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For a True Learning Experience, Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Back to School

You may not remember what it’s like to be a student. I had forgotten until I went to “back-to-school nights” so I could meet my children’s teachers. I’ve been to plenty of conferences where I get to (have to?) sit and listen to presentations. Even when the topic is of interest to me, sitting and listening can be grueling. But during those back-to-school nights, just 15 minutes with each teacher, can feel like forever! How must it feel for students, not interested in the topics they must learn, to sit and listen? Here are some playful, active ways of getting the input you need to make learning experiences even better.

Becoming a Student Again

School Retool, an organization focused on transforming educational cultures and experiences, created the Shadow a Student Challenge. In 2018, over 1398 educators in 53 countries participated in the project. By spending an entire day as students, they learned about everything from the pace of a day to student placement, teacher engagement, social experience, cafeteria food, and so on.

Gather feedback

As trainers, we should be asking ourselves the same questions: what would I think of these session if I were one of the students? Take a moment to self-assess (or even ask your group):

  • How interesting do you find my class/presentation?
  • How engaged are you? Are you bored? Watching the clock?
  • How challenging is the in-class learning experience?
  • Are there opportunities to ask questions, participate, or even stand up?

Make it fun!

Even if you don’t have time for “a day in their shoes,” teachers and trainers have lots of ways to get feedback from their learners. Some favorites include:

Start-Stop-Continue-Change Sticky Notes – rather than asking your group what they can do to change or improve, ask what you can do.

Answer Boards – for instant feedback, ask a question and have everyone jot an answer on an individual Dry-Erase Answer board. Don’t forget to be specific and phrase your question so that you’ll come away with actionable results! Rather than asking “How are you doing?” ask instead,  “Am I moving along too fast?”

Pick-a-Picture – inspire out-of-the-box feedback by asking folks to select an image from a deck like the Express Pack, which  reflects their thinking.

Keep improving

No matter what tools you may find, what’s most important is taking the time to solicit feedback so you can continue to engage your audience and improve your own skills. If you can make feedback-gathering more fun and effective, I imagine you can (or already do) bring the same energy to your overall training style as well.

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