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When I’m asked this question, I answer with a quote that I like a lot by Jacques Barzun, French-American historian and scholar:

“It is not the subject but the imagination of the teacher that has to be alive before the interest can be felt.”

I like to use Learning Tasks to engage learners and make my training workshop interesting and engaging. I consider this the cardinal rule among my workshop faciliation best practice. Here is what I specifically do:

  • I turn the content of the materials I need to teach from “things learners need to know” (content) into “things learners need to do” (learning tasks)
  • I create scripts for giving instructions for learning tasks so that I can provide my participants with unequivocal understanding of what they are supposed to do
  • I force myself to act as a resource rather then a “talking head” during the actual tasks letting the trainees do the work
  • I prepare in advance four or five key questions to manage the learning dialogue that follows an experiential learning task

Why do I do all this, rather than traditional lecturing? Isn’t easier to create a Powerpoint presentation?

Sure, but not as effective. I’ve noticed from direct observation that the so-called domain knowledge (concepts, facts, and procedures) presented in Powerpoint, while often necessary, seems largely insufficient to empower people to solve problems at work. Adult learners are focused on “knowing how,” “knowing when,” and “knowing if” in order to improve their own ability to solve problems, often with limited time and incomplete information, in the context of their day-to-day tasks. I’ve noticed that a workshop made up entirely of learning tasks supports this kind of integration and brings about a more “transferable” and effective learning experience.

What dry subjects have you successfully or unsuccessfully taught? What has worked for you?