Engaging with learners to maximise their learning

scaffolding and learningMotivated And Competent help people learn, change, grow and become more effective by engaging with learners to increase their learning and success.

When we are discussing what happens in the learning environment we sometimes hear trainers describe how they behave, using phrases such as; “entertaining my audience” or “when I’m on stage I like to…”

It makes us wonder. Are they frustrated entertainers, egotistical, or self-centred, rather than learner centred?

We prefer to think of the people we work with as participants in their own learning. As active learners: not passive ones on the receiving end of some content-centred information dump. We want to know what people will do differently because of our time together. This could be some new knowledge which they can apply, some skill they can transfer to their workplace, a motivation, or something transformative.

We see the key roles of a learning and development professional as creating the right conditions for learning to take place. And to support, or ‘scaffold’, their learning.

So here are some of the things we do.

Before the learning event:

  • Ensure that all learning and development programmes are aligned with the organisation’s overall strategic goals
  • Pick the appropriate delivery channel for the learning objectives
  • Always think of, and refer to, people as ‘learners’ and ‘participants’ – not ‘delegates’ or ‘attendees’
  • Understand learners’ expectations and learning needs
  • Communicate with learners and let them know the what (we’ll do) and how (we’ll achieve it) of the course by all means – but definitely establish the why (‘What’s In It For Me?’ factor); so winning their hearts and minds
  • Raise interest in the event as a valuable exercise using effective communications and line manager involvement to agree why this is important and relevant
  • Share some details of the course – by all means travel, timings, course outline, but most of all a teaser – a sample of some of the content which excites and interests learners
  • Develop appealing looking materials – especially if we’re doing the above!
  • Consider whether it’s appropriate for the course leader to ‘phone participants to introduce themselves and build some initial rapport
  • An alternative is to consider emailing a questionnaire on what participants want or expect from the course; something that lets them know that the course isn’t just a one-way process (a lecture) that is going to be ‘done to them’. Also a brief bio (including a picture or a link to my LinkedIn profile etc. can help people get to know the course leader). The answers from the questionnaire create a chance to engage with people pre-course

At the start of the course:

  • Offer a warm greeting
  • Grab participants’ attention – move people swiftly from their other worlds (home, usual workplace, etc.) into the learning arena
  • Ensure that we know exactly what we’re going to say (and how we’ll say it) in the initial moments of the course; that it’s rehearsed, confident and a compelling start
  • Re-establish the WIFM (‘What’s In It For Me?’ factor) – what we’re doing, how it’ll happen and why it’s appropriate for them
  • Set the tone – surely it’s better to assume that people will, behave responsibly and buy-into the event, than to impose ground-rules?
  • Offer guide timings – and establish start and end times for each day without binding the group to restrictive prescribed timings – establish flexibility and responsiveness
  • Establish how the training initiatives help the organisation and people achieve their goals

During the course:

  • Link the sessions and their aims to the overall learning needs of the participants – engaging with people pre-course helps here
  • Ensure that people are engaged and active throughout; i.e.: question rather than tell, have people doing activities as much as possible (“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand” – Chinese proverb.)
  • In this spirit always think about the depth of the learning thinking, and about Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking
  • Mix the activities, bearing in mind preferences and different learning styles and use pair and small group work
  • Bear in mind attention spans and the time spent on any one activity
  • Use the power of storytelling wherever possible as universal a means of communication. Stories are memorable; sometimes we remember them for years or for lifetime. Stories engage us on an emotional level, creating a deep, intimate bond. People forget facts, statistics and dry data but they remember stories.
  • Offer time for reflection and to revisit and share key points – with the emphasis on what this knowledge will enable us to do differently or better. Encourage participants to capture their key learns on a start /stop / continue log which they can use to amend their behaviour post-course and which helps counteract the Ebbinghaus effect and the curve of forgetting
  • Apply the principle that there is almost no long-term retention of cognitive concepts without practice / rehearsal. So we do use realistic skills practicing to allow coaching and to fine-tune participants’ performance
  • Get people to describe, draw, visually or otherwise present what they’ve learnt to help them structure their understanding
  • Use quizzes and tests – including ones written by the participants

At the end of the course:

  • Ask what people are committing to do differently. What’s point of learning if we don’t act on it? Considered action, not knowledge, is key to power, change and success

After the event:

  • Reinforce the learning – via reminders; emails, pictures of flip-charts produced, key PowerPoint slides, etc.
  • Follow up on action pledges – what has changed? What are the successes we can share?
  • Coaching / managerial support and reinforcement to embed change and transfer learning to the workplace and counteract any pressures to carry on as before
  • Reflect and review our performance as learning facilitators and decide what we can do better or differently.

This has given us some success down the years – as our testimonies page confirms.

But, our agenda reflects your desired outcomes. So, please tell us – what else would you want when you work with us – and why?