Ways to Engage Adult Learners Before Training Begins

Ways to Engage Adult Learners Before Training Begins

Ways to Engage Adult Learners Before Training Begins

Have you ever walked into a learning session, meeting or adult academic classroom and felt like you were in the Twilight Zone? Other zombies like you meandered around, seeking guidance. They might have moved toward refreshments, searched for a seat among the dozens available, or sat bashfully looking at their smartphone or flipping through handouts provided on tables. It is almost as if they have reverted back to their childhood classroom in which they are waiting for permission before saying anything or getting involved. This does not need to occur if you tap into brain-based learning research about how the brain processes information. There are many ways to engage adult learners before training begins. You just have to tap into YOUR brain and come up with creative training strategies to kick-start your learner’s brains.

Start by setting the tone of the classroom to match the session content that you will facilitate. In doing this, keep in mind that training time is precious. Adult learners are also usually overwhelmed in their lives and do not want to feel that they are wasting valuable time. Everything that you use, do, say, or have your adult learners do should focus on one thing – the achievement of the session learning objectives.

To create a valuable learning experience for your session attendees, build in ways to engage everyone and get them to start thinking about session content before the program even begins. You can get them tuned in to the session topic by subconsciously planting seeds around the room related to it. Also, look for ways to stimulate their brain neurons. Do so by incorporating environmental elements that neuroscientists and brain-based learning researchers have discovered can potentially contribute to a more meaningful learning experience. These elements, such as, include light, sound, color, motion, novelty, fun, and engagement.

The following are three easy ways to engage adult learners before training begins.

Use content-related music. Numerous studies identify ways that music impacts the brain and influences memory formation. Music is a powerful stimulus and taps into emotions. Think of your own memories and experiences. When you hear certain songs, do you reflect on past experiences? Can you recall when you first heard a given song? Do you remember your location, what you were doing and who you were with? The same thing can happen if you choose the right music in your classroom. Some research indicates a higher level of recall when you associate information and activities with a specific song or type of music.

You can contribute to the theme of a session by selecting songs or lyric themes that relate to program content. For example, years ago, I facilitated a time management session. I searched for songs that had the theme of time in the title or in the lyrics (e.g. Time in a bottle, Time has come today, Time of the season, and It’s a five o’clock world). This music was playing as learners arrived and during breaks. In my opening remarks, I referenced the music and brought about a discussion of the role that time plays in the workplace and the world. My intent was to create an environment in which time was on the minds of the learners. By doing this, I pulled from my toolbox of ways to engage adult learners in order to help energize and reinforce the learning environment.

Ways to Engage Adult Learners Before Training BeginsIn-class assessment activity. One thing that I often do in my sessions to gather information about my learners is to conduct a visual assessment activity. I do this to gather information about them, their needs and, most importantly, to engage them as soon as they enter the room. To accomplish this, I either post a flip chart or prepare a “Welcome” handout on colorful paper that includes instructions for the activity (see sample to the left).

Next, I prepare a series of flip chart sheets that I post on the wall and put water-based flip chart markers (so they do not bleed through and damage walls) on a chair below each page in advance. I also put a blank sheet of paper behind each flip chart page to further help protect the walls. On each sheet is a different closed-end question related to the session topic. For example, in a train-the-trainer program, I have charts like the ones below.

Further, I tally the results for each page before starting the session. I can refer to the totals in my opening remarks and relate the questions to content that we will cover in the session.

Ways to Engage Adult Learners Before Training BeginsWays to Engage Adult Learners Before Training Begins Ways to Engage Adult Learners Before Training BeginsCreate a “fun” or festive environment. Like children, most adults like to have a bit of fun when they are performing tasks. You can help address this desire by using a variety of sensory stimuli to your training room. In addition to upbeat music playing as learners enter, I often use an assortment of colorful and functional props in my training sessions. For example, I use a variety of different colored balloons on walls with a small strip of paper that has a different key term or concept from the session inside each balloon. When I am ready to conduct an interim or final content review, I ask for volunteers to retrieve and pop these. They then locate their paper strip and, in turn, read their term or concept to the group. Volunteers can raise their hand or stand to provide a definition or explanation for each term or concept. Rewards are given to all volunteers. This simple activity reinforces material covered, adds fun, movement, learner engagement, sound (as balloons burst), incentives, and color to the session.

If you want more creative training ideas and ways to engage adult learners before training begins or during an adult learning session, search this blog for learner engagement, brain based learning, creative training ideas and related terms. Also, check out The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning and Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques that Engage Learners.

Do you have creative ideas or ways to engage adult learners in your classrooms that might benefit other readers? Please share them in the comments section.

Make Training Reviews Fun in Adult Learning Sessions

Make Training Reviews Fun in Adult Learning Sessions

Make Training Reviews Fun in Adult Learning Sessions

Many trainers and adult educators struggle to find ways to gauge learning effectiveness, reinforce what has occurred in the classroom and effectively engage adult learners. If you simply design their sessions to make training reviews fun, all of these goals can be accomplished.

By thinking back on your own early childhood learning experiences, you can often gain ideas on ways to enthuse adult learners and energize your training environments. Much of what we know as adults began when we were just starting school. Teachers had us on the floor, playing with toys, games and other items that tied to the concepts they wanted to reinforce. We were laughing, sharing, engaging and enjoying the experience without even realizing that we were learning important life lessons. These techniques can also be useful to you in delivering adult learning sessions.

One fun and novel way that I use to engage my adult learners and make training reviews fun is to use a creative musical toy game called “Pass the Pickle.” After I have covered numerous key concepts, I sometimes use it as an interim review activity at some point during a session. This game is an effective and fun energizer when the information shared has been a bit tedious or complex (e.g. required orientation, regulatory or legal training). I also use it when I want to get learners moving to stimulate their brain a bit. In other sessions, I use the game at the end of a session to review and reinforce key concepts and ideas explored during the session.

I conduct the activity in the following manner, but you can modify as you desire:

  • Form small groups of 6-8 people in circles at the back of the training room and randomly select a group leader.
  • Give each group leader a Pass the Pickle toy.
  • Instruct leaders to push the button on the bottom of the toy when you say “Go.”
  • Toys are passed clockwise around each circle during the game.
  • When the music stops (it is randomly programmed to stop at different time lengths), the person holding the toy shouts out one key term or concept learned during the session. These cannot be repeated by another participant later.
  • That person then restarts the toy, passes it to their left and steps back out of the circle to observe and listen as concepts are reinforced.
  • When only one person remains in each group, stop the review activity.
  • Have everyone give a round of applause for their effort.
  • Reward group leaders with candy or a small incentive related to the session topic (e.g. a toy, prize or otherwise). Reward examples might include a smile face toy in a customer service session, a foam squeeze toy in a stress management class, or something related to money for a group of cashiers.
  • Have everyone take a seat.
  • Facilitate a group review in which participants randomly volunteer to stand and share some of the key concepts they experienced.
  • Reward volunteers who share ideas with an incentive.

By taking time to make training reviews fun you are tapping into the neuroscience of learning (also known as brain based learning). Researchers have identified numerous factors that can be used to help stimulate brain neurons and create an environment in which learning potential is enhanced. Fun, novelty, music, learner engagement. movement, and repetition are just a few of the elements that you can use in your adult learning sessions to actively involve participants in the learning process.

For more ideas on ways to make training reviews fun in adult learning sessions, and actively engage your adult learners, read other articles on this blog. Also check out The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning, Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events that Get Results, and  Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

Using Energizing Activities and Games in Learning

Using Energizing Activities and Games in Learning

Brain based and accelerated learning research and the adult learning theory all support the importance of actively engaging participants in the learning process. Doing so can help maximize learning outcomes and increase the likelihood of transfer of knowledge and skills to the workplace. One fun and novel way to accomplish the latter is through the use of engaging and energizing learning activities and games modified to teach concepts and help learners actively participate in the learning process.

Using Energizing Activities and Games in Learning by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Blogger

Using Energizing Activities and Games in LearningLike any other learning strategy, activities and games should be designed and used with the ultimate goal of reinforcing key elements of a learning event or engaging learners in order for them to better work towards the attainment of information and concepts while melding as a team. Games and activities should not be purely for entertainment. There must be defined learning objectives and these must be attained. These objectives might focus on team cohesiveness, enhanced communication, problem-solving, or another workplace-related issue.

Some researchers suggest that using games and similar methods to share or expand knowledge in the classroom is an excellent way to help learners move concepts from the classroom into their long-term memory. Through repetitive activities, you can reinforce key concepts better than just explaining them and moving on. Many trainers and educators use tools, such as games and puzzles, to create learning events where students or participants can personally take ownership of part of their learning. Through such activities, learners are able to immediately reinforce concepts in memory and apply what they experience in the classroom in an upbeat, fun manner.

Games and Activities for Adults Learning

Part of the effectiveness of games and activities comes from tapping into early life experiences. At those times in life, many people learned to play games as a form of entertainment and enjoyment without realizing that they were actually learning key life skills and knowledge in the process. Think about it. When you were a child playing games like Monopoly®, UNO®, Risk®, Clue®, Dominoes®, Life®, cards, and Parchisi®, did you think about the fact that you were using deductive reasoning, resource management, strategic planning, and other skills that you would later find a use for in the workplace and life? You likely did not. You were probably just laughing, enjoying your friends, snacking on junk food, and having FUN! This prior experience and emotion can easily be recaptured through well-planned and executed classroom events.

By encouraging learners to relax, laugh, and enjoy the experience, you can affect learning. In fact, many of the common commercial games mentioned above can be adapted to accomplish learning goals in most learning environments if you just plan a bit. Similarly, crossword and word search type puzzles can be created on a computer and used as excellent vehicles for reminding learners of key concepts and terms and testing their memory or cognition in non-threatening and innovative ways. I regularly use word search puzzles as interim reviews (done throughout a session) and at the end of programs to cause learners to recall and reflect on key program terminology or elements. These tools can also be used as excellent icebreakers and pre-tests to get learners thinking about what they are going to experience in the learning event.