Four well-tested educational strategies can help you train quickly and effectively on almost any topic.
Your boss calls you in and tells you “There’s a lot of news lately about age discrimination in business. I don’t want us caught up in it. Can you do some training for our managers on the basics of discrimination?”
You can, of course, through a multitude of training methods. But whatever you choose, the training will be more effective if it utilizes the “four keys to learning.”
These four elements of successful lesson planning probably date back to Socrates. They were likely part of the teaching styles of the teachers you treasured most in school. And they’re at the heart of virtually every solid training program. Let’s look at the lesson on discrimination from BLR’s 10-Minute HR Trainer, a set of 50 reproducible training modules, to see what those elements are:
Key #1: Set the Learning Objective
Every lesson needs to start with a learning objective. It focuses the participants’ minds on where the lesson is going and what it is trying to achieve, and keeps the trainer on track, as well. In 10-Minute HR Trainer lessons, you’ll find the objective clearly stated in a goals summary at the top of the reproducible.
Key #2: Supply the Information
Just as you program a computer, you need to program your learners by feeding them information.
That’s best done in concept groupings, or “chunks,” as some trainers call them. The 10-Minute HR Trainer lesson breaks discrimination down into 3 simple groupings, each backed by real-life examples managers can relate to. The first tells why discrimination is illegal and unfair; the second lists day-to-day employment actions where discrimination is a problem; and the third recounts which groups are protected by law.
Just as important as what the lesson teaches is what it does not try to teach. Some 11 different antidiscrimination laws are named in this lesson, but there’s no attempt to explain any of them. It would just add unnecessary complexity for this audience.
Finally, there’s a one-sentence summary that serves as the lesson’s takeaway. If the only thing the trainee remembers is this line, he or she has received a valuable lesson. The summary line in this lesson is “it’s illegal to discriminate … for reasons that have nothing to do with ability to do the job.”
Key # 3: Test the Learning
Tests may strike fear in the hearts of school kids, but they serve two useful purposes. They tell both trainer and participants just how much was learned, and they pinpoint areas where more instruction is needed. The tests in 10-Minute HR Trainer are brief and include answer keys right on the back so participants can score themselves, and feedback is immediate.
Key #4: Provide for Later Reinforcement
In a concept called “time on task,” the longer learners interact with the material, the more likely that they will retain it. That’s the reason top lesson planners include some visual or other handout that can be reviewed later. This 10-Minute HR Trainer module uses a mini-poster that managers can re-read and even display in their work areas. Other lessons in the program use checklists, forms, and cartoon art to drive the message home … even when the learner is home.
Set objectives. Supply information. Test. Reinforce. Turn these four keys, and you unlock the door to learning.