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id handTo be successful in life you must do the basic things right, and do it consistently. Success in training is not different: you must do the basic things right, and do it consistently.

So, what are the basics in training? Learner Centered, and Performance Based.

Lets explore these basics through six words that sum up findings from research on learning: why, what, structure, response, feedback, and reward. Let's examine each of them.

Why
As reasonable as it may seem, if the learner knows "why" he or she is supposed to learn something and the reason makes sense to—is valued by—the learner, the probability of learning increases.

What
There's an old saying, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up someplace else." This is true also of learning. Have you ever been in a class in which the instructor/teacher/professor wandered aimlessly through the course material? You sat there trying to figure out where this person was heading, and you felt lost. Research on learning demonstrates the value of clarifying to the learners what it is they will be able to do by the end of the lesson, module, or course. Such early information acts as a set of guideposts or a map. The clearer and more meaningful it is for the learners, the higher the probability they will learn it.

Structure
Examine the array of symbols below for 15 seconds.

$?$*#*$?&*&##?$?*&&?*#&#$

Cover the array with a piece of paper.

Now reproduce the array in the same order. Compare the two arrays and give yourself one point for each symbol you placed in the correct sequence. The maximum number of points is 25.
Now, repeat the exercise using the array below. Once again, you will have 15 seconds to "learn" it.

$$$$$?????*****&&&&&#####

Cover the array and reproduce what you remember in the space below. Then score yourself again. As before, you get one point for each symbol placed in the correct sequence.

Let's examine the results. Did you do better in the first or the second trial? When we try this out with adult learners, we rarely discover scores above four or five in the case where the symbols are all jumbled up. However, when these same symbols are placed in an easy-to-understand, structured order, most people score a perfect 25.
Humans seek order. The research tells us that the clearer the structure of the content is for the learners, the more easily they will grasp and retain it.

Response
The more learners actively respond to learning the content, the better they learn and retain it. Response can take the form of answering a question, filling in a blank, labeling something, solving a problem, making a decision, or even discussing and arguing. It can take any form that elicits an active response to learning the content. What is also important is that the response be a meaningful one. We have seen so-called interactive e-learning in which learners move objects; click on items; and enter numbers, letters, and even words that have no meaning with respect to what they are supposed to be mastering. This is empty responding. It has some limited value in that it may maintain the learners' attention for a while, but it does little to clarify meaning or assist retention.

Feedback
Feedback is one of the most powerful mechanisms for learning. Feedback is information that learners receive about how on or off target they are. From an instructional perspective, feedback should be either corrective (to let the learner alter responses) or confirming (to let the learner know that he or she has attained the partial or complete objective).

Reward
In learning, if we achieve an objective - master a piece of learning - and are rewarded for our success, the probability of retaining that learning increases. Recognized success encourages most people to learn and retain.

Taken together, those six basic, drawn from research on learning lay the foundation for a powerful instructional model. When supported by what we have learned about how people process information and adult learning principles, we discover the following essential ingredients for creating effective and efficient learning:
• letting the learners know why the learning is beneficial to them
• helping the learners clearly understand in a meaningful way what it is they will be learning
• creating structured activities and information that facilitate acquisition of targeted skills and knowledge
• building into the learning some opportunities for frequent and meaningful responses
• providing appropriate, corrective, and confirming feedback with respect to learner responses
• including appropriate intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, which each learner values, to enhance the pleasure of the learning process and its successful outcomes.

A Standard Model for Structuring Learning Sessions
Based on the preceding essential basic ingredients, we will explain (next week) a user friendly, easy-to-apply model for developing any learning session.

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learningThe key to good facilitation in general is practice, practice, and more practice.

When you turn your attention to facilitating specific kinds of learning activities, this advice is true as well, but, in addition, you must also plan, plan, and plan.

Nothing affects the potential success or failure of a learning activity more than how well you plan the activity by thinking through each aspect of the activity ahead of time so that the facilitation will go smoothly.

Types of Learning Activities
Three main categories of learning activities are discussed here:

  • content/knowledge/comprehension activities,
  • structured exercises, and
  • skill practice.

Within each category are multiple and varied methods for facilitation.

Content/Knowledge/Comprehension Activities
These types of activities are intended to disseminate information, increase awareness, and assist participants in understanding concepts. The foundation of all skills is knowledge, and learners must know before they can do. These activities apply to learners who don't have any or very little background in the content of the lesson or course.

Content/knowledge/comprehension activities are characterized by relative passivity on the part of the participants (they are usually listening, reading, or observing without interacting); greater focus on the facilitator (who must deliver the content because participants don't know it); and (usually) individual rather than group work.

Examples of content/knowledge/comprehension learning activities include

  • lecture
  • reading books or handouts
  • videos/DVDs/films, slides, overhead transparencies
  • prework
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • note taking
  • self-assessments such as quizzes and checklists.

Structured Exercises

Structured exercises constitute the discovery bridge between knowledge and skills. In structured exercises, the learners work together to understand and use content at a deeper level than simply comprehension: They learn variations of the content, how to use and apply it, and how to make it their own. Learners are more active and involved than they are with content/knowledge/comprehension activities. The focus is on the learners, and the facilitator's role is that of organizer, monitor, and guide.

Structured exercises are used with learners who have some knowledge of the desired content and are ready for more depth and concept application.

Sometimes the supporting knowledge has been acquired earlier in the same course. In other instances, the learners have the content and experience when they walk in. In this case, the first type of exercise used is often a structured exercise.

The learner groups are given questions to answer or a problem to solve, and, in the process, the new content is discovered.

Here are some examples of structured exercises listed in order of increasing learner involvement:

  • Solo work: Learners are given an assignment to work on by themselves (such as a questionnaire to complete or a problem to analyze) and then discuss with others.
  • Guided discussion or question-and-answer session: The facilitator asks the group planned questions designed to get them to wrestle with content at a deeper level. As they answer the questions, the facilitator summarizes their content, adds his or her own content, plays devil's advocate to drive for deeper content or application, and guides the discussion to the next question.
  • Small group discussion: Small learner groups are given a topic to discuss or questions to answer; the learners work together and then present their results to the larger group.
  • Group inquiry: The learners are provided with content, and they work together to identify questions they have about the content.
  • Information search: The learners are given reference materials and must search them for answers to questions presented by the facilitator. In a blended learning experience (a combination of face-to-face learning and e-learning), the search may involve using the Internet to conduct searches or to download information.
  • Small group assignment or problem solving: Small groups of learners are given a problem to solve, a situation to analyze, a list of principles or guidelines to develop in response to a problem, or some similar type of exercise.
  • Peer teaching: Small groups of learners study the material and then teach it to the other participants or groups within the class. Choosing the teaching methodology is part of the activity and is left up to the groups.
  • Games: A popular game (Jeopardy, Bingo, Concentration) can be adapted to assist learners in remembering, comprehending, and applying content that has been presented.
  • Debriefing session: The facilitator leads a large group guided discussion after a structured exercise or skill practice is complete; it is designed to close the gaps in the learning, summarize the main points, and help the learners apply the content to the job.

Skill Practice
Once the learners have mastered knowledge to the depth that they need, the next part of the learning is skill practice. Skill practice is exactly what it says it is—the actual practice of the skill. If the skill is driving a car, then the skill practice is actually driving a car (or a simulator). If the skill is conducting a job interview or making a sales presentation, then the skill practice is conducting a mock interview or sales presentation. If the skill is analyzing a situation and making recommendations, then the skill practice is analyzing a case situation and making recommendations.

In other words, skill practice is the actual performance of the skill, adjusted when necessary for the learning environment. A detailed feedback instrument accompanies the skill practice.

Transfer Activities
Transfer activities are specifically intended to support the learners' ability to transfer their learning back to the job and apply it there. Transfer activities can be any one of the types described previously, but they are specifically targeted toward successful on-the-job application. Examples of transfer activities include:

  • Action planning: This activity consists of solo work on a plan of action to apply skills. The action planning can be done at the end of the course or used intermittently throughout the course so learners apply as they move through the content. Action plans can also be developed in partnership with the learners' managers.
  • Performance contracting: The learner and his or her manager can prepare an advanced planning document to help prepare for the program and ensure that the course content transfers to the job. The performance contract focuses on how the course content will be used on the job, required resources and support, and identification of barriers and enablers to transfer and how to address them. It also serves as a pre-course organizer.
  • Application discussion: The emphasis during this guided discussion is on opportunities for application back on the job.
  • Barriers and strategies: During this structured activity, learners identify barriers to application back on the job and then strategize to overcome the barriers.
  • Enablers and strategies: This structured activity helps learners identify forces in the organization that support the use of the new knowledge and skills on the job and strategize to strengthen those forces.
  • Structured note taking: Using "applying the concepts" format, participants make a quick note of the topic or comment and how it can be applied to the job. This document is later referred to during action planning and follow-up.
  • Manager presentation: Managers are invited to be on a panel that hears participants' presentations and makes comments on their job relevance.
  • Case studies: Based on actual organizational situations and data, learners solve the case and then discuss the relevancy of the solution to the organization.
  • Team projects: Learners are given an actual corporate or business unit problem or opportunity. They then develop strategies to address the problem or opportunity and present it to a senior management panel for discussion.
  • Letters home: Learners write letters to their managers presenting what they learned in a particular area and how they want to use that knowledge or skill on the job. They indicate that upon their return they want a meeting to discuss the implementation of the actions. Then, the letters are mailed.

The most important thing to remember about transfer activities is that they are always focused on helping learners apply what they have learned back in their own
job contexts.

Reference: Facilitation Basics,Donald V. Mccain and Deborah Tobey, 2014

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gameStudies have shown that the use of games in training serves two purposes:

  1. Resetting participant concentration and energy levels. The human mind can only absorb so much information at one time. Successful training is commonly segmented into blocks of approximately 20 minutes followed by group problem solving, open discussion, and games. Using games in this way increases knowledge retention and keeps attention spans high.
  2. Reinforcing the practical application of new skills. The effectual execution of games plays a large role in knowledge retention. When used during training, games provide an enjoyable way of reinforcing knowledge and skill use. And when used after training as part of on-the-job reinforcement, games provide a quick and fun refresher of what was learned during training.

Games break the ice, energize, and most importantly, reinforce and review learning. Game-based learning activities build confidence, lift morale, spark enthusiasm, and ultimately, achieve results. When you're considering whether or not to use a game in training, ask yourself if the game will do one of the following:

  • Provide social interaction
  • Energize the group
  • Reinforce learning.

If a game you are considering does not meet one of these crucial requirements, rethink your selection.

Why Social Interaction Is Important
When participants are gathered together for classroom training, they are often meeting face-to-face for the first time. Beginning class with a game that encourages social interaction can create common bonds between participants and make them more comfortable, which promotes open speech and increased sharing.

A simple, effective, game to encourage social interaction is the "Coin Date" activity. It requires very little preparation–simply hand-out a small coin to each participant. It is helpful if the dates on the coins are in a suitable range for participant ages. Group participants into pairs and ask them to exchange basic information and share a favorite memory from the year stamped on the front of their coin. After a few minutes, ask participants to share their partner's information. Sharing creates an immediate bond and assists participants in feeling comfortable in the group training environment.

Energize Class Participants to Reset Focus
Mixing in a game or two during extensive class time is an ideal way to rejuvenate participants and get them back on track and focused on the important material you're teaching. Games that allow participants to stand up and move around–perhaps even laugh a little–are great ways to keep everyone fresh and focused.

Adding a competitive edge to a game is a surefire way to engage participants. "Alphabet Improv" is a variation of a popular party game in which participants have spontaneous conversations by beginning each statement with a particular letter of the alphabet. Divide the class into pairs and tell them to imagine they are in a typical work setting and are to have a conversation by alternating each statement with a consecutive letter in the alphabet. The pairs can practice and then play in front of all class participants with the winning pair receiving a prize or play less competitively in pairs. Be warned that there is usually a lot of laughing as employees struggle to begin conversations with the correct letter.

Example:

  • Participant #1: All next week, our 2012 products will be on sale.
  • Participant #2: Bet that will be a busy week!

Encourage participants to play quickly and spontaneously and not think too hard about what to say next.

Games to Reinforce Learning
The use of role playing games increases not only knowledge retention but also understanding by a significant rate. Training that incorporates real life scenarios for the participants makes the class experience more relevant and more likely to assist in long term behavioral change.

When creating role-playing activities, select story lines that benefit the majority of learners. Clearly state the objectives of the employees participating in the role playing exercise.

One game to reinforce learning is Luck of the Draw. Ahead of time, prepare slips of paper with a question and answer related to the material covered (include a few trivia questions). Put the slips of paper in a hat, bag, or bowl. Be sure you have enough question and answer slips so that each team has an equal number of opportunities to score points. For example, if you have 3 teams, you'd want 15, 18, 21, or 27 questions. Determine a reasonable amount of time for teams to answer questions.

Divide the class into the predetermined number of teams. Ask one member of the team to come to the front of the class and select a slip of paper. This person is to read the question to their own team. The trainer keeps score. If the team gives the correct response, they get 2 points. If the team can't answer or answers incorrectly, the next team in rotation gets an opportunity to provide a correct answer for 1 point. This game is a fun way to both reinforce learning and energize the class.

Five Tips for Effective Game Use in Training

  1. Make it relevant. Align chosen games with training goals, keeping all activities on topic and engaging to participants.
  2. Consider your audience. When selecting games, keep participants in mind. Will prizes add excitement and encourage participation or cause the class to segment and become unruly?
  3. Optimize the environment. Be considerate of how participants learn, and set up games accordingly. Maximize the opportunity to learn by tailoring game usage to make even the most timid wallflower flourish.
  4. Watch your timing. While it is important to watch the clock – do not overdo it. Allow time for 90% of participants to finish before officially ending the activity. Ending the activity too soon will lessen its effect and allowing too much time will give opportunity for participants to lose focus.
  5. Create movement. Keeping a room full of people engaged for hours on end is not easy. Choose games that require movement to rejuvenate the class and get them ready for more learning.

To be competent on the job, participants must not only understand what is being taught, they must be able to demonstrate their ability to use the knowledge in a simulated, on-the-job environment. Simple, relevant games enhance traditional training methods by creating a comfortable environment for learning, keeping participants energized, and encouraging early adoption of desired performance.

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