-old granddaughter has just started preschool.
It's such fun playing with her and noticing what she enjoys. Whether it's reading her favourite books, tipping beans between cups, or digging in the sand at the beach, she loves real-life, active involvement. It's more than fun. It's her work. She's directing her learning her own way.
Can we transfer what we know kids love doing to adult learning?
For sure. And we should. What works for a two-year old may totally change the way you train.
If you're already an experienced trainer, you're probably using the same approach. Could you use it more often?
Make the learning active and 'real'
What children and adults have in common is an innate need to engage in the world around them. Adults need their training to be relevant to their work and practical. They need it hands-on and real. You know, doing or talking about immediate real stuff. For adults, that translates into practice solving real-life problems.
Our experience and research affirm the significance of real-life experience in learning. There's some debate about the precise figures for effectiveness, but I rate getting participants to discuss their ideas as a reasonably effective way to learn. Next best is practice and top of my list is teaching others. Conclusion? The more active the learning, the better.
'What about my PowerPoint slides?'
Here's the problem. Many trainers still put PowerPoint at the heart of their training.
PowerPoint is great, but it should only be an aid. Putting it simply, when PowerPoint dominates, it's a lecture. And the audience are passive. Sorry if that bursts your bubble, but those same stats on the best teaching methods, show lecturing rates at 5% for effectiveness of retention. Scary eh? Doesn't have to be.
Many trainers teach the way they were taught at school, or copy what they've seen other trainers do. And you may have thought that 'standing and delivering' is effective. You're busy, so it must be engaging. Well it may work for an hour, max. After that, it won't keep people involved in a memorable way. Why? Because they're not actively engaged in an experience.
Actually, studies on attention spans say most people can focus for only 10 to 18 minutes before checking out.
If you're training others, and you want to really engage people and have them retain the ideas, you need to use 'participant-centred' strategies.
What does 'participant-centred' training look like?
You warm people up to your topic by giving a quick anecdote. (It's a catalyst.)
Then get them into pairs to share a related, real-life experience of their own. In small groups, they then answer a focused question about those experiences, followed by selected groups presenting to the whole group their key insights about the topic. It's a great way to build a strong link between their experience and your training content.
So the adage, 'The best way to learn something is to teach it', makes more sense.