A little introduction to the topic. Here are a few discussion prompts. Break into small groups with table facilitators to guide the conversation. Large group de-brief. No bullet-pointed PowerPoint slides. Heck, no slides at all! This is a textbook example of well-designed training built upon a strong foundation of adult learning, right?
Not so fast.
Earlier this week I had an opportunity to attend a 60-minute session on the topic of measuring training impact. Training that has a measurable impact – it’s the holy grail of the learning and development profession, right? Sign me up. In fact, sign my colleagues up too! I dragged a colleague to this workshop as well. We need to learn as much as we can on this topic because we certainly haven’t found a consistent way to crack this nut.
During the session, a facilitator framed the topic then turned us loose in small groups to discuss the topic. In my own small group, I felt I was able to offer brilliant insights into the challenges we face when trying to isolate training as a reason for improved business results. I took a look around the room and everyone was engaged. The room was abuzz.
Toward the end, each small group reported their insights. Time expired, a little end-of-session networking took place, and then we all headed our own separate ways. It was fun.
Later, I reached out to my colleague who attended and asked about her take-aways. She said: “I don’t know that I took away any new/better way to measure training. How about you?”
The truth was, I didn’t have any concrete take-aways either. I was kind of hoping my colleague was going to mention something that I somehow missed.
Last week, during a #chat2lrn Twitter chat, Patti Shank took a lot of flak (including from me) when she wrote this:
When I reflected on the training experience I had this week, Patti’s words suddenly resonated for me. This training was ultra-engaging. And yet my colleague and I left without being able to do something new or differently or better.
Perhaps there should have been a more vigorous de-brief. Perhaps there should have been more instructor-led content, maybe even <gasp> lecture – either before or after the small group discussions.
I may not have new ways to measure the impact of my training initiatives, but I did carry three concrete take-aways from this experience:
- Sometimes, lecture isn’t completely evil.
- Sometimes, too many discussion-based activities can be counter-productive.
- Reflection is an essential habit following a learning experience. Even when concrete take-aways from the topic at hand prove to be elusive, learning can still happen.
And you? What kinds of things have you learned unexpectedly even though the actual topic at hand of a training session didn’t quite deliver for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.