Interactive Experiential Training Strategies
Since 1960, I have been seriously playing with experiential
approaches to adult learning. In the process, I have studied and
experimented with more than 40 powerful interactive
instructional training strategies.
Since March 21, 1999, I have been designing one new interactive
instructional activity every day-including weekends and
holidays. I have been using this approach as the most effective
experiential technique for learning more about interactive
training. Fortunately, I have sold some of these activities to
my clients, published some others in my books and newsletter,
posted a few in my web site, and stored the reminder in my hard
drive for future postmortem. Here's the complete menu of
strategies that I have explored.
This list is not a taxonomy, but an informal list of
overlapping categories. Items marked with a single asterisk(*)
are explored in detail in my book, Interactive
Experiential Training. Items marked with a double
asterisk(**) are explored in detail in the sequel,
Interactive Strategies for Improving Performance.
Items marked with a triple asterisk (***) are explored in detail
in the recent book, More Interactive Strategies for
List of Interactive Experiential
- ***Action Learning involves a combination
of action and reflection by a team solving complex, strategic
problems in a real-world organizational setting. Team members
apply existing skills and knowledge and create new skills,
knowledge, and insights through continuously reflecting on and
questioning the problem definition, the collaborative
behavior, and the ensuing results.
- ***Audio Games are training activities that
primarily depend on recorded audio messages (such as
audiotape, MP3, or computer recording) to provide the training
content, structure the training activity, and collect
participants' responses. Most audio games use few or no
- *Board Games borrow structures and supplies
from popular recreational games to create highly motivating
training events. Board games typically use game cards and dice
to encourage individuals and teams to demonstrate their
mastery of concepts, principles, skills, and problem-solving
- ***The Case Method involves a written
account of a real or fictional situation surrounding a
problem. Participants work individually and in teams to
analyze, discuss, and recommend appropriate solutions and to
critique each others' work. In some cases, the facilitator may
recount the actual decisions implemented in the real-world
situation on which the case was based.
- *Cash Games are a special type of
simulation game that involves actual cash transactions.
However, they are not gambling games. Nor do they focus on
accounting procedures or financial management. Instead, they
explore interpersonal skills (such as negotiation) and
concepts (such as cooperation). Why cash? Because it
effectively simulates the real world and brings out natural
behaviors and emotions in participants.
- **Classification Card Games involve pieces
of information (such as facts, concepts, technical terms,
definitions, principles, examples, quotations, and questions)
printed on cards. These games borrow procedures from
traditional games with playing cards and require players to
classify and sequence pieces of information from the
- **Closers are activities conducted near the
end of a session. They are used for achieving such purposes as
reviewing main points, tying up loose ends, planning
application activities, providing feedback, celebrating
successful conclusion, and exchanging information for future
- Coaching Activities involve an individual
(the coach) supporting the learning or performance improvement
of another (the coachee) through interactive questioning and
support. The process usually includes the coach and the
coachee establishing goals, the coach observing the coachee,
offering relevant feedback, suggesting suitable activities,
and helping the coachee's professional and personal
- Computer Game Shells are a special type of
framegame that is presented on a computer screen. The shells
permit the loading of new content (usually questions) by the
facilitator. The computer acts as a time keeper and score
keeper. These games can also be presented to large groups by
projecting the display on large screens.
- Consensus Decisionmaking Activities
involve a list of items (usually 10) to be arranged in order of
priority. Participants complete the task individually and then
reach consensus in groups. They compare their priority rankings
with expert rankings. In the process, they learn more about factors
that contribute to the priority value of the items and also factors
that influence decision-making and reaching consensus.
- Corporate Adventure Learning involves
physical activities and challenges (such as sailing, rafting,
rappelling, rock climbing, exploring wilderness areas, and walking
on rope bridges) in specially-designed indoor or outdoor
environments. Participants construct knowledge, skill, and value
from their direct experiences through debriefing discussions.
- *Creativity Techniques provide a structure
that enables participants to solve a problem or to utilize an
opportunity in a creative fashion. These techniques are useful
not only for learning new skills and knowledge but also for
directly improving the performance of a team.
- **E-mail Games are conducted through the
internet. They may involve the play of electronic versions of
interactive training games or specially-designed activities
that permit asynchronous communication in which people receive
and send messages at different times. Typical e-mail games
exploit the ability of internet to ignore geographic distances
and involve participants pooling their ideas and polling to
select best ones.
- Facilitated Activities help teams
analyze problems, formulate goals, generate alternative solutions,
and make decisions. Usually, a trained facilitator conducts these
structured activities to help teams maximize their diverse talents
and to arrive at collaborative solutions that are superior to
- *Framegames provide templates for
instant creation of training games. The generic frameworks are
deliberately designed to permit easy replacement of old content
with new. You can use framegames to rapidly develop training
activities that suit your needs.
- Guided Learning Activities provide a
special type of on-the-job training. New employees (or new
members of a team) observe workplace processes using carefully
designed checklists. Later, they perform job-related
activities under the guidance of an experienced employee or
team member and receive immediate feedback.
- **Improv Games are activities adapted
from improvisational theater. The actors do not use a script but
create the dialogue and action as they perform. When used as an
interactive training technique, improv games facilitate the mastery
of skills related to such areas as creativity, collaboration,
communication, and change.
- **Instructional Puzzles challenge the
participant's ingenuity and incorporate training content that
is to be previewed, reviewed, tested, re-taught, or enriched.
Puzzles can be solved by individuals or by teams.
- *Interactive Lectures involve participants
in the learning process while providing complete control to
the instructor. These activities enable a quick and easy
conversion of a typical lecture into an interactive
experience. Different types of interactive lectures
incorporate built-in quizzes, interspersed tasks, teamwork
interludes, and participant control of the presentation.
- ***Interactive Stories are fictional
narratives that involve participants in a variety of
activities. In one type of interactive story, the facilitator
presents the story and discusses its significance in a
debrief. In another type, the facilitator pauses at critical
junctures in the middle of a story and invites listeners to
play the role of a character and make appropriate decisions.
In still another type, pariticipants themselves create and
share stories that illustrate key concepts, principles, or
- ***Item Processing is an interactive
strategy in which individuals and teams generate, organize,
and sequence items such as ideas, facts, questions,
complaints, and suggestions. As a result of the activity,
participants create organized lists of items. More
importantly, this activity enables participants to construct
meaningful categories and sequences from isolated items. This
results in deeper understanding and easier recall of the
- **Jolts lull participants into behaving in
a comfortable way and deliver a powerful wake-up call. They
force participants to re-examine their assumptions and revise
their standard procedures. Jolts typically last for a few
minutes but provide enough insights for a lengthy
- *Magic Tricks incorporate a relevant
magic trick as a part of a training session. Magic tricks provide
metaphors or analogies for some important element of the training
content. The tricks are also used as processes to be analyzed,
reconstructed, learned, performed, or coached for training
participants in appropriate procedures.
- **Matrix Games require participants to
occupy boxes in a grid by demonstrating a specific skill or
knowledge. The matrixes provide a structure for matching or
classifying individual items or organizing and comparing a set
of items. The first participant to occupy a given number of
boxes in a straight line (horizontally, vertically, or
diagonally) wins the game.
- *Metaphorical Simulation Games (MSGs)
reflect real-world processes in an abstract, simplified
fashion. MSGs are particularly useful to teach principles
related to planning, generating ideas, testing alternatives,
making decisions, utilizing resources, and working under time
- ***Openers (also known as icebreakers) are
activities conducted near the beginning of a session. They are
used for achieving such purposes as previewing main points,
orienting participants, introducing participants to one
another, forming teams, establishing ground rules, setting
goals, reducing initial anxieties, and stimulating
- **Paper-and-Pencil Games require players to
make their moves by writing or drawing something on paper. A
typical game may involve players working on a small piece of
paper or a large sheet of. Paper-and-pencil games may
incorporate elements of roleplay, simulation, creativity
technique, or quiz contest.
- *PC Simulations use playing cards to
reflect real-world objects and processes. The rules of PC
simulations typically encourage participants to discover principles
of interpersonal interaction and inductive thinking.
- *Read.me Games combine the effective
organization of well-written materials with the motivational impact
of playful activities. Participants read a handout and play a game
that uses team support to encourage recall and transfer of what
- **Reflective Teamwork involves participants
creating a product related to some aspect of teamwork. Teams
then evaluate their characteristics and performance by using
the product they created.
- ***Role Plays involve participants assuming
and acting out characters, personalities, and attitudes other
than their own. These activities may be tightly or loosely
structured and may involve a participant assuming multiple
roles or reversed roles.
- Scenario Educational Software (SES) is a
computer-simulation format developed by Mark Keegan to
incorporate key features of discovery learning. A typical SES
program transports participants to a specific time and place
(such as a health clinic in West Africa or a penitentiary in
Rikers Island). The simulated activity presents an optimal
challenge, requires participants to make decisions, and
provides relevant feedback. Most SES activities last for a
significant period of time to maximize the impact of repeated
- ***Simulation Games help participants
experience an event close to the real experience-without
experiencing the real event itself. Originally used in war
games for training officers and soldiers, this strategy is
currently used in business games for teaching complex
concepts. Most simulations are based on models of reality.
Computers are frequently used to translate complex models in
such areas as space travel and urban planning into graphic
- Structured Group Discussions use a
self-contained instructional format designed for helping team
members learn together. The activity is facilitated by a
mediated system (such as an audio tape, a videotape, or a
computer) that presents information, specifies a discussion
topic, imposes time limits, and provides feedback in the form
of model responses and checklists.
- *Structured Sharing represents a special
type of framegame that facilitates mutual learning and
teaching among the participants. Typical structured sharing
activities create a context for a dialogue among participants
based on their experiences, knowledge, and opinions.
- ***Telephone Games use telephones and
answering machines. They may involve the play of interactive
training games over long distances. Typical telephone games
may involve elements of role-play and virtual teamwork.
- Television Games borrow the structure of
popular TV game shows to present the instructional content and
to encourage participants to practice skills. They involve
selected contestants and the "studio audience" who participate
and learn vicariously. TV Games can be broadcast for distance
learning , made available on videotapes, or presented live by
using computer game shells and graphics.
- Thought Experiments are internal role plays
that involve guided visualization. Individual participants may
mentally rehearse new patterns of behavior, ask Eleanor
Roosevelt for advice, or hold a dialogue with their alter ego.
These activities result in the learning of new knowledge and
- **Training Devices involve physical
activities performed on electrical and mechanical pieces of
equipment. Participants solve a problem or meet a challenge
with the device and relate the process to their workplace
- ***Video Vitamins, based on a format
developed by Bill Matthews, enhance the instructional value of
training videos. In a typical video vitamin, participants
watch a videotape and then play one or more games that help
review and apply the new concepts and skills.
- Wall Games, based on a format developed by
Steve Sugar, typically involve posters mounted on a wall (or
on an easel) that require participants to write or draw. A
typical wall game may present a vertical version of a board
game, a matrix game, or an instructional puzzle. Participants
may play these games individually or in teams.
- Web Games are interactive activities
presented on the world wide web. A variety of games and
simulations can be played on the web either by individuals or
by teams. Some web-based games permit several people to
interact with one another at the same time in chat rooms.
Others require "asynchronous" interaction in which the
exchange of information among participants are delayed by
minutes, hours, or days.
- WebQuests are based on a format developed
by Bernie Dodge and Tom March at the San Diego State
University. They feature a special type of inquiry learning in
which participants collect information from the Web. WebQuests
focus on using the information rather than merely retrieving
it. A typical WebQuest requires participants to analyze,
synthesize, and evaluate the information from the Web.
Copyright © 2001. Workshops
by Thiagi, Inc. All rights reserved
Revised: April 26, 2001