Thursday, March 26, 2015

Event #3: Stimulate Recall of Prior Knowledge

Adult learners come with a lot of baggage - and that’s an awesome thing - but it occasionally feels like some training ignores that baggage instead of embracing it. Our ideas of how people learn and how teachers should engage their students have changed over time. When I was in school, instruction was more lecture-based. Now, you would be hard pressed to find a K-12 class taught in that manner. “Facilitation,” “hands-on,” and “collaborative” are all words used to describe the 21st century classroom and are very much applicable to the on-the-job classroom as well.

Robert Gagne knew what he was talking about long before classroom participation became a “thing” and this is reflected in Event #3 of his 9 Events of Instruction - Stimulating Recall of Prior Knowledge.  For adult learners, especially those who come to the classroom with previous experience and valuable knowledge, the ability for them to share what they know gives them the freedom to make the training personal. The more personalized a training is, the more invested a learner will be.

Recalling previous information sounds pretty tedious - and it will be if you make it a lecture session - but it has the potential to be one of the most fun activities for your learners. Here are a couple of strategies that I use:

In case you haven’t noticed, people like to talk. After all, we are social creatures. You can use small group or whole group discussion to stimulate recall by asking learners to chat about a specific topic. For example, a training on Customer Service may ask learners to discuss poor customer service experiences they’ve had in the past. This information lays the groundwork for exactly what NOT to do.

Sometimes you may have a training where talking isn’t the answer. Instead of having a discussion among the group, perhaps introspective conversation can take its place.  For this, ask learners to contemplate an experience, idea, or question and have them write down their responses on paper (or electronically, if applicable.)  For a class that has the potential to be vibrant and fast-paced, this activity will take out time to be slow and thoughtful.  What you do with the written responses is up to you: read them aloud anonymously, use them to address specific concerns, or have learners draw responses and provide feedback.

Remember the game of memory you used to play as a child? Trying to recall which card had the matching picture was only for fun. Games like memory, however, are just as important to learning as they are to having fun. Besides, when learners are having fun, they are more receptive to new information. For this reason,  utilizing games during Event #3 is a great way to stimulate recall. Simple games such as word scrambles, quizlets, family feud, etc. will set the mood for learning and act as a jumping off point to facilitate discussion.

Discussion can be a breeding ground for new concepts and ideas. Use discussion to allow participants the chance to share their knowledge. In many cases, even the trainer can stand to learn a new thing or two. While learners are sharing their wealth of information, as a trainer, you should take it all in and make mental notes of what the participants’ foundational knowledge is. If you follow the ADDIE process, you most likely did research on the needs of your participants. Even the most detailed research, however, cannot always prepare you for what learners will say. Use the information you gather from discussion participation to help tailor the next part of your training - Events #4-7: Presenting Information, Providing Guidance, Eliciting Performance, and Providing Feedback.

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