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We Prefer Learning This Way Because it Works

"Retention is best when the learner is involved." - Edward Scannell, University Conference Bureau, Arizona

When Given the Option, We Choose Active Learning

Here's a thought experiment I sometimes use in my seminars. I like thought experiments. No one gets hurt, but the learning can be just as effective.

Imagine that you have to catch a flight to a great destination. You're looking forward to going. You are at the airport, through security, and walking up to your gate. You notice something unusual. You have TWO identical gates, not just one, to take you to your destination. They are Gate A1 and Gate A2. The gate agent announces that you may choose either flight to get to your destination. You also notice that both gates have brand new airplanes -- the ones you've read about.

The two flights at the two gates are identical in every way, but one: Crew Training.

Gate A1 has a crew trained via flight simulators, hands on practice, and in-depth coaching.

Gate A2 has a crew trained via lecture and PowerPoint slides.

Which gate do you choose?

Of course, most people choose A1, the gate with the learner-centered, performance-based techniques used to train the crew. Why? Because among other things, our lives depend upon it.

Shouldn't it be the same for ALL of our most valuable assets in business -- our people? Don't they deserve the same quality of instruction? In many cases, the answer is yes.

Do they get it? Sadly, no.

Certainly a case could be made for less robust training under certain circumstances. We need to do what's appropriate. But consider that often we use ineffective methods, boring elearning, long PowerPoint presentations, and passive lectures to train our people. Even worse, when learners miss the PowerPoint lecture, they simply print out the slides to read them later. That's not learning. Not even close.

We've known for some time that learners need to engage in new content in order to remember it. They learn best when new learning, related to old learning, is used to solve real-world problems. We also know that experts can provide coaching, guidance, and advice in the process. That's what works. We knew it all along.

Think about this the next time you choose "just lecture." If you are simply covering the material, your learners most assuredly are not.

​Think about it. Make the right choice.

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