Building Better Training Exercises

On today’s episode, Philip Morgan and Reuven Lerner discuss Building Better Training Exercises. Reuven Lerner provides insight on how he creates and makes training more effective through the use of exercises.

How can you make your training more effective by giving good exercises and questions for people to learn from?

Reuven thinks that it is ineffective to teach people simply through lectures. He says that people will not remember what was said long term because they will not internalize the material. Having people do things can combat this; in other words have them do exercises throughout training in order to help them retain information.

How many and what types of exercises should they do?

Exercises should be a good balance of easy and hard. They should be interesting and amusing, but also effective and stick with your audience. Reuven says that this is a hard balance to reach and takes time but is well worth the effort. In his experience, students learn and appreciate this more.

Ways We Think About Learning

A typical teacher talks the entire class. During this time, students may listen and get the information taught while in the classroom. But after class, they lose a good majority of the material.

Reuven discusses Jean Piaget, a psychologist, who studied children to research how people learn. His theory is that people do not learn by hearing things. Instead, they construct their own knowledge through teaching themselves. His theory states that children are like scientists – they’re constantly doing experiments and trying new things. Reuven, like Piaget, is a constructivist – he believes people should create their own knowledge. Another person discussed is Seymour Papert who studied under Piaget. He was a mathematician who looked at how people learn efficiently. He agreed with Piaget; that people create their own knowledge. The best way is to create something that is of value to them. Talking to people isn’t going to teach them; having them do things they’re interested in will. Provoking them to think is the best way to accomplish this method. 

Reueven’s goal in training is to maximize the doing and creating new things. His personal balance is that he does 30% exercises and 70% lecture/discussion. He is constantly experimenting with exercises to see what works.

Can exercise be too granular?

Exercise can never be too granular; can never be too simple. He has discovered during his time teaching that the simpler the exercises are, the more people feel they are being taught.

How do you order exercises? Do you sequence or order them in some way?

Typically structured so that exercises follow each new topic. For example, introduce Topic A, and then do Exercise A. Then within topics he gives multiple exercises that build on each other.

How do you help people interpret what/if they did something wrong?

Reuven simply says that he doesn’t. His solution walks them through the answer step by step, which should teach them the technique they are learning. He does what is called a “think aloud,” which helps students understand not just the content, but also the process it takes to get to the content. In his email courses, he follows up by asking how the students did and what answer they got.

How could you define prerequisites so that people don’t lie or misinterpret what advanced means?

There are problems with this in certain places. In order to combat this Reuven suggests using a pre-class survey. He sends this to participants of his classes in advance in order to gauge what topics need to be taught. This way he has something to show the training manager if they are to say that people complained the course was too basic.

How do you come up with a new exercise?

Hitting the sweet spot between easy and hard is hard. The first time you do an exercise it usually fails. So try to make topics relevant to their lives. The smaller and easily graspable the concept is, the better. There are three popular exercises that work. One is the “monkey see-monkey do” exercise. First, I’ll do it and then you’ll do it also. The second is to take something people know and then re-implement it. Third is to do longer projects that build on themselves. Philip agrees with Reuven – he usually starts with most basic problems and builds from there. He states that this is because people do it in the real world. 

Can you think of any exercises that a trainer could try himself or herself where they might develop some skills?

Reuven suggests people speak at conferences, local user groups, or do webinars. Each of those are great opportunities to try out material. Will help understand where people have questions. Philip agrees that people should start small. This means speaking at webinars and venues where you can be the person who’s teaching.



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