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Designed for Learning - a group of people sitting at a desk learning from a trainer

Designed for Learning

The value of training and development comes when the knowledge is received, retained and applied. To achieve this outcome, we need to ensure that our training resources and programmes are designed for learning. So, how can we nurture learning and encourage its application?

Outcomes Focused Training & Development

If you asked me to deliver training to your team, I would ask what outcomes you want to see. That’s because the purpose of training is not the event itself, but the changes that occur after. Therefore, my role is not simply to impart knowledge, but to also encourage engagement. I need to connect delegates with the subject on a level that motivates them to apply it.

To achieve this, I undertake research in the neuroscience of education. When we understand how the brain works, we can use this cognitive insight to ensure that our training materials and approach are designed for learning.

Education is about enhancing learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. This common ground suggests a future in which educational practice can be transformed by science, just as medical practice was transformed by science about a century ago.”

– Report by the Royal Society, UK, 2011

Factors Impacting Learning

Many factors impact our ability to learn. They include our recent sleep pattern, our health and our priorities on that day. If we’ve been told to attend, we are less likely to embrace the experience than if we chose to be present. These factors are out of the hands of trainers, however, there are things that we can do to influence positive engagement and information retention.

Understand the Audience

To make the training relevant, it is crucial to know your audience. We need to build on their current level of expertise and have a picture of where the learning will be applied. Equally, what is their motivation for being on the course and their desired outcomes? Pre-event discussions or questionnaires allow you to tailor the training for the delegates.

Consider the Training Environment

The place in which you train has an impact on how people feel and behave in the session. As an example, a stark room can make the training feel like a punishment to be endured. Delegates might recall strict teachers and negative experiences which make them fearful of speaking up and getting something wrong.

Even when you are allocated a stark room, think about ways to improve the atmosphere. I recommend you maximise natural light, play background music and add colour. Depending on the course, I might leave tactile resources on the table or pose a thought-provoking question before the start of the course. These steps help to set a more relaxed and inquisitive training environment.

Repeat Key Information

Neuroscience tells us that repetition aids memory. We struggle to retain information that we only encounter once. And, as a trainer, choose what you put on repeat to ensure the key points are remembered. However, that doesn’t mean endless reciting of the same facts or information.

Spacing is a technique that helps us commit knowledge to long-term memory. Rather than an intense blast of information, spacing revisits key points at various times throughout the training. So, you might present key information in an infographic. Then, reiterate the point with a case study video. Later in the training, revisit with a group activity or discussion. Recap in the end-of-session summary and include in materials given to delegates to take away.

Promote Active Participation

Neuroscience informs us that passive listening is not an effective learning strategy. Just listening to information or instruction results in low retention levels. For this reason, as trainers, we need to consider ourselves as facilitators. Our role is to encourage action through discussion, debate and activities. Draw out opinions, gather feedback and build in practical elements. Whenever possible, let the delegates take the helm.

Designed for Learning Acronyms

I recently came across an acronym, LEARNERS. Created by neuroscientist, Stella Collins, it clearly defines the key steps I take when planning a training session:

L – Link training to what the delegates already know

E – Emotional content creates memorable connections with the learning

A – Anchor the learning into everyday activities to make it relevant

R – Repeat key information to embed learning

N – Novel approaches stand out, so embrace multi-sensory resources and unique delivery

E – Exercise aids cognitive activity, so get people moving

R – Recovery – the brain needs time to process learning, so questions may occur after the event

S – Stories help delegates relate to the information and its application

Although every delegate has a unique way of thinking and processing information, these points are known to improve learning. Whatever the delegates’ learning preferences or neurodiversity, LEARNERS will increase the chance of information being retained and recalled.

Another useful acronym is SCARF. This highlights factors that improve learning from the delegates’ perspective:

S – Skills improvement needs identified by the delegate and matched by the trainer

C – Clear structure and certainty about the course content is provided

A – Autonomy; given some choice or control during the session

R – Relatedness, meaning the trainer is personable and delegates can connect to the information

F – Fair treatment of delegates – everyone has an opportunity to contribute without judgement

I find it useful to consider how I can meet these requirements before each training session. Pre-event information is just one step to help set the training off on the right foot.

How to Design Training to Boost Learning & Application

Neuroscience research can help us understand meaningful ways to impart knowledge. What we know is the value of training is increased when delegates are engaged in relevant, emotive and active learning. With a focus on outcomes, I apply this insight to my courses and feedback suggests it is an effective approach.

* https://www.cipd.org/uk/knowledge/reports/learning-at-work/

Designed for Learning - a group of people sitting at a desk learning from a trainer

Designed for Learning

The value of training and development comes when the knowledge is received, retained and applied. To achieve this outcome, we need to ensure that our

people sitting working together

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