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Active Learning is a Two Way Street
About how much of what you hear do you remember?  It probably depends on what you are doing when you are listening.  Most adults in these days are juggling many tasks at the same time – reading emails, texting messages on their smart phones and checking in on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest news.  It is quite difficult to get a person’s complete attention, and keeping it is another thing altogether! That begs the question, even when you do have their attention, did they hear you?  Do they understand what you are saying? 
 
Over twenty four hundred years ago, Confucius said, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.  This quote from the famous Chinese philosopher is as accurate today as it was 2400 years ago.  What we know today based on research is that retention rates increase dramatically when learners actually do something rather than just listen to a lecture.  The average trainer speaks about 100-200 words per minute, but how much of that is really heard?    Of course that depends on what the learner is doing while listening, distractions surround us every day – and in every class, that is the job of the trainer – to keep a learners attention and to ensure that they gain knowledge during the session.
 
 
A trainer must be able to deliver material and information to satisfy the three key learning styles:  Auditory (hear it), Visual (see it) and Kinesthetic (do it).  The visual and auditory parts are easy, a traditional meeting or webcast typically satisfies these learning styles.  A great way to ensure there is a connection with the learners is to discuss the information and ask questions.  Learning is enhanced when people are asked to state information in their own words, give examples of it, provide connections between it and other facts, and apply it to relevant scenarios.
 
However, the act of “doing it” is where the real knowledge is applied, and therefore learned. When a learner has the opportunity to try something out, or to do something, the learning becomes active and not just memorized.  The act of practicing a skill or using an application requires thinking and problem solving.  This in turn provides the learner with practical experience that can be applied immediately in their life.   Hands-on exercises, workshops, and even completing exams/assessments are ways to actively engage a learner.  Other activities such as polling the audience, asking questions, breaking the audience into groups to discuss case studies or to solve a problem also provide valuable methods to increase knowledge and retention.
 
The key to an effective training program is to provide well designed learning activities in which participants acquire knowledge and skill rather than just receive them.  Active learning is a two way street, it takes more than just a trainer to show and tell information.  Today the learner must take ownership of their destiny by actively participating in the learning process.
 
Posted by Amy Melton, WW Director of Education and Delivery, Epicor University
 

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