Speakers talk. Audiences listen.
Let me rephrase it another way.
Trainers talk. Learners listen.
This is one of the most powerful learning beliefs in our culture today.
We embrace it as truth. We create education programming based on this conviction. We pay for professional development grounded in this certainty.
Our belief in this idea creates our day to day reality for most conferences, training and workshops.
Unfortunately, it is backwards and actually hampers learning.
Here’s the real truth. The person doing the most talking in your education program is actually doing the most learning.
Paradigm Shift Needed
With all of the published research and books about the importance of involving participants in learning, the majority of our speakers and trainers still do the most talking while learners do the listening. And the majority of our organizations embrace the lecture as the best way to foster learning. Of course, the lecture is the most efficient and affordable.
Let me ask you this. Do you want your participants to hear the information or learn it? If the goal is just to hear the information, keep doing what you’ve always done. If learning is the goal, you will need to change.
Speakers will only change their method of delivery and presentation when there is a change to their underlying paradigm. Until presenters are challenged that the lecture has little learning ROI, they will not change. Until organizations decide to focus on education programming that is effective, they will not change.
We need a paradigm shift in our beliefs that the best method of learning is: trainers talk and learners listen.
We need to embrace: speakers facilitate and learners participate.
What Really Works
In order to increase learning, participants need to be given time to talk, discuss, participate, share and learn from each other. It means the trainer needs to do less talking and more facilitating. It means the learner needs to do more talking and less listening.
Yes, it’s that simple. Yes, it’s that complex.
Why complicated? Because it requires that you change your belief that what you’ve been doing for years is broken. If you don’t, you will never change your behaviors.
Here are five tips that will help you begin to make the change:
1. Shift the training focus from being speaker- and content-centric to learner-centric.
Make the participants the center of the learning during the training and workshop. Not the speaker or the content. Design the content to meet the learners’ needs.
2. Decrease the time the speaker spends talking and increase the time the learner spends learning.
Have presenters share 10-20 minutes of content and stop. Then participants can discuss the content in pairs or small groups of six to eight for 20- to 30-minutes. They can share their experiences and how the content applies to them. They can converse about barriers to adopting the new ideas. Or they can debate if it will work.
3. Design presentations that will increase learner involvement.
This will also increase learner interest and motivation. This means less content and more focus on two or three ideas.
4. Relinquish much of the lecture’s direct instruction to the learners.
Create simple, structured, collaborative exercises that motivate participants to think about the topic and reflect on what it means to them.
5. Read, learn and apply current brain research about human learning.
How can we help organizations make the shift from trainers talk, learners listen to speakers facilitate and learners participate? Why do we believe that lectures are best for learning?