Three Strategies for Making Activities Effective in Adult Learning

Three Strategies for Making Activities Effective in Adult Learning

Like any other successful portion of a training or educational event, you must design energizer activities effectively if they are going to effectively and accomplish your intended purpose when working with adult learners.

The following three tips can help make your next adult learning session more successful:

1.  Provide adequate room.

Often trainers and adult educators fail to think through the activities that they will use with their learners. As part of the session planning, think about how many people you will have, how many groups will participate and how much space you will need to conduct each learning activity. Obviously, if the activity is an individual effort where learners work on own and then report to the rest of the group, you will need less floor space. However, if you plan to get training participants up and moving to stimulate their brain neurons through active learner engagement, you will need to plan additional space.  Always factor in time and extra space when having them move chairs, tables or other items.

Three Strategies for Making Energizer Activities Effective in Adult Learning

2.  Allow plenty of time.

When planning energizers and other types of activities, a big mistake that some trainers and educators make is to underestimate the amount of time for setting up, participation and debriefing of an activity.

This is often very frustrating for adult learners, shows a lack of experience or professionalism on the part of the trainer or educator, and contributes to an ineffective learning experience. Once you explain an activity, provide materials and have learners start to accomplish the assigned task(s), step back, observe, offer appropriate guidance throughout, and let the activity run its course.

When you are creating a training agenda, it is better to plan too much time, than not enough. Learners should have time to experience the full impact of the learning objectives for the activity so that they can maximize learning outcomes.

3. Encourage risk-taking.

The final tip for making sure that your energizer activities are effective is to encourage adult learners to think outside the box and take risks in activities where problem-solving, decision-making and other situations where they individually or jointly look for solutions related to the session learning objectives are involved. For example, having frontline employees self-disclose an aspect of their jobs would likely be a low-risk activity for them.

However, you can bump up the level of risk and engagement by asking them to share something they like and dislike about their jobs and how they would fix the latter if they were in a leadershipThree Strategies for Making Energizer Activities Effective in Adult Learning position. Just be careful to set up a scenario appropriately so that the activity does not turn into a gripe session or become derogatory towards their supervisor or organization. Always focus on positives.

Making Activities Effective in Adult Learning by The Creative Trainer

You might use a risk-taking energizer for a variety of workplace-related topics or other pertinent situations on a session topic.

For additional creative training tips, techniques, and strategies that can assist you into turning your adult learning sessions into powerful training or academic events, get copies of Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners or The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

Engaging Adults Through Use of a Music-Based Learning

Engaging Adult Learners Through Use of a Music-Based Learning Activity

Engaging Adults Through Use of a Music-Based Learning

Engaging Adult Learners Through Use of a Music-Based Learning Activity

Brain-based research indicates that by incorporating music, fun, and novelty into adult learning environments, the opportunity to maximize the formation of memories and learner retention improves.

The following is a creative training activity that can help improve the chance that learning retention and transfer of learning will occur.

Activity Title: Getting Down with the Sound

Time Required: 50 Minutes

Purpose: To energize learners and tie into session content using music.

Objective(s):    Through the use of a fun music-based activity, the facilitator will be able to:

  1. Engage learners in a group activity;
  2. Reinforce learning content;
  3. Foster team collaboration.

Group Size:   Up to twenty-four (24)


  • Prior to the start of the session select a well-known song. This can be a current hit from the radio or other well-known verses (e.g. Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Somewhere over the Rainbow, or Don’t Worry, Be Happy);
  • Make copies of the words to each of the song chosen and give one to each group leader for use during the activity;
  • Provide each group with a flipchart easel, pad, and water-based flip chart markers to capture their song verses
  • When ready to begin the activity, creatively form equal-sized teams (e.g. if you have 24 learners, four-team of 6 learners);
  • Creatively select a group leader (spokesperson, facilitator, and timekeeper) and scribe (note taker) for each group;
  • Explain that each team is to create a song by modifying the words to a popular song (whatever you have selected);
  • Considering the fact that there may be learners from different cultures who may not be familiar with the selected song, you might want to have everyone in the room sing it before having them begin the activity, or play a recording of the song so that everyone knows what their goal is;
  • Once everyone is sure of the task, explain that they will have thirty (30) minutes to come up with a version of the selected song that incorporates as many of the session concepts as possible in the lyrics;
  • Tell leaders that they should monitor time and that scribes will be responsible for capturing lyrics on a sheet of paper as they are developed and later transfer them to a flip chart so the team can follow along as the song is sung;
  • To expedite things, you may want to show a flip chart or slide that has the activity guidelines bulleted so that learners can refer to them as they work;
  • At the fifteen (15) minute point and again at the two (2) minute remaining point, sound a noisemaker to attract attention and let learners know the time and answer any questions they have. At this point determine if additional time will be needed and adjust accordingly;
  • At thirty (30) minutes sound a noisemaker or play music to attract attention and regroup learners;
  • Have each group leader gather his or her group together and then lead them in their version of the song;
  • After each rendition, have everyone offer a round of applause.


Instead of selecting a song for groups, allow them to choose any song they desire and then have them proceed as outlined in the original activity.

Process Follow-up:

Ask: What do you think was the purpose of this activity?

Possible Answers:

  • Review and reinforce key session concepts;
  • Involve learners in the learning process;
  • Give a mental break;
  • Have a bit of fun;
  • Give an opportunity to work as a team.

Ask: How were music and verse used to reinforce learning during this activity?

Possible Answer:

By making the activity fun and encouraging each adult learner to work in groups, it provided an opportunity to recall and use the key concepts of the session, which aids learner retention and taps into brain-based learning concepts. It

Ask: What key concepts were reviewed through the use of your songs? (Answers will depend on what learners chose to include in their songs);

Answer any questions learners have about the activity or session concepts;

Have everyone give one more “encore” round of applause for their great performances.

Props/Tools Needed:

  • Flip chart paper;
  • Various colored water-based flip chart markers;
  • Masking tape to hang pages on the walls;
  • Copy of the selected song lyrics for each group;
  • Recording of the selected song (if you decide to play it);
  • CD player and CD with music (as needed).

Possible Topic Application:

Any session in which you want to review key concepts or where interpersonal communication, creativity, or teamwork are desired outcomes.

Why It Is Brain-Based:

  • Engages learners mentally and causes memory access as concepts are selected for use in songs;
  • Taps both left and right brain thinking;
  • Appeals to visual learners and auditory learners;
  • Involves several of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (e.g. Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Linguistic, and Interpersonal);
  • Adds sound and music;
  • It uses novelty and fun.

NOTE: Extracted from Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People.

For additional creative training resources that contain hundreds of ways to actively engage adult learners, apply adult learning techniques and incorporate brain-based learning strategies into your training environment, get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging And Effective Learning.

Brain-Based Learning for Adults Helps Get Results

Brain Based Learning for Adults Helps Get Results

Brain-Based Learning for Adults Helps Get Results

As a trainer, I have been a strong advocate of brain-based learning for adults (sometimes referred to as accelerated learning) for years. I love to watch the reaction of adult learners who walk into my classrooms and encounter a variety of environmental components related to brain-based learning research. For example, colorful balloons on the wall, music playing in the background, colored handouts neatly lined up on their tables, manipulative toys, and other fun session-related novelties or props. As they enter, I greet them with a smile at the door and introduce myself. Their typical reaction is “Am I in the right room for…?”

The wonderful thing about using strategies associated with brain-based learning for adults is that I am able to pique learner interest and get them immediately mentally and physically engaged. This occurs without my having to say anything. I do this by creating a novel environment that pulls participants of their comfort zone since a “normal” adult learning environment does not contain such elements. Later, when I ask their reaction to the environment during my opening remarks, I typically hear things like, “This is going to be fun” or “This is different.” Because of my efforts during session design, learner expectations are raised and they are likely to be more receptive to information that I will provide. Also, some brain-based learning research indicates that by introducing elements, such as, sound, motion, movement, fun, color, and novelty, you can create an environment in which learners potentially better gain, retain, recall and use what they experience.

You can create similar experiences for any adult learner by gaining more knowledge about brain-based learning strategies (neuroscience of learning). You can then create environments where participants have the opportunity to become engaged in their learning while having fun.

Search this blog for other articles on brain-based learning for adults and accelerated learning. Also, to identify hundreds of ways to apply brain-based learning techniques and creative training strategies that you can easily and inexpensively use in your adult learning environments, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning, Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners and Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People.

5 Strategies for Enhancing Your Learning Environments

5 Strategies for Enhancing Your Learning Environments

5 Strategies for Enhancing Your Learning Environments

Learning environments come in all sizes and shapes and include various activities and design elements to enhance training concept delivery. The better environments include what brain researchers have discovered related to how the brain best processes and retains information. If you want to increase the overall learning outcomes for your trainees and students, consider doing what the experts do.

Here are five strategies for enhancing the learning environments that you can immediately apply:

  1. Configure your furniture so that learners can effectively interact with you and their peers throughout the learning event. You can capitalize on group dynamics by engaging learners in the classroom, which potentially aids the transfer of training. Use of round tables that seat 5-6 people (with no one having their back to the front of the room), rectangular tables joined together to form team seating, and semicircular chair configurations facing the trainer or teacher are all good for encouraging dialogue and making the experience more collaborative.
  2. Add visual stimulus to the environment by including audio-visual aids (e.g. flip charts and slides) that include colorful graphics, animation, sound, and complimentary backgrounds or borders. Choose a title line color and two additional complimentary colors with which to alternate lines of text in order to highlight information and attract attention. If you add graphics, make sure that they complement the text and send a congruent message. These concepts engage your visual learners and relate to what neuroscientific research on learning shows can potentially stimulate brain neurons and aid memory formation.
  3. Use various music selections that relate to your learning theme, stimulate learners and encourage memory retention throughout your session. Choose upbeat music to play before the session begins and during breaks, and instrumental music that mirrors the human heartbeat of approximately 60 beats per minute (e.g. classical Baroque) to encourage reflection and retention. Check out books such as Training With a Beat by Lenn Millbower and Top Tunes for Teaching and Music with the Brain In Mind by Eric Jensen for advice on types and titles of music to use to help accomplish various outcomes.
  4. Create a fun learning environment by incorporating games and small group activities into your delivery format. You can modify classic board games or create your own to focus attention on session content or build team camaraderie. There are hundreds of books, articles, and websites on the Internet offer ideas for doing this.
  5. Build-in what I call Interim Reviews throughout your learning events in order to reinforce key concepts and cause learners to reflect on what they have learned. You can add a bit of novelty and fun to your reviews by using props, incentives, music, and a bit of team competition. Since the storage capacity of short-term memory is limited, build in brief reminders every 15-18 minutes to cement ideas in the brain. You can do short reviews in which learners provide answers to questions after each major section of the material is covered. You can also include more comprehensive review activities after longer periods (e.g. ninety minutes).

For hundreds of additional creative training ideas and strategies and ways to tie brain-based learning concepts into your adult learning environments, check out The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning, The Big Book of Flip Charts: a Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators, and Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

Designing Effective Training Programs for the “Baby Boomer” Generation

Designing Effective Training Programs for the “Baby Boomer” Generation

Designing Effective Training Programs for the “Baby Boomer” Generation

There are many factors to consider when designing effective training programs for the “Baby Boomer” generation. Members of each generation have specific needs and expectations based on their background and experiences. Obviously, you need to conduct an individual training needs assessment of each adult learner rather than assume that certain characteristics apply to everyone in a given age group.

Training Programs for the “Baby Boomer” Generation

For members of the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964) the following area general aspects of their generational period may define what they need, want and expect in an adult learning environment. Never forget that each individual is unique and these are general characteristics related to the generation.

  • May adopt and accept technology.
  • Like to take an active role in learning.
  • Often challenge and question facilitator.
  • Want answers to real-world issues.
  • Need to understand how learning applies to workplace issues.

Designing Effective Training Programs for the "Builder" GenerationTo better help members of this generation to succeed in a learning environment:

  • Provide a learning environment in which they can assume leadership roles.
  • Work toward the creative attainment of real-world skills.
  • Ensure that you use small group training activities designed for engaging adult learners in order to allow idea sharing and collaboration.
  • Take a blended learning approach in which you combine eLearning with traditional classroom opportunities.

For more ideas on adult learning and working effectively with all learner types and generations, check out the following books: The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips for Engaging, Effective Learning, and Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events that Get Results.

The Impact of Excessive Media Exposure on Adult Learning

The Impact of Excessive Media Exposure on Adult Learning

The Impact of Excessive Media Exposure on Adult Learning

Studies on the impact of television and other forms of media have been done for decades. The majority of them have helped substantiate what many parents have told their children for years…watching too much television, listening to the radio while studying, playing too many electronic games, and spending too much time on the Internet is bad for your brain and can impact learning.

The Impact of Excessive Media Exposure on Adult Learning by The Creative Trainer

Many trainers and adult educators have discovered in recent years that simply being an expert who can deliver knowledge and expertise is not enough in today’s adult learning environment. Due to exposure to various forms of media since they were children, adults often need a variety of stimuli to attract and hold their attention. They are conditioned to multitask and expect not only educational stimulation but also some form of entertainment and engagement in the information delivery process.

As young children, many adults experienced shows like Sesame Street along with other programs watched by children which, while helpful to some degree in educating and stimulating a child’s brain, actually tends to rewire the brain and affects attention span. This is because images and content received through systems such as television, movies, electronic games, and other fast-paced systems set the brain up to anticipate that content in other settings will mimic that speed of delivery. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, was quoted as saying that the pace of delivery is “making it harder to concentrate if there’s less stimulation,” in a USAToday.

Numerous studies on children have documented the impact of excessive exposure to media on the attention span. Some reports indicate that children who watch three or more hours of television a day are 30% more likely to have attention trouble or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) than those viewing no TV. Related to this issue, some research on human attention spans indicates that in the past decade, adult learner attention spans have dropped to a maximum of 20 minutes.

The implications for all this in an adult learning environment are that trainers and adult educators must accept the changing world and how their learner’s brains are evolving. They must address the three major adult learning styles or modalities (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) while anticipating a loss of attention.

To counter the loss of attention, they must also research brain-based learning research and build in periodic content reviews, attention-getters, training activities and even the use of focused media activities in order to gain, hold and focus attention throughout a session. Adult learners should be re-engaged through interactive events in which they work individually or in small groups to review and assimilate session content. They must also determine ways to apply what they have learned on the job or in other real-world situations.

For creative training ideas, tips and strategies for effectively engaging adult learners and making content more meaningful to them, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning and Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

Whimsical Ways to Engage Learners and Prop Up Your Adult Learning Events

Whimsical Ways to Engage Learners and Prop Up Your Adult Learning EventsWhimsical Ways to Engage Learners and Prop Up Your Adult Learning Events

Whimsical Ways to Engage Learners and Prop Up Your Adult Learning Events

Many professional trainers and adult educators continually look for ways to gain the attention of, inspire and entertain adult learners as they attempt to help learners more effectively gain, retain, recall and use what they experience in the classroom.

If you study a broad range of brain-based learning research that developed during the past couple of decades, you will find numerous effective approaches for facilitating knowledge in adult learning environments. By actively engaging learners through the use of creative environmental elements (e.g. sound, motion, movement, music, color, novelty, and fun) you can improve your approach to content delivery. You can also aid adult learners in their effort to master concepts and skills in the learning environment.

Props are very effective in helping to create a fun and content supportive learning event. They can add color, novelty, sound and other elements to your delivery while helping create memory pegs that help cement key points into the brains of your participants.

Whimsical Ways to Engage Adults Learners

Here are some effective props that you might consider including in your session design. Just remember to relate anything that you do, say, or use directly to your session content and to aid retention. Do not use an item simply to add unconnected humor or to entertain.

Noisemakers.  Classroom call bells, cowbells, metal gongs, whistles, kazoos, hand clappers, and party noisemakers and similar fun items can be used to gain and refocus attention to the front of the room before starting a session or after a break or activity.

Hats. Using various hats that tie to a theme of your subject to emphasize a key concept or topic. For example:

  • Chef’s hat. These can be used when facilitating food service related topics or to emphasize “cooking something up” in management or customer service training.
  • Wizard’s hat. These might be worn to reinforce topics related to solving problems or “whipping something up” related to solutions for customer service or workplace topics.
  • Baseball caps can be used as a symbol of a way to keep your eye on the ball or to coach others.
  • Sherlock Holmes hat. Use these in sessions related to problem-solving and decision-making that focus on deduction and taking appropriate corrective actions.

Brain shaped items (e.g. squeeze stress toys, models of a brain, or rubber brain erasers) can be used as props or incentives in sessions related to brain based learning, creative thinking or other sessions in which use of one’s brain or brain-based research are prominent.

For many more creative ideas on how to develop a creative, brain-based training environment or classroom, and to assist participants in maximizing their learning potential through experiential learning techniques, get copies of Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners and The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.


Train the Trainer Tips – Illustrating a Flipchart with Graphics

Train the Trainer Tips – Illustrating a Flipchart with Graphics

Train the Trainer Tips – Illustrating a Flipchart with Graphics

Effective facilitation skills are crucial for you to be an effective trainer or educator. One basic skill needed is knowing how to creatively share information with your adult learners so that you tap into their visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles.

Flip charts have been around for decades and continue to serve as an effective and proven low-tech visual aid. To use them to their best advantage, plan to add graphic images related to your written message in order to interest and supplement the concepts being presented.

Illustrating a Flipchart with Graphics

When choosing your graphic images, there are four factors to consider:

  1. Use bold, broad-lined pictures that can be seen from a distance of at least 30 feet. Also, avoid detailed, intricately-lined objects that may blur at a distance — simple is better. Line art is usually the safest approach unless you are giving participants a handout of your charts. Learning to draw simple characters and items is not that difficult.
  2. Choose the images objectively and wisely.  Remember, not every picture evokes the same thoughts or feelings for all viewers, especially in a session with diverse attendees.  Choose more generic graphics that tend to have the same meaning to virtually all viewers.  Avoid controversial social, religious, culturally-oriented, or political images that may cause contentious feelings or misinterpretation.
  3. Be creative and humorous, and utilize your imagination to develop program-related images that add a dash of flair; Even so, keep in mind that some words and images evoke different meanings in different cultures or for varied people, so consider that fact when deciding what to use as an illustration.
  4. Select images that complement your written text or add value to the page. Do not make the mistake of using an image just to fill the page.

For more ideas and strategies for using flip charts and delivering information in a creative manner, get copies of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators, and The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

Creative Training Ideas For Engaging Adult Learners

Creative Training Ideas For Engaging Adult LearnersCreative Training Ideas For Engaging Adult Learners

Technology has added a variety of new tools from which trainers and educators can benefit and enhance their adult learning environments. By using creative training strategies that actively engage learners and involve participants in the learning process, you can potentially increase opportunities for them to more effectively gain, retain, recall, and use what they experience.

Creative Training Ideas For Engaging Adult Learners by The Creative Trainer

Researchers have found that the brain responds well in adult learning environments that incorporate elements such as fun, novelty, engagement, motion, color, light, and sound. To capitalize on this data, you can add electronic learning games. By adding this to your workshop to capture, it could hold learner attention while reinforcing key program concepts. Software packages such as Game Show Presenter® and Classroom Jeopardy® are both excellent vehicles for sharing and reviewing information in an interactive learning environment and tapping into the three primary adult learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). With such software, you can create your own categories based on key session topics, then develop questions to which learners respond individually or in teams. The book, I’ll Take Learning for 500, also provides great ideas for incorporating game shows into your training sessions, workshops, and adult learning classes.

For hundreds of additional, fun, and innovative training ideas. As well as learning strategies that are based on brain-based learning research, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning and Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results.

Who is Robert W. Lucas?

Listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the South & Southeast, Bob Lucas is an internationally-known author and learning and performance expert who specializes in workplace performance-based training and consulting services. He has four decades of experience in customer service, human resources development, and management in a variety of organizational environments.

Bob was the 1995 and 2011 President of the Central Florida Chapter of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Bob has lived, traveled, and worked in 28 different countries and geographic areas. During the past 40 years, Bob has shared his knowledge with workplace professionals from hundreds of organizations. These include Webster University, AAA, Orange County Clerk of Courts, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Martin Marietta, all U.S. military branches, and Wachovia Bank. In addition, Bob has provided consulting and training services to numerous major organizations on a variety of workplace learning topics. To contact Bob visit his website at or his blog

Creative Trainer Quote – William Arthur Ward

Creative Learning Quote - William Arthur Ward

Creative Trainer Quote – William Arthur Ward

Each adult educator and trainer takes a different approach to share information. Their goal is to help learners better understand ways to apply what they encounter in the classroom or through another delivery vehicle.  Often the approach they take is based on training and education that they have received somewhere during their career path. In other instances, it is how they were taught by a peer or subject matter expert who coached them when they were first assigned to teach or train.

Creative Trainer Quote – William Arthur Ward by The Creative Trainer

With all the information available on training and teaching skills now available through books, articles, professional development sessions, and the Internet, anyone who instructs or shares information can improve what they do with learners. In the last two decades alone, researchers have uncovered troves of new data on how the brain best receives, processes, retains, and is able to recall information they receive.

Brain-based learning allows trainers and educators to tap into research and to embrace environmental elements such as light, sound, motion, color, music, novelty, smells, and fun in order to capture and hold learner attention. Once this is accomplished, it is possible to actively engage learners and stimulate brain neurons in a way that makes the learning process more meaningful and enjoyable. This can lead to potentially enhanced learning outcomes where each participant or student maximizes their potential.

For additional information on brain-based learning and strategies that can be used to enhance learning environments, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning and Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results.