Turn a Training Session Into Active Learning

Training Lectures – Why They Don’t Work
By Mel Silberman

Lecturing is one of the most time-honored yet ineffective ways to teach.  By itself, it will never lead to active learning.  In order for a lecture to be effective, the instructor should build interest first, maximize understanding and retention, involve participants during the lecture, and reinforce what’s been presented.  There are several options to do just that.

Building Interest

  • Lead off with a story or interesting visual.  Provide a relevant anecdote, fictional story, cartoon or graphic that draws the audience’s attention to what you’re about to teach.
  • Present an initial case problem or situation.  Structure the lecture around that problem/situation.
  • Use a test question.  Ask participants a question (even if they have little prior knowledge) so that they will be motivated to listen to your lecture for the answer.

Maximizing Understanding and Retention

  • Reduce to headlines.  Reduce the major points in the lecture to key words, which act as verbal subheadings or memory aids.
  • Use examples and analogies.  Provide real-life illustrations of the ideas in the lecture and, if possible, create a comparison between your material and the knowledge/experience the participants already have.
  • Have a visual backup.  Use flipcharts, transparencies or PowerPoint, brief handouts and demonstrations that enable participants to see as well as hear what you are saying.

Involving Participants during the Lecture

Spot challenges.  Interrupt the lecture periodically and challenge participants to give examples of the concepts presented thus far or answer spot quiz questions.

Illuminate with exercises.  Throughout the presentation, intersperse brief activities that illuminate the points you are making.

Reinforcing the Lecture

  • Apply a problem.  Pose a problem or question for participants to solve based on the information given in the lecture.
  • Encourage participant review.  Ask participants to review the content of the lecture with each other or give them a self-scoring review test.

Mel Silberman was a professor at Temple University for 41 years and a pioneer and author in the fields of active learning and team development.