Tip #3 for Making Learning Stick: Provide interaction

Moving on to tip #3 (following #1 Take care of basic needs and #2 Appeal to a variety of styles), we arrive at: Provide interaction to increase capability

You probably know already that effective adult education is more than knowledge transfer from an all-knowing teacher to a blank slate student who stores the information away for a rainy day. Effective adult education offers a mix of ingredients designed to increase the capability to do things differently.

So, how do you design and deliver adult education experiences to maximize capability? Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Reverse engineer: Start by asking yourself “What do people need to be able to do as a result?”

In this way of thinking, educators are like engineers. For the best outcome, reverse engineer the optimal learning experience by starting with the end (those learning objectives!) in mind and building backwards all the way to your opening moment. This is not a new idea. But actually doing it may revolutionize you as a trainer.

Remember, “the end” is your participants out in the world after your class/workshop/training/webinar/presentation.

2. Provide interaction, which leads directly to increased capability

What do I mean by “interaction”? I mean active engagement with the information and with other learners. Interaction gets those mental gears turning and makes knowledge real by turning people’s attention towards practical application.

Assess your presentation plan — do you have a good mix of active engagement (small group discussion or a 1-2-4-all progression from the Liberating Structures library of activities, a gallery walk, a role play, a game…) along with more passive learning (listening, watching a video, reading a brief passage…)? In my experience, a good mix is at least 30% of time spent actively interacting — and optimally more than that. I start with 30% because in some sectors and learning cultures that is revolutionary (think continuing legal education and other professional certification programs where lecture is considered the norm).

What do you think? Do you disagree with anything I’ve stated here with such apparent certainty? What would you add to these tips and activity ideas?

(Credit to Barbara Bichelmeyer, Professor of Education, for ideas gleaned from her presentation at a Continuing Legal Education conference when I worked at the Washington State Bar Association.)

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