Let’s Work Together

Part II: Our Brains Are Like Plants – So Don’t Overwater Them!

Aug 16th, 2016

As argued in part one of this learning and development blog series, our brains are like plants. They can’t be over watered. They need the perfect nutrient balance to grow.

Or they will become a large puddle of brain mush.

Like expert gardeners balance the nutrient needs of the plants in their gardens, training programs and initiatives must manage the content load of the learners in their classrooms, which can be done by utilizing sticky learning tactics like assigning pre-work.

Pre-work allows the learner to start ruminating over the content to make sense of the information before the training begins. This gives the learning a kick start. This introduces the learner to tough, content jargon, opening up the training for more complex and higher level learning situations. This also makes more meaningful and manageable chunks of content.

Sticky training tactics help combat cognitive overload, and keep our learners engaged.

Keep the End in Mind

Along with pre-work, training initiatives need to define a target for the training way before the learning is launched.

Before the content is curated, the activities are organized, and supplies are defined, the creators of the training program must define the exact performance or behavior change expected from the training. This gives the planning process a very clear direction, giving the training developers specific guardrails on deciding what should be or should not be included in the training.

If the objectives are not clear, the training can become a content dumping ground.

More and more content will be dropped and slipped into the training program. This leads to a jam-packed training that overwhelms the learner. They walk away confused, tired, and uninspired to even try to apply the content from the training.

As Hermann Ebbinghaus, German psychologist that studied memory retention in 1885, illustrates inThe Forgetting Curve,” the retention rate for learning new information drops to 58% just after 20 minutes of leaving a training session. It then drops to 33% one day later.

Research shows that learners will forget what they learn in just a matter of days.

In knowing that we are already fighting an uphill battle with learning retention, we must ensure the learning environment is optimized for results, which calls for focusing the entire development of the training program on only hitting the targeted objectives.

Always keep the end in mind.

The moment the training development team pivots away from the objectives, the program enters into danger zone–cognitive overload.

Building Backwards

To keep the end in mind and be a backwards, content-building expert, always starts with the needed results of the training. Define what the learner should be able to do.

Try working through these steps:

  1. Visualize a person successfully completing the task or behavior change
  2. Think through these questions while visualizing the process:
    1. What does the learner need to do to be able to complete this task?
    2. What does the learner need to know to be able to do each step?
    3. Where will the learner need to be to practice this behavior?
    4. How long does the task take?
    5. To what degree is considered successfully mastering the taks or behavior change?
    6. Where does this task or behavior occur or under what conditions?
    7. Who needs to be able to complete this task? What are their needs, skill level, backgrounds and experience with this topic?
    8. What’s the learner’s motivation for learning this new task or behavior change?
  3. Finish this sentence to construct the learning objectives: “By the end of this training the learner will be able to (insert action verb of behavior change) (define desired behavior change or task) (insert to what degree).”
    1. FOR EXAMPLE: “By the end of this training, the learner will be able to create a sales forecast for their first year in business.

By working through these steps, the content and activities will become quite clear.

Like pre-work, developing the training with the end in mind is only two sticky learning tactics. So check back next month for part three in the “Our Brains are Like Plants Series–So Don’t Overwater Them!”.