Less is more
When teaching concepts, keep it one or two things
How much content is needed when training?
When you think about an average session, especially in groups, how do you teach?
I ask these questions, because when we think about teaching, one of the observations I have made is that we tend to pack as much into a session as possible. Usually, because our time is limited, but even if it wasn’t, there is a tendency to “over-teach”. I still fall prey to this myself from time to time, but it is an important concept to keep in mind. Not just because of the trends in learning (see our previous conversation on micro lessons - Micro Lessons) but because less really is more.
When it comes to a typical session, one lesson I have taken home over the years is keeping training sessions to one or two concepts tops. And here is why:
Our brain likes specific bites of information, making it easier to “stick” when it comes to learning and memory
It makes teaching concepts easier to apply within context for our clients
It gives us more time to practice and train
And probably the most important of it all, it frees us up to talk “with” our audience and not “at” our audience.
I still remember the shift. I was about a year into my first military position and we were running a 5 day course at the base I worked at. It was a fairly rigid course because we had specific objectives we were supposed to hit based on our contract. It was a fun course, one of my favorites. We were teaching leadership to leaders of injured/ill/wounded transitioning Soldiers.
It was a packed 5 days. All of us were always exhausted at the end of it and although it was fun, feedback from NCO’s was always inconsistent. A few loved it, a few felt it was okay, but they wanted to spend more time on learning the actual job they had to do. We were providing resiliency skills since it was a high stress job. We would teach the skill and then asked the leaders where they thought they could apply them. Eight skills in five days. Very straightforward.
The challenge - we had a lot of information we needed to cover. 3 days of lecture and reflection, 2 days of them teaching back to us. It was a lot.
So we made a pivot.
Instead of teaching the skill and providing the science behind why it helps and then get into application, we made it a leader driven course. What I mean by leader driven is that they would dictate how we taught the skills. We still needed to teach resiliency skills as that was the mandate, but we changed the tone of the course.
Day One consisted of leader led discussions, highlighting their worries/concerns, and goals of being a leader of injured/ill/wounded. Leaders broke into focus groups taking these topics and discussing their approaches. The tone was completely different. We started talking “with” them instead of “at” them. Our breakout training sessions over the subsequent days allowed us to layer in the resiliency skills within context of what was unpacked on Day One. We were working together with the leaders to develop strategies for their job. Did this mean every leader was bought in? No. But the dynamic changed completely and I never forgot that feeling.
THE PATH AHEAD
When you work with your clients, focus on one or two concepts to keep the training sessions more agile. Either way you have a skill to teach, but it allows for more collaboration and increased learning benefits (as stated in the beginning). This will naturally come with more experience, but if nothing else its on your radar and something to consider as you go forward.