“As a learning leader in your organization, which program outcome is more important to you: The learners remembering what they learned OR the learners applying what they learned?”
As you think about the question, take a few minutes to reflect on your career and the learning events you have led. What were your expectations of the learner and how did you assist them in applying what they learned? What kind of structure needed to be in place? What resources were needed (time, tools, etc.)? What worked? What didn’t work? What barriers interfered with the follow-up?
Reflecting on my career, I see my approach to learning has changed over time. Early on, my approach was more informal, less-structured, and guided by very little in the way of lesson plans. It was a more intuitive and “Just-In-Time” approach to instruction. As I moved up the ladder, my approach evolved to that of a coach. I’d share a few of my experiences, question them, and then call them to action at the end….not telling them what to do per se, but rather aiming to trigger their thoughts about how they might do things differently. Now that I am in the business of education/training, everything about my approach is more formal, structured, planned, written and timed out, with reinforcement and coaching throughout and after the event.
When it comes to training others, first and foremost I focus on enabling the learner to apply what they learned as quickly as possible. With interpersonal skills, for example, I remember acting as a “champion” for 14 managers/ supervisors after the learning event to coach them on using the tools presented in the class to successfully apply what they learned.
In summary, both remembering and applying are important: remembering the material is required to repeatedly apply what has been learned, and this enables mastery of the new skill or knowledge on the job.
You may want to do a self-assessment as a learning leader. In thinking about your most recent programming efforts, to what degree have you engaged participants in a timely follow-up/support/evaluation? Do you follow a Standard Operating Procedure to assess the degree to which your learners are remembering… and applying?
What are your thoughts?
Frank Gibson is a Program Manager with OSU’s Alber Enterprise Center.