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15 Suggestions to aid retention in the corporate classroom
I teach a number of short courses around Europe for a large organisation and like to ask my delegates which other courses they have attended and what they learnt in them. More often than not, not only do the executives not remember much or any content – they fail to recall the main course subject, especially if they took it is more than 6 months ago! Not very encouraging at the start of a fresh half-day programme.
Here are a number of insights that will help you, as trainer / coach, to assist your participants / coachees in remembering more of your words of wisdom. There may be a test later…
- Pay it forward – If the participants are asked to learn and interact in the classroom knowing that they will be asked to teach someone the key models, theories and findings, they will learn in a different way and invest in the course with a higher level of attention. When you learn to teach you learn more deeply. And when you teach you learn a second time.
- Learning buddies – When I train in a company building I ask, “Do you guys know each other?” If the answer is yes, I pair up the participants and give them a challenge to undertake after the training has finished. “When you meet again in the canteen of the corridor, help your learning by asking the question – what was the most important point you have taken from the training?”
When we strive to recall we recall. When we know we must recall we, again, process more deeply.
- Follow-up call – Add a follow-up telephone conference call one or two weeks after the face-to-face training has happened. Ask 3 simple questions in a call that lasts between 15 and 40 minutes. The questions are; A, What do you remember?, B, What have you tried from the course and it is working well? And, C, What have you tried from the course and its NOT working well? This gives the trainer a chance to find out if the messages have landed and landed correctly.
- If you measure before, you can measure after – You can only see improvement if you know where you started. Simple ways include either a pre-training intake form or administering a knowledge-based quiz at the beginning of the training. If an identical or similar quiz is administered again at the end, this can create a reasonable measure of the increase in learning that has occurred.
- Write your own summary – There are various versions of this. One I currently use quite a lot is to ask the students to collate an Excellence Charter of desirable behaviours and undesirable behaviours. I then asked them to present this back to me in a novel way. A recent triumph was a tech group who hijacked my computer and installed some software that animated the Star Wars credits and combined this with some dramatic content to prove their understanding of the material. I was impressed and we will all remember what was said.
- I do declare – Writing strong personal actions on post it notes and shouting them out to other people both aids memory and reinforces commitment to take the promised action. The participants are then asked to fold up the paper and put it next to money in their purse or wallet. When they are out in a bar or shop and move to pay for something they will be reminded of the training.
- Interrogation – By bombarding the participants with W questions, the trainer can create a modestly tense training environment where the students actively attempts to avoid stress by preparing the answers in their heads in case they are called upon. There is a limit to this method. It is not advisable to annoy a class to the point where they rebel!
- Mind map – It still surprises me that in 2018 many executives in Europe have not heard of this diagrammatic learning method. With a quick lesson in how to do them, it is fun to see how quickly bright executives pick up the technique and use it to reformulate their notes. This can be very effective especially when icons and colours are employed to create more complex schema.
- WIIFM? – The teacher and coach may boost the percentage of retention by tailoring the material to the known and specific needs and wants of the assembled learners. By honing the material and using more appropriate language and stories, the teacher’s efforts will hit the mark more frequently.
- Practice practice practice – With soft skills courses especially, repetition and dynamic exercises of increasing complexity can have an extraordinary beneficial effect. This is why it is good, if you’re proposing training and have some control, to ask for a second day. On the first day you apply the polish. And on the second day you bring out the shine.
- Sell the benefits – Related to 9. If you emphasise the positive outcomes for the individuals in the room, they are more likely to volunteer more of their attention. One fact I like to share is that, with specific courses, the diligent application of the key learning points and plenty of practice, a single delegate will experience an extra lifetime income boost of €5000,000. It is true. This fact has a powerful effect on class attitude.
- Review review review – If the student assigns space to review the key schematics and theories after one day, one week and one month, it is amazing how much more they retain permanently. Most people are not aware of learning decay and need to have the review time specifically scheduled and monitored by the teacher.
- Mnemonics and metaphors – The brain seems better able to remember when aided by dramatic tricks. At school we remembered the colour order of a rainbow by “Rowntrees of York give best individual value.” Another way is to create similes, metaphors and stories. If you can connect things to be remembered with brilliant and wild coloured associated images in motion and make them into a funny film with a jokey sound track, the facts themselves will be hard to forget.
- Question Time – A wonderful way of retaining learnt material is to question it in more detail after the training has finished. Searching for the topic on the TED website may throw up a keynote speaker who gives you a different perspective in just 17 minutes. This can reframe the your perspective and help you to keep more of the content in mind.
- Doublespeak – 15. may be a stretch too far, but I have tried it and it works. Peter Thomson in one of his three-day training sessions asked all participants to repeat every word he said silently in their head simultaneously. It feels very strange for a couple of minutes and then it seems fairly normal. Obviously your brain processes the 2 streams of words in a special way that seems to aid memory.
FUN – TEST TIME. Turn away from the screen, pick up a pen and paper and write down as many of the 15 ideas as you can remember!
About the Author – Matthew Hill is a class room trainer in the areas of culture, conflict, communication and leadership and has worked with 1000’s of executives having delivered live classroom training in more than 30 countries. Do feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org