Making My Learning Stick

The holiday break and new year gave me more time for reflection and looking inward, and I’d like to share a few ruminations with you.

Six weeks ago I got a new computer with Windows 7, Explorer 9, and MS Office 2010.  The transition has been quite painless with two exceptions.  Version 9 of Internet Explorer places the favorites (aka bookmarks) on the right side of the screen/toolbar.  My previous version of Explorer placed them on the left side of the screen.  In addition, when I click on the X in the upper right corner of Explorer 9, the entire browser closes down, while in my former version when I clicked on the X in the upper right corner only that screen closed.  Simple things, right?  But I can’t tell you how many times I have looked for my favorites on the left side of the screen and closed out the browser when I intended to only close a window.  I’m getting better, but learning these simple tasks – actually un-learning the old way and learning the new way – is taking time, practice, and experience.  Frankly, if I didn’t have to learn the new way, I wouldn’t.

Transfer rates (that is, the application) for “open skills” such as leadership and other soft skills are much lower than transfer rates for “closed” skills such as specific steps for performing a task.  If it takes me 30+ days to learn/relearn a simple task, how long does it take a learner to learn a complex, soft skill?

Human beings tend to revert to previous ways of doing things unless they receive post-learning support.  In my situation with my browser, the system reinforces my learning by providing an unfavorable consequence when I perform the task incorrectly.  In many other situations, there are no built-in consequences, making post-training reinforcement is even more important.

Here are a few simple suggestions to reinforce training and be sure it is being used:

  1.  Collect or save tips for using the skills taught in training.  Develop a series of follow-up emails for trainees to receive at weekly intervals, for 6-8 weeks following training, and include one tip in each email.

  2. Contact each participant (I prefer voicemail but email will work) once a week or every two weeks for 1-2 months post-training.  Ask how they are using the training, if they have questions, etc.

  3. Ask/remind trainees’ managers to observe or review their work, to provide support, reinforcement, and possibly corrections.

Over the Holidays I saw the new silent movie The Artist.  A good movie, but a bit frustrating for me as an auditory learner.  After the movie my more visual friends pointed out many aspects of the film that I’d missed.   A good reminder to include as many media as possible in a learning experience.  This helped me with the decision to include audio in a current e-learning project.

  1. Provide instructions and learning content visually and verbally:  visual aids, verbal instructions and lecture content, attractive screens with photos and audio voiceovers in e-learning, and good vocal variety especially in live virtual classes.

Have you reflected recently on your own learning transfer?  What makes a difference for you in making your learning stick?  Share your reflections with me. Sometimes a look inward can provide good reminders and ahas for our work with trainees.

Until next time…

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