So Much To Tell

My friend, the Skeptical Trainer, has read somewhere that adult participants bring a wealth of experiences to the training situation. But he is too skeptical to tap into this wealth.

Sharing Experiences

Training games provide an efficient structure for helping participants share their experiences. Let’s assume that you are conducting a workshop on customer satisfaction to a group of new associates. Using a structured sharing called Group Scoop, you give the participants four index cards and ask each of them to write four behaviors that will delight the customers. You collect the cards, shuffle them and redistribute them. During the subsequent play, the participants swap their cards, form teams, arrange the cards in order of priority, select the three most important behaviors, and create a poster.

Everyone has some experience in being a customer. In your game, the information about customer satisfaction comes from the participants themselves.

This strategy frightens the Skeptical Trainer.

“What if the participants don’t know the correct information?” he panics.

So much for androgogy! I reassure him by pointing out that he too can play. The structure of the game permits him to insert his own index cards with the correct information.

Another anxiety attack: “What if the participants don’t select the correct cards?” the Skeptical Trainer wails.

“You should phrase your cards in such a compelling fashion that their importance will be obvious,” I say.

I gently suggest that if the participants come up with trivial ideas and miss the critical ones, he can always correct the misconceptions and introduce additional information. The play of the game would have prepared the participants to incorporate relevant ideas in their existing framework.

You can use several other games and activities to elicit relevant knowledge and opinion from the participants. You can use the games to help the participants organize and apply this information.

Wasting Time

The Skeptical Trainer is frightened about wasting time. “Why don’t I just present the information?” he says.

His trainees support him. “Just tell us what we need to know,” they say.

If telling is training, the most efficient strategy would be to record an audio presentation of the information and play it back as compressed speech. That way, my friend can cover twice as much in half the time.

A Different Type of Lecture

Eliciting information about the training topic from the participants will not work if the participants don’t have the appropriate background experience. I cannot use this type of games to explain the critical attributes of the Tamil culture to a group of Hoosier businesspeople. You can use other interactive approaches in situations that requires the presentation of new (and often technical) knowledge.

In spite of all the complaints and derisive jokes, the lecture method has high levels of efficiency and control. But it frequently lacks the feedback component-- from the participants to the trainer and from the trainer to participants. A special type of games called interactive lectures combines the advantages of lectures with the interaction and feedback of games. In an interactive lecture, the expert’s presentation of the latest information is interspersed with game-like interludes. In the Bingo Lecture, for example, the lecture is interrupted every 10 minute while the listeners work in pairs to find the correct answers to review questions in their bingo card.

A Different Type of Reading Assignment

When it comes to presenting technical information, reading materials work effectively because they permit personal pacing and sequencing. However, as my friend the skeptical trainer knows, nobody takes reading assignments seriously -- because there is no reward for conscientious reading and no punishment for faking. Textra games, a special type of training templates, are specifically designed to entice people to learn from reading, whether it is text on paper or on the internet.  In a specific textra game called Learning Teams, for example, team members help each other to read and review a handout. Later, members of different teams gather at contest tables to earn points from an interactive quiz. The game alternates between cooperative study in teams and competitive performance among teams.

Games can make the process of receiving and reviewing information effective and enjoyable.