We are constantly bombarded with information these days and the challenge is how to retrieve it when we need it! I recently saw the film “La La Land” and was amused by how often the young lead character could not remember where she parked her car. If you’ve ever parked in a huge mall, parking lot, or sports arena, you may have experienced the awful panic of not being able to remember where you parked!
Once we’ve had this experience, we tend to rely on memory cues to avoid that awful feeling from occurring again. We may identify a familiar landmark or the row and section number where we parked, or we might just take a picture on our phone. The bottom line is we need something to help us remember so we can avoid frustration and panic in the future.
We can use this same concept when we develop and deliver instructor-led training programs. I often have client’s express frustration that their learners don’t retain the content during training. After further inquiry, it often boils down to the sessions having too much content and very little time for the learners to practice the skills they’re being taught.
Since we learn by doing, this situation will have a direct impact on our learners’ retention. Another issue that often arises is content which may be “dry” and/or complex. So, how do we go beyond a “data dump” to create an opportunity for the information to be easily retrieved by our learners? We need to build in memory cues!
The following four techniques will help support learner retention in your training sessions:
1. Analogies and Metaphors – I once heard that a 30-second analogy can be worth 60 minutes of lecture. Seasoning your content with descriptive language such as analogies and metaphors encourages the learner to connect the dots to what is familiar to their own experiences—triggering and aiding their retention level.
2. Personal Stories – People love personal stories! They humanize the speaker while creating a visceral experience for the learner. Storytelling reinforces the learning of the content and key concepts all at the same time. Incorporating personal stories in strategic places within your content can be a rich and powerful retention tool for the learner to hang on to.
3. Ask More, Tell Less – Sprinkle probing questions throughout your training session to invite deeper reflection and engagement with the content on many levels. This type of engagement boosts deeper learning and retention.
4. Memorable Reviews – Trainers often deal with tight time constraints and it’s tempting to say, “If there’s time, we’ll have a review.” Not only should there always be time allotted for a review, ideally, it should be a memorable example, as well. We do this by making the review learner-focused and participant-driven. The more interactive we can make it, the more memorable it will be. For example, try to conduct a review in a game format. When you incorporate memorable and learner-focused reviews into your sessions, not only will it improve learner retention, it also sets them up for success back on the job!
By adding these techniques into the design and delivery of your training, you’ll enhance retention for your learners and add some spice to your training department’s reputation.
For a deeper dive into this topic, check out our How Adults Learn workshop—now available in a virtual classroom format, too! Hope to see you real soon!
Greetings, I’m Linda Carole Pierce, born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pa. I currently live in New York’s Westchester County and have made New York my home for over 20 years.