How to keep learners engaged on training courses

Everyone seems to be down on training courses these days.

I’m not.

I think a training course can be a fantastic way to learn, as long as it’s part of a bigger effort and not just a formulaic one-off isolated event with no connection to the real world.

As Learning and Development types, how we facilitate training courses is a huge part of our job, and an important way we establish credibility.

As any trainer knows, it’s not a lot different from any other type of performance art. If you go on stage and flop, your credibility is destroyed. If you kill (in the cool sense of the word), you can be seen as a credible professional, allowing you to be influential across a whole lot more than just training course provision.

But how do we do that when the average human attention span has slipped to less than that of a goldfish (now down to 8 seconds)?

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Flipping classrooms – silly name for a good idea?

Traditional training is based on the model where an expert trainer stands at the front and tells people stuff.

This is known as “the sage on the stage” model, or, as Brazilian Philosopher and educator Paulo Freire calls it: the Banking Concept:

Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat.

(Source: The Banking Concept of Education by Paulo Freire)

To put it another way, an active all-knowing speaker educates groups of passive ignorant listeners.

Freire’s conclusion is that this approach doesn’t work because …

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

This conclusion is kind of what the stupidly-named “flipped classroom” idea is about: moving away from the “sage on the stage” approach of shoving facts into passive students’ memories, to a model where the trainer becomes “the guide on the side”, helping active learners to engage socially to enquire, discuss and discover in order to build genuine understanding and deep knowledge.

Learnt taught

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