Anyone facilitating a development session will know the importance of motivating adult learners to learn. If the facilitator is awake and in tune with their delegates, they will notice from the whites of their eyes, when they are switching off and think about something else. This signals for the facilitator to call an early break, pick up the pace or simply to get the group up and moving.
A good facilitator knows this is essential to the successful outcomes of any development session. However, is this awareness as acute with designers, particularly those who rarely step foot in the training room, or see the delegates who attend the programmes they write? How often do they ask the question – ‘what do I need to do to motivate learners to learn’?
It is all too easy for designers to design with their minds in their own world, rather than from the view point of the delegates’.
A few years ago, I was asked to assess the effectiveness of a programme and to provide feedback to the designer and facilitator. At 9.00 a.m. I, along with 10 delegates, eagerly awaited the programme start. By 10.00 a.m. we were all shifting in our seats and when the call for coffee came at 10.30, there was a stampede to get out of the room. The first session had not moved out of the ‘introduction phase’. After two cups of strong coffee, I entered the room again feeling optimistic that now the intros were over, we could get on. I was to be bitterly disappointed and by 12.00 noon, I was wondering if I could fain illness and pass out, just so I could escape.
Unprofessional and childish some might say. I don’t disagree. However, it did remind me of why as a young teenager, I frequently used to play truant from school. This programme took my mind right back to relive the exact feelings I used to have in the school class room. I recall sitting there, so bored that I used to physically ache. Instead of listening to what was being said, I would be planning my escape. My escape plans were effective. I eventually got expelled from the school for missing classes. I could have given Harry Houdini a lesson or two; some teachers thought I could almost vaporise before their very eye. Although, there were exceptions to the mind numbing boredom; my English and Biology classes were brilliant (so Mrs Lyons and Mrs McKara if you are reading this – thank you).
So, how do we engage and inspire our adult attendees to learn and to benefit from the opportunity to do so? Here are a few practical things I see as important when designing a development session:
Before you start the actual design,
Who is the programme for?
Consider who will be attending:
- What are their roles? Do all delegates have the same roles?
- What level are they, management positions or non-management?
- What life experiences might they have, how important is it in this programme?
- Does anyone have any learning difficulties?
- What do I know / don’t know about those to be developed
- What do I need to find out or confirm?
What will attendees need to gain / like to achieve?
If an attendee gives up valuable time to attend, what will they gain from doing so?
- What’s in it for the delegate? Consider not only the objectives and key learning points, but what the learning will lead delegates to e.g. more effective ways of working, updated knowledge, more opportunities, more money, chance for working on different projects, improvements in work-life balance
- Allow time on the programme to let delegates know what is in it for them
What might be a barrier to learning?
Are this group likely to have any barriers to learning?
- Consider any previous unsuccessful training programmes, ones that didn’t quite hit the spot
- Are there any redundancies or changes being implemented around the same time as the programme is running?
- Are managers and staff attending the same programme?
- Is the group ‘training-weary’?
What timing / programme duration would suit this group of learners?
Getting the timing and duration right is essential.
- Is it a busy time e.g. end of month / financial year?
- What else is going on e.g. new product launch, budgets, appraisals
- Let the duration drive the structure for example, if delegates can comfortably take off half days and the content requires two days, then consider a modular programme or a blended learning approach
Where? Think about the learning venue
If there is a choice, what might motivate the group?
- Balance onsite with delegates getting interrupted or pulled off
- If off site, ensure easy to reach for everyone / parking available
- Minimise travel
- Ensure windows and natural light
- Consider the size of group and venue size check it out beforehand
- Don’t try to stretch the budget too far – better to have a reasonable looking venue that does good coffee/lunch, than a palace that serves rubbish food, if any at all!
During the design
What are the overall learning objectives?
Structure the content around primary and secondary learning objectives:
- Keep focussed on what you want the outcomes to be / what attendees need to do differently after the session
- If you have too much to fit into too little time – then structure as Must Do / Should Do and Could Do
Who is the programme for?
Consider the people, not just their roles and levels of experience
- What generational group or generational mix are they – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X or Generation Y delegates, prepare accordingly
- What mix of learning styles do they have? If known, if a mix, as it is likely to be, prepare for all four styles Activists, Reflectors, Theorists and Pragmatist
- Consider the diversity of the group
- Consider the dynamics of the group, do they know each other, do they compete in any way
How will you achieve the learning?
Consider the learning exercises and activities, as well as the input
- Change the activity as least every 20 minutes, use video clips, games, discussions, debates, board games, role-plays, individual and group activities, questionnaires, input from specialists, input from other delegates or colleagues, experiential learning activity, etc
- Ensure engagement and maximum involvement of all delegates
- Provide opportunity for discussion and feedback
- Be creative but don’t lose the focus of what needs to be learned
- Keep the learning as relevant and practical as possible, ensure any theory has use, ask yourself ‘what will knowing this give a delegate’
- Don’t use exercises just because you like them – ensure exercises are appropriate to learning outcomes
- Add some fun
- Keep it moving
Stretch delegates – keep it edgy
Consider how delegates can be stretched, slightly out of their comfort zone, something a little edgy
- Consider the timing, mid-session is about the right time to stretch people
- Keep it relevant to roles and levels of experience
How will you maintain a safe learning environment?
Stretching people is good, but you must consider how you will keep the learning environment a safe one
- Ensure design structure enables effective role-play
- Prepare very specific scenarios for different roles and levels of experience
- Ensure constructive feedback is built into the programme
- Use observers to balance and enrich feedback
- Provide an opportunity to all to have their say throughout the programme
- Enable questions and an opportunity to comment for all
When it comes to design there is much to think about. Keeping delegates inspired and motivation is such an essential part of designing. Following best practice can ensure that they neither fain illness or vaporise at any part of the training session. And finally, enjoy, designing is such a privilege.
Make sure you check out the next blog in the Trainers Tips series: Top Tips for Trainer #4 The Pros and Cons of the Top 9 Face-to-Face Training Delivery Methodologies