Designing Training “….be creative, be bold and innovative, but follow the rules.”
Following my previous blog, Trainers Tips #1 Know Your Delegate Diversity, I wanted to get talking about something a lot of us in L&D just love to do, designing high-impact, interactive and effective learning activities.
I have been crafting creative development solutions for organisations for almost 30 years; I think it’s safe to say, it’s my thing! But whether you love it or not, it’s not always easy to hit the nail on the head. But when it does, a well-designed and meaningful group learning exercise can be worth its weight in gold. It can provide lightbulb moments which stay in delegates’ memory for years after attending the training event. I can recall several group exercises from one of the best development programmes I ever attended which was run by a trainer called Francis Burley over 27 years ago!
With development fatigue rife within some organisations, programme designers and trainers are challenged to find more and more innovative and creative ways to get development messages over. However, in the drive to be innovative and create fun learning experiences for learners, we can be dazzled into seeing creativity and fun as the most important factors. Fun is important but we must stay within the rules and consider the design guidelines. With care a group learning exercise can have it all.
Here are my 11 steps to designing an awesome group training activity:
1. Delegate group
The first step is to consider the learners within the delegate group; what are their roles, levels of experience and previous development (if known). Consider also the diversity of the group. Are there any cultural considerations to be taken into account?
2. Exercise to meet learning needs
What are the learning points that need to be realised within the exercise, how are these to be linked with the overall aims of the programme. Avoid putting in an exercise just because it is good or because it is creative. If you hear yourself saying ‘I have just got to get this in’, then take it out and start again!
3. Plan the structure of the exercise
When considering the exercise structure, think about the venue and the space available for the exercise and group size. Will this be a whole group or small group exercise, what time is available to introduce, run and review the exercise without rushing? What reflection time will be needed?
4. Right time, right place
Is the exercise design right for the position it will have within the overall structure of the programme? For example, if designing for a programme where delegates do not know each other very well, it would not be appropriate to run an exercise where delegates have to divulge too much sensitive information about themselves within the first few minutes of the programme. Nor, would you want something too complex involving a lot of reading immediately following lunch.
What props or resources might you need, is there budget available? When observing train the trainer programmes, I frequently hear delegates say let’s have this and that, it will only be £5 per person, failing to calculated that for a course of 20 delegates, £5 a head adds up to an expenditure of £100, more if the resource cannot be reused and has to be provided for more than one programme.
6. Plan introduction
Plan the introduction. What do delegates need to know for the exercise to be a success? Think about how you will inform the group of the structure, resources available for the exercise, make-up of the groups, timing and what you want to see at the end of it. How will delegates feedback to the rest of the group? This information is best said, perhaps with a slide to backup what you have said or at least repeated within a workbook or exercise sheet, whatever is being used. Do not assume that everyone is listening intently to your every word, delegates might be reflecting on the previous key learning point.
7. List points for feedback
Ensure the points for feedback are all listed, ideally in a workbook.
8. Using observers
Using observers can greatly enhance a learning exercise, particularly if the learning or subject area might throw up something controversial. Should this be the case then do not be tempted to allocate the observer role to just one person, depending on group size, allocate the role to two or more observers.
Ensure observers have been briefed. Consider an observers capture sheet so they can quickly mark down their observations. Explain to everyone the role of the observers, what are they going to do and why
Allow enough time to review the exercise properly. There is nothing more disheartening for delegates than going through a lengthily exercise and then not having time to explore the group/s findings. Allow delegate groups to feedback first, then the observers and then add any feedback you feel has been missed. Minimise any tendency groups or observers might have to repeat what has already been said.
10. Match feedback to learning aims
As the review unfolds, pull out the key learning points and link directly with the overall aims of the programme.
11. Review exercise for next time
Any trainer worth their salt, will always be unsatisfied and will see need for changes and improvements for next time. Allow time to review all programme material, especially exercises, whilst your thoughts are fresh in your mind.
So be creative, be bold and innovative, but follow the rules. This will ensure success every time and avoid the look coming across delegate faces, that says ‘well, what was that all about?’
If you’re looking to work with a learning design specialist to prepare your people development manuals for training talent within your organisation to deliver then you can find out more here! Or watch Righttrack’s Managing Director, Kasmin Cooney OBE, talk to camera about her approach to developing training talent through our Academy for Trainers.