Last week I wrote about the “6 Stupid Classroom Rules Learning Professionals Still Use”
Apparently I hit a nerve, but what’s important is we had some good debate. What was really exciting about the conversation was the lack of defensiveness. People weren’t taking the post personally, they were taking my words in the spirit in which they were intended. To shed a light on a few practices we use in the classroom, based mostly on tradition that hinder the learning process. People were asking for clarification and were generously sharing the great ideas and techniques they use in their sessions. Remember, this is the year of Kaizen. Making small improvements toward larger goals and if you are using any of those “6 Rules” it’s time to readjust and do something differently. Kaizen!
What the post also told me was that I could easily write a “Stupid Classroom Rules: Part 2”. But that’s for a post for another day, today let’s focus on the positive. Therefore, I present to you, the flip side of “6 Stupid Rules”: “6 Easy Ways to Add Sizzle to your Class”.
Ever see a movie trailer and the hype doesn’t match the movie?
Sure you have. That’s what happens when your customers sign up for a course that has great branding, a fabulous tag line and an energizing course description. They get a little excited. Then they arrive at your session and you present them with a ladder safety course featuring the “6 Stupid Rules”. YAWN. As we know, critical to learning design is reaching not only the mind, but the heart of your audience. Even if it is about Ladder Safety, because even compliance training deserves some sizzle. (Believe me when I say, if your compliance training is boring, you have only yourself to blame.)
Here are 6 Tips to bring some sizzle to your session.
Allow for Questioning. This is different than allowing people to ask questions. This is allowing the participants to question your topic, or question your stance on a particular topic. Gone are the days of “Sage on the Stage”. I remember back in the day, being told via a train the trainer class to not ask the class, “Does this make sense?” or “Do you agree?”. I was told this opens the class up for a debate you don’t want to have, and most likely will not have time to participate in. I think back on that now, and – WOW. Unless you are discussing company policy that is not open for discussion (and I would ask you, why in the world are you hosting a class on company policy?) – allow and embrace debate. Allow people to question the theory, question the research, or question you as a subject matter expert. If people aren’t wanting to debate, seed the discussion. Play your own “Devil’s Advocate”, you’ll be amazed at the discussion that is forthcoming and the learning that comes from it. Providing people with reasons to absorb content helps them to connect the dots.
Create Projects: All things being considered do we care if people “learn” or do we care if we see performance results. Do we care if people can recite the non-discrimination policy or do we care if people do not discriminate during the hiring process? Your participants feel the same way. Reinforce lessons by creating projects for teams to complete. Complete a case study, fix a broken item, create something – actually having people apply the skills they are studying will create a stronger sense of connection with the material, strengthening retention. People would much rather put their skills to practice than sitting nicely, watching your PPT deck progress while the life ebbs slowly from them.
Golden Ticket. Have your participants create their own job aid out of the information being given to them. I call this a “Golden Ticket” because I give them a HUGE yellow index card to write, draw, and create their job aid. This creates buy-in for the participants. Remember one of the “6 Stupid Rules” was forced note taking? This allows the participants to capture exactly what is important to them. It’s always interesting to see what people make note of – something little to you may have said could have a huge impact on the participant, and that connects them emotionally and intellectually to your session.
Take Pictures: At the end of each module (or lesson) have participants take a picture of the flip-chart, the PPT screen, or something (or people) in the room that will remind them later of the topic. Have them send the pictures to you to be uploaded to your group site (see the next section) as part of a class photo album, or just let the participants do whatever they wish with the photos afterward. Even if they scroll through the photos later with the intent to delete, they are still reviewing information previously captured. Perhaps they took a group photo and now they will talk about that photo to other colleagues in the workplace building interest in future sessions. You can take pictures during an activity and post those to be seen or email them to the group afterwards. It’s like looking at old vacation pictures, the long-term memories of your session will bubble up and will remind them they had fun and walked away with new information.
Build a Group – Build a group loaded with class information…with the class. You can do this using a variety of very easy to use (and set-up) tools – Free tools such as Diigo, Tumblr, FaceBook, Blogger, PBWiki or Enterprise tools such as SharePoint, Jive, Yammer or SocialCast. This will give your people a place collaborate, research and review information after the session has concluded. Being able to communicate and collaborate before, during and after a session builds a successful learning environment. One people want to join. This is a great activity for the class, as with the Golden Ticket, they are recording information that is important to them. Have a designated person in each group be responsible for adding information. This is a great place for some of those pictures they are taking. Help your class be able to retrieve information when they NEED to have it.
Assess Yourself. Last but certainly not least, have the class assess you. No, not a level one Kirkpatrick survey. No, not a smile sheet. We are not asking about lunch, snacks, temperature of the room or the comfort of the chairs. We want to know if the participants felt you did a good job connecting the dots. OUCH. This is best used during a two day (or more) session. At the end of day one have the class assess your skills as their facilitator. They will appreciate your desire to be sure you are connecting with them. There have been times I thought a class was going well, only to discover I was talking too fast. This teaches you a valuable lesson. Key here is addressing the results first thing the next morning. For this example, “According to your feedback yesterday, I seem to move too quickly at times, and I didn’t realize this until you pointed it out – so thank you. Please be sure to alert me today if this happens again. Someone send up a flare or something.” Here is a sample of the Learning Rebels Day One Assessment:
And there you have it – “6 Stupid Rules” and “6 Ways to Sizzle”.
Time to add another level of Kaizen to our sessions. Classrooms today are less about pipe-cleaners and candy (although I love both) and more about how to build an ongoing community of curious learners, keeping the brain engaged and helping people access knowledge when it’s important to do so. Your course should not be an event but part of a broader performance support solution, by adding levels of collaboration inside and outside the classroom you will see a wider reach to the solutions you are helping to implement. To find out more, here are 10 more ways to take your corporate university out of snoozeville.
Nigel Young says
Good stuff love it 🙂 – how about finishing with a challenge and inspiring the after action. Taking a picture is great but it’s what you do with that that makes the difference moving forwards 🙂
Shannon Tipton says
Hi Nigel – good thoughts there! I agree, the follow-up and reflection after the fact is a key component in the learning process. My experiences with taking pictures (for example) is the social element which comes afterwards. People bond over pictures and conversations take place, therefore any assignment which helps promote this social element is beneficial to learning. Here’s an idea fcor after the fact – if your class has project groups which require fcollow-up meetings, have one of the assignments can be a photo survey. People go off, take their pictures, regroup, assess and reflect. Wash, rinse, repeat, learn.
What have you done to encourage after the class reflection? Would love for others to gain from your experiences.
Mark Sheppard says
The other unspoken assumption here is that someone, somewhere, made the decision to have some kind of classroom ‘event’. While we L&D folk would prefer more continuous learning activities, it’s important to remember tools and techniques like the ones you mention here as a means to make sure the learning keeps happening after the class/workshop has ended.
Mark Sheppard says
Some great suggestions here and I think they will making facilitators think about how to revitalize the classroom/workshop experience.
In addition to the tools you mentioned, you could also consider having people use something like Evernote when snapping pictures or making some kind of record of work inside the class. I have found it to be invaluable as a collab and KM tool.
Shannon Tipton says
Hi Mark – Thank you! Just wanted to add a fresh perspective to dusty classroom techniques. 🙂
I can’t believe I didn’t mention Evernote, as most people in my network know, I have a long standing love affair with the application! So many possibilities, so little time. It is a great program for sharing and collaborating. When it comes to collecting information for a session it almost becomes wiki-like. To that point here is just one of many sites that give some great tips for using Evernote from Gizmo: http://tinyurl.com/opu85kq
Thanks for reminding me!