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Encouraging Learner Participation

Posted by Lynne Koltookian on 9/1/11 5:45 AM
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Have you ever wondered why learners constantly ask you if they can leave early? Maybe it’s because they are bored out of their minds! Every instructor faces the challenge of keeping course participation high throughout the training day. In this blog I will share with you the Why, When, and How’s of encouraging class participation.


If learners are participating in class they are engaging with the material. If they are engaging with the material they are going to learn it, remember it, and apply it. Also, if learners are participating in class, they are less likely to disrupt it with unwanted behaviors! 


It is critical to get learners participating in class early (during the first 30 minutes) and often! Have you ever sat through a boring PowerPoint session where the instructor talked at you for hours and then at the end said, “Does anyone have any questions?” No one asks any. Why? Because people did not think they could and they are now just too tired and want to leave! 


Here are some tips for getting learners involved early and often throughout your training day:

  • Use an icebreaker or a brainteaser puzzle right away to let people start interacting with you and with one another. This sends the message that your class is going to be an interactive one and that you welcome their participation!

  • Use small group exercises early and throughout your training course. Small groups virtually guarantee that everyone will participate. Just make sure your groups stay between 3 to 5 people in size and you give each group a specific end result to accomplish. Watch to make sure quiet learners participate also.

  • Ask tons of questions! Write some good thought-provoking questions and add them into your lesson plan so you do not forget to use them!

  • If you teach software skills, have learners demonstrate skills on the instructor 's computer so you can monitor your group while increasing learner participation.

  • Design lesson summary exercises so learners can review key points with each other. Langevin calls one such activity “Team Challenge” where small groups write questions on flipcharts about the course content. Each table group then asks a different table group for the answers. You can make this session competitive or not, closed book, or open book.

Now that you have the Why, When, and How’s of encouraging and maintaining class participation, give these tips a try! If your learners start to say things like, “Wow, where did the time go?” versus “When can we go?” then you’re on the right track!

How do you get learner participation in your classes? Share YOUR tips in the comments section!


Lynne has been a course leader with Langevin since 2007. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Education from Boston University. After working many years in human resources and sales, Lynne transitioned into training, her true passion, where she’s been facilitating since 1994. Her training philosophy is simple—learning should be fun! The essence of a good instructor is someone who can make complex things easy to understand and fun to learn. In her free time, you’ll find Lynne cycling, hiking, downhill skiing, and scuba diving.

Topics: difficult participants, instructional techniques, tips-for-trainers, learners

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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