2 simple changes that would allow Professional Development Training to work better
I can spend a lot of time telling you about how professional development training doesn’t work. There’s tons of proof. Heck, if you’ve spent any time at all in professional development as a learner you have your own proof.
For clarity, “doesn’t work” means the tools, skills, or information isn’t applied or used completely back in the real world; it isn’t integrated. “Integration” is the idea that it has been taken in by the participant to the point it is stored, retrievable, and applicable by the individual.
Great! It doesn’t work.
Perhaps your thinking, “There’s not enough time or money to completely redesign everything” (even though the time and money invested in redesigning it correctly would at least triple the return on investment).
What can we do about it TODAY?
The good news is, there are two (2) simple things that can be done right now that will increase the effectiveness of any professional development training. Apply these and you begin to move people into true learning experiences where what is taught is retained and integrated.
The outcome is the information can be easily applied and used by the participant after they leave the training room.
Don’t rely on telling them (lecture, directed dialogue, unsupervised small group discussion, activities interpreted by the instructor, etc.).
Telling doesn’t teach.
Learning is about integration of information into the filing system I already have, building on what I already know, through a series of preferred pathways unique to me. You’re telling me from your perspective, your filing system, through your preferred pathways. Even if it’s similar to mine, you can’t guarantee that what I walk away with is comparable to what you delivered.
You’ve had the experience where you tell someone something, even have a conversation about it. Later, they say something about what you talked about and you can’t figure out where they got that bit of information.
Particularly when addressing a room full of participants, how people learn and integrate information varies across learning styles, content, stress levels, previous experience, and more. Supporting successful integration of information requires delivering through multi-modal (more than one way) learning experiences.
Allowing participants to hear, see, and experience what they are learning is a guarantee of integration. Not only because it reinforces what is being taught but also because we all have the delivery mechanism that jives best with our pathways of integration.
Some of it is learning style and still more is about storage and more is about retrievability. Bottom line, no two brains are the same. That means we teach in multiple ways, through many different pathways.
That means information delivered through only one modality – verbal, linguistic, auditory, aural (the typical “teach modes” of lecture and discussion) – is ineffective, particularly if you expect most of your learners to actually be able to use what you’re giving them.
Use time effectively.
When is three hours not three hours? When you are sitting in a learning environment being pelted with information four reams deep for three hours. It feels like days!
You know exactly what I’m talking about!
In my 25+ years of experience, I have found it takes 90 minutes to move an adult from introduction to integration of one concept.
The human brain learns best in chunks. Even that 90 minutes has to be chunked. In my experience, the adult brain learns best in 20-minute chunks. Then it’s time to change what’s happening.
I can deliver content, directions, or verbal input for about 20 minutes. Then I allow the learners to do something different, with at least 20 minutes of manipulating what I’ve just talked about so they can discover the validity of it for themselves. Then comes more talking in the form of discussion and dialogue for about 10 minutes. From there comes practice time for at least 20 minutes. Finally, they evaluate and adapt what they’ve performed and then perform again; another 20 minutes.
20+20+10+20+20 = 90
If I want to move forward with another concept, I have to start over. Interestingly, in my experience, however, more time is required in discovery, performance, evaluation, and re-performance.
It’s as if the brain is full and has less bandwith for more information.
I find that most of us who are trainers prepare too much content. We then spend the time trying to rush through to squeeze it all in. In so doing, we compromise the most important aspect; successful integration of information.
This is the beginning of changing that over-prepared tendency.
Incorporate these two simple tips and we begin to change the success and impact of our training.
Of course, these aren’t the only things, but they are an important beginning.
Let me know your thoughts about these. I’d particularly love to know what happens when you try it!
Until next time;
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