Monthly Archives: August 2016

MAKING AN IMPACT WITH LEARNING AIDS

Standard

Because the human brain needs constant stimulation to absorb knowledge, trainers should use a variety of learning aids. These could be low-tech tools, flip charts, handouts, slides, or video clips. Lucas has worked with all of these and has numerous ideas for making these training aids more effective.

Low-tech training aids include cloth boards to which instructors can attach information to spur discussion, such as sticky notes, graphics, stickers, flip-chart border-tape, magnetic letters or numbers, or illustrations.

Flip charts are often used in the classroom, and Lucas identifies fourteen ways to make these aids more memorable:

  1. Creating a title page.
  2. Limiting the amount of information on the chart.
  3. Using only the top two thirds of the page.
  4. Improving visibility by using letters at least 1.5 to 2 inches high.
  5. Adding relevant illustrations.
  6. Adding graphic organizers, such as circles or rectangles.
  7. Tracing images.
  8. Highlighting pages with borders.
  9. Planning the pages before creating them.
  10. Using water-based markers.
  11. Proofreading in advance.
  12. Transporting flip charts safely.
  13. Tearing pages evenly.
  14. Facing the audience while speaking.

Handouts are a good way to engage visual learners. The content on handouts should not distract learners from the content. Handouts are more stimulating when they conform to the following guidelines: the fonts used are readable, punctuation is used sparingly, the text is easy to understand, the text is in both lower case and upper case letters, plenty of white space is used, key text is highlighted in color, and graphics are used to strengthen the message.

Slides are also used frequently during training. Lucas offers six tips for making slides more powerful:

  1. Ensure that slides are readable and visually appealing. Use eight to ten lines of text and six to eight words per line. Use a font that is at least 30 points for text and 36 points for titles.
  2. Build in periodic changes of pace. Use sound and animation sparingly to energize participants.
  3. Adjust lighting. Dim lights over the screen to prevent glare.
  4. Plan to be mobile. Using a remote control enables trainers to move around the room during the session.
  5. Use laser pointers correctly. If an instructor is nervous, he or she should avoid using a laser pointer, which could reveal a shaky hand.
  6. Devise a backup plan to overcome technical problems. In the event of equipment failure, always have backup training aids, such as transparencies.

Video clips are a way to enhance learning for both visual and auditory learners. To use video clips to their best advantage, trainers should always preview videos to ensure they are accurate and current. They should get copyright permission to show a video. Clips should be no longer than 20 minutes. Instructors must prepare learners to engage with the video by offering introductory comments and providing handouts that capture the important content. To prepare in advance, trainers should ensure that the video equipment works and cue the clip to the opening scene. While the video is playing, the trainer should stay in the room.

Advertisements

LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS DURING TRAINING

Standard

When the classroom is a welcoming place and provides a stimulating sensory experience, participants are more likely to retain and use the information they learn. The room must look organized. Any obstacles that exist between the trainer and learners should be eliminated. The lighting must be good, and seating should be organized in a way that encourages participation.

Research suggests that color improves mental recall. Lucas lists twelve ways to add more color to a training room. These include (1) using colorful posters, (2) adding graphics to visual aids, (3) placing toys on tables, (4) using colorful training aids, (5) incorporating party decorations, (6) using colored markers, (7) using colored paper for handouts, (8) wearing bright colors, (9) brainstorming with colored sticky notes, (10) using fluorescent highlighters, (11) capturing ideas on colored index cards, and (12) controlling discussion with traffic-type signs.

Scientists also have discovered that music can increase attention levels and reinforce concepts that are shared in the classroom. To take advantage of this fact, trainers might want to use music in the following situations:

  • When learners enter the training room.
  • As a speaker or learner comes to the front of the room.
  • When the instructor wants to boost learners’ enthusiasm.
  • After a game or activity.
  • During breaks.
  • When learners’ motivation levels are decreasing.
  • During a visualization.
  • During an exercise where participants work in teams to create songs that incorporate key terms.
  • When the instructor wants to signal the end of an activity.

Lucas identifies other effective ways to enhance the classroom environment. These include choosing the right type of room for the session, keeping the temperature between 70 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, adding nonflowering plants, using full spectrum light, adding pleasant aromas, providing food and drink for learners, using movable furniture, and knowing where the climate and electrical controls are located in the room.

DEVELOPING STRONG INTRODUCTIONS DURING TRAINING

Standard

The first steps to a successful training event are introducing the topic and getting attendees to focus on the content. Lucas suggests using novel introductions. For example, the instructor could use a magic prop called “slush powder” to illustrate how training will fill a void in learners’ knowledge. Other useful props include a magic light bulb, magic coloring book, or change bag.

Lucas identifies several ways that learner interaction can be facilitated: (1) using a buddy system to pair learners, (2) playing “get to know you” bingo, (3) creating learner résumés that highlight participant experience, (4) matching people by work skills and personal interests, (5) playing “who I am” charades, (6) posting photos of participants where other learners can post positive feedback, and (7) incorporating personal affirmation throughout the program.

To gain and hold participants’ attention, the author recommends using the following tactics:

  • Assessing the engagement factors of the content and delivery.
  • Identifying the training’s added value for learners and how it will benefit them.
  • Using transition phrases to move from one topic to the next.
  • Altering the delivery format at least every 15 minutes.
  • Creating an opinion survey that covers the key topics and asking for learner input.
  • Using creative noisemakers to attract learners’ attention.
  • Using nonverbal cues, such as silence or gestures.
  • Delivering a memorable conclusion that restates the concepts that were covered and provides an opportunity for final questions.

CONNECTING WITH LEARNERS DURING TRAINING

Standard

When participants feel connected to an instructor, the training is more likely to be highly effective. Strong teacher/learner bonds are based on trust. Lucas outlines eight strategies that trainers can use to build trust. These include (1) starting sessions on time, (2) being consistent with expectations, (3) paying attention to learners’ needs, (4) respecting all attendees, (5) monitoring participants’ behavior, (6) mirroring learners’ behavior, (7) showing credibility, and (8) empathizing with participants.

Since verbal communication is such an essential part of training, the author suggests different ways to improve this aspect of a session. Instructors should provide an overview, verify learner understanding, and tie information to participants’ past experience. Even though things might go wrong, instructors should not blame others or apologize. In terms of delivery, trainers must avoid verbal fillers, think before speaking, speak loud enough to be heard, and enunciate each word clearly. When explaining an activity, clear instructions must be provided.

Nonverbal cues are also powerful. In some instances, they can override the instructor’s spoken word. Lucas identifies ten ways that nonverbal cues can be harnessed in a beneficial way. Trainers should (1) smile, (2) think about the cultural meaning of hand gestures, (3) use movement to manage inattentive participants, (4) use open gestures, (5) avoid pointing, (6) use gestures to indicate size or proportion, (7) use gestures to emphasize a strong point, (8) use gestures to make learners pause, (9) use gestures to indicate number, and (10) monitor learners’ nonverbal cues to gauge attention levels.

Questions are one of the best ways to increase participants’ involvement and to evaluate their understanding of key concepts. Tips for using questions to maximum advantage in the classroom include:

  • Planning questions in advance.
  • Keeping questions simple.
  • Asking one question at a time.
  • Using open-ended questions.
  • Using learners’ names when asking questions.
  • Asking a question, pausing, and then calling on a specific participant.
  • Calling on a specific person, pausing, and then asking a question.
  • Encouraging questions from participants.
  • Practicing active listening.
  • Ensuring questions are heard.
  • Guarding emotions, if a challenging question is asked.
  • Respecting differing points of view.
  • Never embarrassing a learner.
  • Taking ownership of a question that is confusing to learners.
  • Not bluffing when one does not know the answer to a question.
  • Showing appreciation for participants who ask questions.

Another way to ensure transfer of learning is to provide participants with feedback. Lucas outlines eleven useful ways to offer feedback. He recommends (1) providing positive praise, (2) giving feedback that is meaningful and immediate, (3) using peer feedback, (4) avoiding activities that rank learners, (5) allowing self feedback, (6) encouraging self-assessment, (7) allowing for self-correction, (8) ensuring that learners master the material, (9) asking participants to keep journals, (10) providing periodic observations, and (11) avoiding the use of red pens for feedback which could have a negative connotation.

ENGAGING PARTICIPANTS’ BRAINS in TRAINING

Standard

One way to aid information processing is to incorporate challenges, novelty, and creativity into training. Instructors should create comfortable environments that promote learning and build variety into the program design. A helpful approach involves tapping into participants’ current knowledge and making materials learner-centered. After presenting key information, instructors should give learners time to process it. Incorporating music into the classroom can improve information retention. Trainers should consider using teasers to stimulate curiosity, employ movement effectively, and create content that is flexible. They should address the three main learning modalities: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (learning through touch and movement). Creative instructors teach to the senses and capture learners’ attention with novelties like magic tricks.

Based on Lucas’ experience, he relates 22 ways to engage participants with different learning modality preferences:

Strategies for Visual Learners 

  • Animate visual presentations.
  • Quote memorable sources.
  • Add color to course materials.
  • Make materials visual.
  • Demonstrate something.
  • Create flash cards.
  • Design mind maps (a graphic showing how concepts fit together).
  • Use photos.
  • Incorporate video clips.

Strategies for Auditory Learners 

  • Invite an outside expert to speak.
  • Use group musical activities.
  • Reinforce key points with recorded information and music.
  • Use memory aids like acronyms, rhymes, and acrostics.
  • Provide verbal instructions.

Strategies for Kinesthetic Learners 

  • Incorporate games and other action exercises into the course.
  • Use fun and novelty.
  • Include interactive strategies.
  • Develop activities that require sorting and decision-making.
  • Use different props.
  • Use role play.
  • Find activities that mimic real-world situations.
  • Invite learners to stretch and move.

Developmental psychologist Howard Gardner has published research on eight intelligences he attributes to humans. Lucas identifies classroom strategies for tapping into these different skill sets:

1. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. Incorporate physical activities into training to engage the brain and stimulate learning.

2. Interpersonal Intelligence. Use activities that improve bonds between learners and expand their resource networks.

3. Intrapersonal Intelligence. Include self-assessment activities and journaling to help learners who are more introverted.

4. Linguistic Intelligence. Encourage participants to take notes, analyze, discuss, and present their thoughts about the training topics.

5. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence. To engage these learners, use problem solving and decision-making activities.

6. Musical Intelligence. Suggest that participants work on a musical skit based on training topics.

7. Naturalist Intelligence. Encourage participants to explore the natural environment, perhaps through a scavenger hunt.

8. Spatial Intelligence. Use visualization activities for learners with this intelligence.