The Psychology of Quality and More
~ David Straker ~
A common question when designing training is how to structure it so that it keeps people engaged and gives them the best chance of learning. Here is a method I devised to help resolve this question.
The first request from most people would be for no 'death by PowerPoint', a method that is surprisingly common, where delegates are blasted with an endless stream of projected slides, many of which may be complex and need time to take in. It also seems that adults generally like to learn by discussion and activity rather than being talked at, lecture-style, for long periods.
With these points in mind and experience in teaching at all levels, I often use the following structure to help shape an engaging and interesting experience by which people can effectively learn.
A simple way of dividing up a day's training is into four 90-minute modules, with breaks in between, as below. This gives a decent chunk of time for four solid parts of the subject. Each module is then broken down into three parts, of 20, 30 and 40 minutes, as described below.
When starting a subject, rather than diving straight into the slides or 'chalk and talk' as it used to be, it is better to begin with an exercise, engaging them in something where they are 'sucked into' the subject.
This exercise should be relatively easy and involve them in a discussion of some kind. A typical way of doing this is to give them a case study which briefly describes a situation related to the module and asks them to comment on it, with questions such as 'What is happening? Why? What would you recommend?'
The exercise may be done individually or collectively, but is often best done in small groups where delegates can both discuss the subject and socially interact with others.
Designed well, this part should provide some diagnosis of how well the delegates understand the subject, for example by enabling both obvious and more detailed possible comments from delegates.
This part positions the delegate in the 'third person' where they are looking down on a situation. They typically act as an evaluative outsider, which helps them approach the subject in a more comfortable way.
The next part of the module is now the 'standard' teaching piece where the trainer stands at the front and talks about the subject matter. This may be done with or without slides, depending on subject, context and style.
An advantage for the trainer of putting this piece second is that Part 1 will have given a good view of how easy or difficult individual delegates find the subject, which can be used to shape the speed and detail presented. What is presented here should also be related with aspects of the exercise of Part 1, helping explaining what happened and what should be done about it.
Keeping the session to 30 minutes reduces the chance of overloading delegates. Having warmed up in Part 1, they are also more likely to engage with the topic and discussions about the exercise may continue (but should be managed within the timeframe, of course).
This part positions the delegate in the 'second person'. They are now the subject with the trainer presenting information for them to directly absorb and questions they can directly answer.
The last and longest part of the module is a more intense exercise through which the delegates engage with the subject, using the information learned in Part 2 in some practical way.
A typical exercise here is a role-play, where delegates play the parts in some kind of simulation. Another exercise is something which requires a significant presentation that likewise demonstrates the knowledge and skill that the delegate has gained.
This part positions the delegate in the 'first person'. They are now fully engaged and in control.
Having said all this, the structuring method presented here should never be used blindly on all training design. First, some types of training are better suited to this structure (notably where a significant element is the development of attitudes or skills).
When identifying subjects for modules, some may fit 90 minutes well, but others may need more or less coverage. This may lead to the times for each module and part being scaled or changed to suit. When doing so be careful not to lose the benefits. The bottom line always of course is 'fit for purpose'.
Also by being too regimented in the style, it can appear force-fitted. By adding some variation it can make the day more interesting and allow space for 'grand finale'.
And the big