Mar 032012

Learning: Teach Them How to Learn

Learning: By Barbara Carnes, Ph.D., Carnes and Associates, 02/22/12

As face-to-face training times continue to be reduced and the use of virtual learning increases in almost all organizations, it is becoming increasingly important for trainees to “know how to learn”.  Whether the topic is supervisory skills, safety training, harassment prevention, sales training, customer service, software, or any other type of training, studies show that learners who know how to learn have higher test scores.  Higher test scores are indicators of better learning.  Better learning is a precursor to better application and transfer.

This knowing how to learn, known as metacognitive skills, can take many forms including setting goals for learning, self-regulating, planning learning time, knowing how to take tests, and knowing how to take in and process learning content.  Students who receive as little as a half hour of training on metacognitive processes have been found to outperform students who do not receive this training.

Here are a few thoughts and ideas to increase the metacognitive, “knowing how to learn” skills for your trainees, whether in face-to-face classes, live virtual training, or e-learning:

·  Develop a stand-alone module on learning skills.  This module can then be part of an onboarding process or it could be pre-work for other classes.  Such a module would include how to set individual learning goals, how to take notes and absorb key points in learning content, understanding one’s learning style and how to use it most effectively, and how to take quizzes and tests.  To develop this content, search on terms such as learn how to learn, metacognitive skills, and metacognition.

·  Insert “pop-up reflections” throughout face-to-face, live virtual training, and e-learning courses.  These pop-up reflections periodically interrupt content delivery, posing questions such as

o   Am I concentrating on this training material?

o   Do I understand all of the key points?

o   What are the key points of this training material?

o   What do I need to do, what notes should I be taking, to remember this material?

· At the end of a section of learning content, ask learners to write the 3 most important ideas, steps, or things to remember in this section.  Once they have done this, reveal the correct answer: the 3 ideas, steps, or things that they should have identified.  Note:  3 is the number of ideas and key points that people are able to remember most easily.  The learning content may, of course, require some variation here but try to keep the key points and steps to a minimum.  With increased use of this simple technique, trainees’ skills at identifying key ideas will improve.

· Quiz participants – formally or informally – on the learning content at the end of each section and use an overall quiz/exam for the entire class.  Provide the correct answer immediately after each question.  After each quiz, provide quiz reflection questions on a notesheet that prompts the trainee to think about the mistakes they made and to plan their learning strategies for the next section, module, or class.

Before the next quiz, ask participants to review their responses to their last post-quiz reflection and to keep these in mind as they take this quiz.

With repeated use of these techniques, participants’ ability to absorb learning content will increase.  And if they learn it better, they should be better able to apply it.

Until next time….

P.S. Follow me on Twitter: @StickyTraining


To Discuss how these Solutions will add value for you, your organization and/or your clients, Affinity/Resale Opportunities, and/or Collaborative Efforts, Please Contact:

Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

learning, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC