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Those of you who have been on training courses in the past will know that not all training is the same. This statement may sound like the blindingly obvious, a truism, but what is it that really differentiates a truly memorable training experience from a mediocre one?

This post looks at two critical factors…

1. Active vs Passive learning

It’s interesting how many people will form strong opinions about training, when such clear differences in learning experiences exist.

Some may say that training is ineffective – but this may say more about the person’s learning experiences in the past than as a reliable gauge of the truth.

Others may be highly enthusiastic about training – but then ignore the dozens of turgid learning experiences that may take place in their organisations, giving their beliefs the lie.

Our experience is that it is impossible to compare apples with oranges. Instead, we need to focus on the type of learning experience being created and delivered. The first area of focus is how much of the learning experience is active (and interactive) and how much passive. Have a look at the diagram below…

Here’s some research conducted by the National Training Laboratories in the US into learning retention. Quite simply, the more active the learning experience, the better the learning retention rate.

It’s little surprise that many of the learning experiences participants identify as poor, or even ‘a waste of time’, are passive. In other words, they are either lecture or powerpoint heavy, and typically characterised by high trainer talk time.

Active training experiences, by contrast, involve participants to a far greater extent – first by increasing participant talk time, and secondly by ensuring the learning experience is more ‘hands on’ in nature. The most effective form of training is when participants actually start teaching each other – through ‘peer learning’.

To make the leap from passive to active learning experiences, one needs to take risks, since risk is what mobilises emotion.

2. ‘We learn emotionally’

At the root of all great training experiences is another, totally ignored factor.

We touched on this factor in this post here. It is simply the emotional content of the learning experience. All great learning experiences combine the elements of Head, Heart and Hand.

What stops us learning is usually either boredom, or fear. Since these are both emotions, a great training experience can only overcome these blockages with a greater immediate emotion.

The emotional blockages are often those in the graphic below:

As trainers, our task is to get participants out of the comfort zone and into the challenge zone.

Emotion is the key to this transformation, yet every learning taxonomy we have seen leaves this essential factor out.

As the neuroscientist Donald Calne has pointed out, ‘Reason leads to conclusions, but Emotion leads to action.’ If, as trainers, we want our participants to take action (and achieve transfer to the workplace), then emotion is the trigger for that.

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