“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” Sam Levenson
A great part of the fun in designing and facilitating training programs is selecting which learning activities to incorporate. There is such a wide range and variety of activities from which to choose. However, new and seasoned trainers make seven common mistakes that you should avoid.
Mistake #1. Assuming you know more than the participants. You don’t want to waste time or bore them silly teaching them what they already know. So ask a question first. If a participant can answer it, you can move on to the next topic area. Remember this mantra: Ask participants first. Tell them the information only if no one else can answer you. It is important to recognize and honor the collective expertise in the room.
Mistake #2. Not meeting the needs of different learning styles. We tend to train people either the way we like to learn or the way that was modeled for us in school. Using just one training approach will limit your effectiveness and the ability of all participants to learn. It doesn’t matter what learning style model you prefer. Just keep in mind that people learn differently and enrich the learning activities to meet a wide range of learning needs. At the very least, enhance the activities so that the oral, visual and kinesthetic learners are set up for success.
Mistake #3. Scheduling lots of activities that have no real bearing on the training content. In order to lighten up training and make it enjoyable, it can be very appealing to add icebreakers and activities simply for fun. That is a fine approach if you are hired to entertain, not build skills. However, if the participants need to gain new information or practice new skills, there are lots of interactive and enjoyable learning activities that will get the job done.
Mistake #4. Assuming that dry or technical information needs to be taught in a dry or technical manner. There are a number of participant-centered learning activities that will ensure that the necessary learning occurs. Take the key points and place them into a questionnaire for group discussion. Pair up participants to complete an information sheet by finding key points in rules or regulations. Provide a case study to analyze. Choose activities that put the focus and responsibility for learning on the participants. That will bring the content alive and make both the content and the learning process engaging and interesting.
Mistake #5. Not modeling what you want the participants to do. When you give an assignment, make sure that you not only give clear and complete instructions, but you also walk the participants through a brief example of what you want them to do. If you don’t model the assignment, neither an effective learning experience nor a successful outcome will be guaranteed. Instead, you are likely to be unhappy with some of the participants’ results, and that will further frustrate the participants.
Mistake #6. Not debriefing learning activities. Group activities take time, so it is understandable if a trainer wants to skip debriefing in order to move the lesson along. However, often the best learning occurs during the debriefing. Debriefing requires participants to consciously reflect on their experience, develop their own theories, and articulate what they have learned. As each group reports on their activity, the other groups benefit from their ideas and outcomes. The trainer also has an opportunity to refocus the participants when necessary, add additional information, and provide a final summation.
Mistake #7. Giving a lecture after lunch. It probably goes without saying that post-lunch activities need to be highly interactive to keep the participants awake and focused. Despite this truism, many trainers still proceed to lecture anyway because that is where they are in their lesson plan. Don’t be afraid to be flexible. Before the lecture, add in a quick activity that will check for comprehension of the morning’s content. Ideally, this activity should also get the participants up and moving. There are lots of effective kinesthetic learning activities that are quick and easy to set up, such as: a relay race, pop ups, a scavenger hunt, or a gallery walk.
Don’t make these common mistakes. Choose to use relevant and participative learning activities that engage the participants and ensure a vibrant and validating learning experience.
May your learning be sweet.