Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning is Doing

I have a theory that goes something like this:

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.

We tend to pay more attention to things when we feel invested in them.  Applying this theory, I assigned each info staff member to a database and asked them to train their coworkers on the ins and outs of their database. I offered myself up for guidance to help plan a course of action and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results.  While we are only half way through the assigned databases, each staff member incorporated a different approach to the training.  By far, my favorite method of training will always be the ones that are interactive.

For her training on Reference USA, a staff member set up her training group on individual computers and facilitated the group as they experienced the database first hand.  She also passed out a simple handout to accompany the training and keep staff engaged.
If you are familiar with the Reference USA database, then you will understand what this staff member was getting at.  The first set of questions prodded participants to use the quick search, map, and corporate tree features of the business section.  The second set of questions highlighted the custom search feature for businesses and the third question demonstrated the residential search.  This was the only handout she gave to participants.

This simple sheet of paper functioned in so many ways: it acted as a point of reference for both her and the attendees, helped to keep the training flowing and difficult participants on topic, and you could recycle it at the end of the training and not feel bad about not keeping the paper.

The best trainings incorporate as many senses as possible.  Since it's not likely that you'll get trainings which utilize your sense of smell or taste, you're batting 1000 if you use the three (sight, sound, and touch.)  This training example does.  Participants are following along with the simple handout, hearing instructions from the trainer, and doing the exercises for maximum retention.

Not every training will fit into this scenario and you always have to take your audience into consideration but, I challenge you to think of ways to incorporate the senses in order to get training to stick.

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