Your Conference Needs To Offer Transformational Learning Not Informational Learning


Which word describes the type of conference education sessions you prefer to attend? Pick one.

Informed or transformed?

The Best Learning At Conferences

For me, I want to be more than just informed. I can be informed by reading information online. I don’t need to travel to a conference to become informed.

I prefer a conference experience that is transformational! It transforms my thinking, my perspective, my attitude, my actions and my habits. Those are the type of conference experiences that are worth my money, time, energy and resources.

I suspect you prefer those types of conference education experiences too.

Most of us want transformational learning experiences. We prefer something that transforms our thinking, perspective and actions. Not something that just gives us more data, facts, figures and information about a topic.

Hat Tips to author, professor, educator and researcher Eleanor Drago-Severson who identified and started the conversations about informational versus transformational learning.

Informational Learning

Too often conferences herald informational learning through their educational sessions.

Informational learning increases the mastery of specialized content. It is an increase in statistics, data facts, figures and knowledge about a specific subject matter. It increases what we know.

Drago-Severson says we can compare informational learning to encyclopedias. It’s similar to becoming a compendium of information.

During a conference, informational learning sessions push information to attendees. Presenters dump content and data at the expense of the participant’s limited cognitive load. We try to shovel information into attendees’ brains with the belief that an increase in subject matter results in attitude, behavior and skill change.

Yet, that is far from the truth. Increasing someone’s knowledge of the topic rarely produces a change in their skills and expertise.

Informational learning is important to a point. We need information and knowledge about specific things.

However it is not enough. Limiting your conference education to informational learning does not allow for practical application and wise use.

Transformational Learning

Transformational learning experiences change our thinking and the way we see and understand things. They are fundamentally different than increasing our information and knowledge about a topic.

Transformational learning is about how we know. It’s about how we take in information, experience it and make sense of it.

Conferences that offer transformational learning opportunities are those where adults actually experience brain-based developmental principles as they learn about a specific topic or solutions.

These types of conference sessions are more difficult to plan. They require more time, effort and intention than the traditional informational lecture.

Transformational learning requires that presenters understand their current audience’s way of knowing. The audience’s way of knowing becomes their lens and frame for how they view and interpret the world. Speakers have to meet the audience where they are. Then facilitate a experience that leads them to a new view and perspective.

Transformational learning conference experiences require new approaches to supporting adults and their growth. It requires new ways of thinking and capitalizing on learning design.

Why do so many conferences continue to promote and provide education sessions that promote informational learning? Why are so few meetings, conferences and association organizations helping meeting professionals understand transformational learning and learning design for their education sessions?

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  1. Lisa Roman says:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I am interested in attending training on transformational learning and learning design. I would appreciate if you could please let me know if Velvet Chainsaw Consulting or another organization provides training on these topics. Any assistance you can provide is appreciated.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely, Lisa Roman

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Hi Lisa:

      We don’t offer stand alone workshops. You can usually find us presenting at ASAE Annual, ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference or PCMA Convening Leaders. You might try ATD to see if they have any upcoming workshops on these subjects.

      1. Lisa Roman says:

        Thank you so much for the suggestions. They are greatly appreciated!


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