What is the recipe to help people learn, remember, and take action?

Our fall series kicks off on September 26 with training expert Brian Washburn leading “A Recipe for More Effective, Engaging Training Design.” Learn how to use four kinds of activities to help people learn, remember, and do things differently.

I had to read the quote above a few times to let it fully sink in. Without outcomes, learning is entertainment. There’s certainly nothing wrong with entertainment in our personal lives, but if you consider all of the work-related learning events you come across in a year—webinars, conference sessions, workshops, staff or board trainings, etc.—the idea that many of them are just entertainment with no lasting value is unsettling. None of us wants to think that the learning we deliver isn’t worth their time or money.

Fortunately we know the recipe for learning events that result in behavior change. A leader in our field, Brian Washburn, will be sharing it on September 26th.  I love how Brian has organized activities into four categories: anchor, content, application, and future use. There are 42,000 possible combinations once you start mix-and-matching!

Above all, I’m excited to learn from Brian because his recipe helps us do four things:

Be accountable to the person learning. When we invite someone to a learning experience, we make a promise to them. We are committing to giving them the information, tools, and confidence they need to do something. At the very least, we are committing to not wasting their time. We may need to put in a little extra effort to fill this promise. Ultimately we are accountable to them and their success.

Recognize that life happens before and after that learning experience. It is so easy to think that time stops during that training. We teach who comes into the room. We make sure they have a good time while we are together. Once it is over, it is over. The activities that Brian includes in his cookbook help us to anchor learning in what came before and prepare them for what comes later, namely doing whatever we taught them. When you connect past, present, and future, you are more likely to create the change you want to see.

Shift the effort to the person learning. How many times have I told trainers that they are working too hard! This may feel obvious, but let’s say it anyway: learning is done by the learner, and learning involves effort on their part. To use a recipe analogy, we can’t talk to them for an hour about how to bake a cake and expect them to bake a great cake two weeks later. Some practice on how to separate eggs or how to recognize whether the cake is done would lay the groundwork for later success.

Get feedback. We’ve made a promise that they will be doing things differently after they spend time with us. How will we know we achieve that? Activities make space for the trainer (or whatever role you have) to check knowledge, answer questions, or fill in gaps.

Do we really have to do this? It is certainly more work to take that extra step and find an activity that will lock in what they are learning. It is easy to skip it—so many workshop leaders do. Which is why I appreciate this quote from the Training Activity cookbook:

I’m looking forward to kicking off our 2023 Fall Learning Series with Brian Washburn on September 26th. Please consider joining us. Every participant in the session will get a copy of Endurance Learning’s Training Activity Cookbook by Brian Washburn and his colleague Lauren Wescott.

Register here

Here’s my “sketch notes” version of these ideas. Effective activities help us fulfill our promise to the people learning, recognizes what comes before and after the training, gives opportunities for them to exert effort in learning, and receive feedback. So much joy! 

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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