Monday, February 25, 2013

All learning is personal

Nobody really learns all the much during a lecture.

For anyone who went to college, how much did you really learn during a lecture? I remember my lecture halls of 200-300 students, and really not learning a whole lot during that time.

The Navy spends a lot of money, time and talk about training. We're seeing it now with SAPR-F, and we'll see more in the future, with alcohol, tobacco, pregnancy prevention, or some other flop and twitch problem that we will be directed to stamp out.

But the delivery of this training, as something to appeal to the masses and a one-size-fits all approach, will never work.


Because learning is, and always will be, personal.

I recently went to a marriage retreat at my church that completely brought this point home. I'm normally a very critical person. I've been to a few marriage retreats, and honestly never learned a thing at them. To me, all marriage retreats were written from a female point of view and were taught via either lecture or group sessions. I hated them all. The points taught were either very obvious ("don't beat your wife." Gee thanks, if I'm going to a marriage retreat I'm likely not a wife beater. Just saying...) or so very foreign I rejected them (the squishy "get in touch with your feelings" garbage that most men loathe hearing).

This retreat was different. It was structured as block sessions where trained couple came up and talked about their experiences, with nearly equal times for both husband and wife, AND it was quickly obvious that they weren't reading off a script prepared by some feminist psychology expert sitting behind a desk. There were very few big group sessions, and none where we had to share things. Instead, almost all the time was spent either listening to a couple talk, or spent talking with your spouse in a private room. It's the only marriage retreat I've been to that I actually took notes and look back at my notes later. (If you're interested, visit

If every training event we attended was like this, how awesome would it be? How engaged would we be, and how much more knowledge would we gain?

We're happy in the Navy to have a presenter read a powerpoint presentation and call that training. We think we're doing it right, but the reality is measured when people walk out and don't remember anything that was said. We can fix this by bringing personality back into training.

1. People have conversations, not lectures. If you're lecturing a huge group, and don't get feedback, don't expect the group to learn more than 30% of what you put out. To be effective, you have to talk to your group members. This means you use powerpoints to DISPLAY information, but you use yourself and your talents to TEACH information.

Say you want to teach people how to follow the 7 steps of CONOP development. You could display it on a slide. You could quiz them on it after. Or, you could have them make a two mini CONOPs in a hands on exercise, where you act as a guide while they do most of the work. Which one are they going to remember?

2. One size doesn't fit all. People learn by hearing, doing, and seeing. If you don't have all three methods in your training session, you're not going to get good results.

If you have to teach someone about the electromagnetic spectrum, you need to tell people about the spectrum, show them pictures of it, and make them write it down. One of my most effective professors would give us printed notes for her lectures that required us to fill in some parts. It worked because we had to pay attention to the lecture to get the parts to fill in, but we didn't waste our time scribbling furious notes to keep up with her. I learned a lot from that class.

3. Your attitude is contagious. If you aren't prepared, passionate, or equipped for the training, don't waste everyone's time. Simply cancel and reschedule. Your trainees will appreciate it.

Don't subscribe you, yourself and your division to poor training.