Make Training Stick: Tips for Being a Better Learner
By Guest Blogger: Crystal Schimpf
Have you ever been completely overwhelmed after attending a training, workshop, conference, or webinar? My guess is that you have, because it is a pretty common experience. Sometimes people call this “information overload” or blame it on “bad instructional design.”
Regardless of what you call it, or what causes it, as learners (receivers of training) we have the power to prevent it. We have the ability to bring focus to our learning, and sometimes we do that without even thinking twice.
Can you think of a time when you attended a training event where you were able to effortlessly transfer information into your work or life? Where you actually changed your behavior as a result of the training? These moments can feel magical, even life-changing. This is the ultimate goal of any training experience: to get the learning to “stick” so it results in some type of change.
Things Trainers do to Make Training Stick
Any good trainer can tell you about things they do to make their training “sticky” (think more like memorable, less like super glue). If you’ve been to any of my workshops or webinars, you’ll know that I like to get participants to make a pledge to take some sort of action when they return to work.
Trainers break down information into bite-size chunks to help make training easier to remember. We share stories (sometimes serious, sometimes humorous) to make deep emotional connections, creating new neural pathways within the brain.
But what if the information isn’t presented with “stickness” in mind? What if the person presenting is an expert but not a trainer? Even if you do have an excellent trainer, what if it is just too much information? Then it is up to you to take charge of your own learning.
Take Control of Your Own Learning
Here are four things you can do to make your next training stick:
Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the training. Set aside time to review the materials within the first week or two after the training. This “practice” time gives your brain a chance to reinforce the neural pathways that help you remember. It also gives you a chance to put a fresh perspective on what was covered in the training. Even two 15 minutes follow up sessions can make a big difference in making training stick.
Identify meaningful concepts before you leave the training. Take a minute to reflect on what resonated most, and jot down a few notes about that concept. Once you leave, you are likely to become distracted by other things and forget what was covered in the training. Identify one way you will incorporate the new information or knowledge into your work. Set an intention for how you will utilize this information.
Less is more. Accept that you won’t remember everything, and stop trying so hard. Let your brain relax, and try to identify meaningful concepts as you go. Focus on concepts that are most relevant to your work or interests. In a few hours you might only expect to learn three new things really well. (This is far better than trying to learn ten new things and failing!) Set a goal for what you hope to get out of the training, and let your brain focus its attention there.
Don’t be selfish! Share what you learned with someone else. When we teach others, we learn information at a deeper level. It takes a different part of your brain to turn knowledge into explanation. So take a few minutes to share something you learned with colleagues or friends. Tell them one thing you thought was meaningful from the training. (This can be a great excuse to socialize over coffee or lunch, too!)
I like to think of training as a partnership – a collaboration between you and the trainer. In the end you are partly responsible for making training stick. These tips are easy to follow, and will transform your experience as a learner.
What will you do differently the next time you attend training?
Crystal Schimpf is a librarian and a trainer, with a passion for digital literacy and technology issues. As co-founder of Kixal, she provides collaborative, transformative training for libraries and nonprofits. Whether an online tutorial or a face-to-face workshop, she designs training that sticks.
Crystal is currently working on training development and delivery projects with the International City/County Management Association, the Urban Libraries Council’s Edge Initiative, Infopeople, and TechSoup.
Learn more about Crystal’s work at www.kixal.com
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