Monthly Archives: February 2014

Putting it All Together

Learning WordleSo now we’ve discussed the three different learning styles… visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning.  We also talked about some different options in getting these specific styles into your classes to cater to specific needs.  The next thing we can do is explore options in making all three learning styles accessible for all learners in your classroom.  This will enable your class to best understand and absorb the materials that you are trying to convey.  In a professional environment, the success of your class can make or break your success as a trainer.

A common example in a business process environment is a new process or procedure that must be trained out to all of the employees involved in the program.  Since the steps of the process are very important to get right in the training, it makes sense to appeal to each and every learner so that they fully understand what needs to be done.  Providing the tools that they need to learn is the most important aspect.  Your materials should be descriptive and concise, but not too overly complicated.  When at all possible, your trainees should have dedicated or materials so that they can follow along.

In this new process, a PowerPoint slide show and you standing up in front of the class yakking away is not going to do enough.  You need to get your kinesthetic learners involved as well.  With a visual demonstration, such as a PowerPoint deck, you can illustrate what you are trying to teach (Bates College has some good tips on creating a great slide show, we’ll cover more in the future here).  Your words and advice help them to learn it using their auditory senses.  Finally, they need hands-on practice.  This can come in the form of games, exercises, quizzes, or direct hands-on experience.  I imagine many people won’t argue with the idea that if they get their hands on the process and practice once or twice, your success rate and retention will increase dramatically.

What about a training that you cannot personally attend or run with a given audience in person?  Well, that’s where eLearning comes in.  This is usually designed using a specific program (such as Adobe Captivate) or others.  This is essentially a self-guided and self-powered learning course, similar to one you might take for an online college class.  Iowa State University has a list of pros and cons of eLearning.  We will tackle this topic in future blog posts, since it is relatively new to my own experience.

What is one of the best business training classes you’ve had?  What did the teacher do to make it successful?  In contrast, what is the worst class you’ve taken?  Share your stories here!

Photo Credit: Center for Teaching Development

Advertisements

Participation Leads to Better Learning

Personally, I am an individual who learns things best by getting his hands dirty.  Specifically, I favor kinesthetic learning over auditory and visual learning styles.  I want to get involved in the activity and see how it’s done, try it out for myself, and learn from the experience, including mistakes that I make in the first try.  I want to experiment with the process and see if I can break it or test the limits of the rules.  I feel much more comfortable with any given task once I can try it out myself for the first time.

Although studies have proven that one individual does not necessarily succeed more using one specific learning style, in my experience it does seem that people in general retain more of the material when exposed to kinesthetic (or hands-on) experiences.  For the kinesthetic learner, Utah Valley University provides some tips on how you can best utilize kinesthetic inputs to have better results in your learning.  If you’re like me, and you learn by getting in and actively participating, these tips are for you.  Try them next time you are in a classroom and see if it makes a difference.

On the other side of the podium, how can you utilize the aspects of kinesthetic learning to improve your students’ results? Well, first of all, they need hands-on experience and practice.  Some of the best musicians in the world didn’t learn their arts by just listening to others perform.  Classroom Management Success by Bill Alexander has some great advice on adding practices to your classroom to appeal to the kinesthetic learner in all of us.  Basically, the idea is to get your students involved.

In business and professional process training, my rule of thumb is to include hands-on exercises or practices whenever possible.  This can extend the amount of time needed for training a process, but it will be well-worth the effort.  If they require practice exercises, make them easy enough to understand, but maybe throw one or two curveballs to keep them on their feet.  Once the process is learned appropriately, give them a self-guided exercise and sit back to watch how they do (obviously be available for questions).  The success of your organization likely rides on the success of your training, so you should be pulling out all of the stops to make it as effective as possible.

What were some of the more interesting exercises or hands-on experiences you’ve had in a classroom?  Share it here and let’s get those ideas out!

Using Audio and Sound to Engage Learners

Can you imagine what a lecture would be without sound?  It would be like watching a silent movie and having to read all of the words from the professor on a screen.  Audio is so important to keep learners engaged and include those who depend on sound for their input.  We spend most of our day listening to music, hearing ads and watching videos on the Internet, and speaking with our colleagues, friends, and family.  How can a trainer or teacher use audio to make their teaching more successful?

Well, the most obvious way is to use public speaking or performing skills to engage your audience.  Beyond a simple comfortability with the materials, simply getting in front of an audience and speaking with confidence can make a difference.  Use varied vocal inflections, keep your voice at an easily-audible volume, and avoid using filler words such as “um” or “you know”, or others.  Be sure to keep up the pace too, as speaking slowly can put your audience to sleep, and speaking too fast can either confuse or lose your audience altogether.  Finally, add a little excitement to your voice… monotonous voices can cause your audience to lose interest, not to mention lessens the chance that your learners will actually retain the materials that you are speaking about.

Let’s take an example… listen to this classic “Clear Eyes” commercial on YouTube.  You’ll notice that Ben Stein’s voice (who anyone can think of when asked) is very monotonous and flat.  Ironically, this is what he’s known for.  How many times have you heard a speaker or professor with similar habits?  Here’s an example of the opposite spectrum… another commercial from YouTube.  Billy Mays was known for his loud, brash, and almost aggressive vocal styles.  Have you had any professors or teachers that spoke like this?  What you need to strive for is something in the middle: varied tones and excitement, but not “in your face” aggressiveness to scare the audience away.

What is your worst public speaking experience?  What did they do that made it the worst experience?  In contrast, what is the best speaker that you’ve ever seen?  What about the speaker made the experience memorable?  What did they do differently?  Leave a comment and tell us what you have heard!

A Picture is worth… well, you know.

Visual learners learn through seeing We are an increasingly visual society.  Everything nowadays is presented to us on an electronic screen, whether a 6-inch screen tablet or smart phone, or a 60-inch plasma television.  Humans are not necessarily the best at visual stimuli, but it definitely makes a difference in our learning.  Have you ever tried to learn how to put together a model plane without an instruction manual?  Have you ever tried to cook something blind-folded?  We can all imagine that both of these tasks would be very difficult without a visual aid.

In education today, visual aids can make the difference between teaching any given subject correctly or not.  In my own experience, visual teaching is almost as effective as hands-on training.  A good PowerPoint training deck with screenshots, arrows, graphics, text bubbles, and all those fancy transitions can make an executive presentation look like child’s play. (I’ll have many posts on writing good PowerPoint presentations later.)  Simply put, nothing can be taught best without the use of a visual aid.  There are many ways to add visual aids to a topic, but they key is to make them concise, not too flashy, and effective.

How do we make visual aids more effective without using flashy stuff?  Well, the key to this is to be clear to your audience, and know what it is that they need to hear.  For example, you might have a worksheet with some tips or a cheat sheet on a business process for your training.  Make sure your topics covered are in bullet-form, clearly spelled out.  I would avoid using full sentences in this case, since you want to be quick to the point.  It should say something like “Click Field 1, enter name and address, press Enter”, rather than “First, click on the first field (Field 1), type in your first name, last name, address, and postal info.  Then click on Enter to submit.”  The former would be good for a quick reference, while the second might be good for a more detailed work instruction document.  For classroom-style trainings, a handout, graphic on the whiteboard, or step-by-step processes in your slide show is best.

Visual aids in learning need to be just that… an aid.  It should be complimentary of what you are trying to teach.  It should provide a quick hint, reminder, or graphic that reinforces your point, then gets out of the way.  You could stand there talking about the picture all hour, but that wouldn’t get much done.  The point of a visual aid is to assist the teacher to cover a topic quickly, and assists the learner in retaining that topic with additional sensory images to commit to memory.

Next up, auditory learning and speaking.  Stay tuned!

Styles of Learning and the Human Brain

Learning is at the core of humanity.  It is how we develop technologies, how we chart history, how we speak and communicate to each other, and how we have survived on this earth for millennia.  If humans did not have the capacity to learn, we would not live in the society that we have today.  I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.  You wouldn’t be able to read it from anywhere in the world.  So, learning is how we function and survive.  How can one harness this unique ability and teach others to learn more effectively?

Well, first we need to look at how people learn.  There are many different schools (no pun intended) of thought on this concept, but the most common one seen in education is styles of learning.  From decades of research, there are three major styles of teaching, and the best educators and trainers out there use all three in conjunction with another.  The three styles are visual learning, auditory learning, and kinesthetic learning. (Source: http://blc.uc.iupui.edu/AcademicEnrichment/StudySkills/LearningStyles/3LearningStyles.aspx)  We will go into more detail on each of these styles in the next few posts.

Personally, I find that kinesthetic learning works best for teaching in all venues, but there is no scientific evidence that a specific type of learning is fixed to an individual. (Source: http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-learning-styles-quiz) Of course, all of this depends on the subject at hand, the audience that you are teaching, and the materials and tools that can be utilized in the given space.  In an effort to reach all members of your audience, we’ll use some specific examples of each style and how you can apply them

Subscribe to my blog, and stay tuned for more!

Learning and Education in Business

According to Forbes Magazine, quoting the Corporate Learning Factbook 2014 from “Bersin by Deloitte”, companies in the United States spent over 70 billion dollars on training and development in 2013.  Companies worldwide spent over $130 billion in the same year!  Obviously this is a large sum of money, and as the worldwide job market continues to improve from the financial crisis of 2009, there seems to be an increasing emphasis on training and development.  As the unemployment rate in the US slowly decreases and people continue to find jobs, companies are needing to move existing employees around and train new incoming employees.  So the question is… where does all that money go?

Depending on which company and process you’re talking about, companies could spend one day, one hour, or one month training on any given process.  Training a new employee could cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars for an external training class to a few thousand dollars for an in-house multi-week training course.  Companies are learning that it takes a good foundation of learning in order to improve accuracy, productivity, and efficiency.  When most companies have a specific budget for training and development for any given project, it seems that they are gradually increasing in value over the last couple of years.  It is not only a necessity for the success of the organization, but can also prevent major issues in compliance, accuracy, customer satisfaction, and security.

Through this blog, I will provide tools to help your training be more successful.  We will look at education in business as well as pulling in elements of personal lives and how these skills can help you be a better learner.  We will answer questions such as: “How can I use digital tools to improve my class?”, “How can I make trainings with larger audiences easier?”, and other questions like “What do I do if I have a disruptive trainee in my class?” and “How do I help managers buy-in to the training for their employees?”  We will explore topics such as training on processes, training on professionalism and customer service, as well as education in other aspects of life outside of business.

Please join me for this journey and let’s explore making training and education work for you!