31 Oct 2016

Seven Ways to Reinforce Learning


Have you ever experienced a “learning high”? That moment right after attending an excellent program or seminar, when you felt so excited and so inspired?

It’s a glorious moment, but what usually happens after that is that we ease back into our normal life, get caught up in everyday busyness until what we just learned starts to fizzle out; interest diminishes and we may tend to forget some key principles we learned.

Because that is our natural tendency, unless there is follow-through, you will end up not benefiting much from the training. In a recent article on Learning Transfer, Dr. Roy Pollock explains that “A great learning experience is essential, but if the trainees do not apply what they have learned, the program has been a failure even if learning has taken place,” quoting Don and Jim Kirkpatrick from their book, Transferring Learning to Behaviour.

Whether it’s a corporate training program or a weekend seminar you attended, the training is only the beginning. We need to consciously follow through and apply what we learned, to maximize the investment. Another term for this is Learning Transfer.
The idea behind learning transfer is to convert principles into practices and habits that last.

In the context of the workplace, this could mean creating systems and processes to apply, monitor and evaluate your post-training progress. It requires discipline, consistency and commitment to seal in the learning and make it part of you.

Here are some practical and informal ways to take ownership of sealing your learning, whether your own or in your group of learners:
1. Form a Group
You can form a group with friends or colleagues with similar goals, and schedule regular group discussions about certain learning points, and evaluate and encourage each other. You can even motivate and challenge the group by assigning awards for those who progress the most.

2. Find an Accountability Partner
A one-on-one arrangement is a good idea for handling more specific or complex issues. This is useful and appropriate when implementing a very detailed action plan, or when dealing with personal or sensitive issues.

3. Start a Journal
Get yourself a blank notebook and start a progress journal. Start by summarizing what you learned, then come up with some goals for each month. Log your activities and accomplishments frequently. When you feel discouraged and want to give up, re-read what you wrote at the beginning and appreciate how far you’ve come.

4. Read and Research
Revisit your training notes—the ones you hand-wrote or typed on your digital notebook, because what you were prompted to write down are usually the things that stood out to you. Dig deeper by reading more and researching on those topics or issues. This may even lead you on a path to something you are passionate about but didn’t realize.

5. Create
If you love doing typography, lettering, or design, why not make artworks from your notes, or quotable quotes. You can also compose digital artwork using a mobile phone app. If you love to talk, film yourself talking about what you learned. It will be fun to watch it later on. Or draw a comic strip about your learning. After doing things like these you are likely to remember what you learned, and will have some materials to remind you in the future.

6. Share it
Post your learnings on social media—perhaps tweet some quotable quotes. Or write a review of your training. Share your highlights with others in a conversation. Teaching others what you learned is a way of cementing and confirming your own knowledge and the learning experience. Sharing lessons will spread the learning to others, and at the same time it gets ingrained more deeply inside you.

7. Live it
Make sure what you learned becomes a part of you. If you learned the value of being more relational at work, make sure you are taking time to have better, deeper conversations with your colleagues. If you are antisocial and you learned something about social awareness, you’ll need to resist the tendency to isolate yourself.
These are just some examples of getting creative with Learning Transfer. Choose your method depending on the kind of training you attended, and which method motivates you the most.

Questions to ponder on:
1. Think of a training program or seminar you attended recently. Did you do any of the above after the training?
2. If yes, how has it helped you? How can you further apply what you learned? If you answered “no” to #1, what action steps can you take to revisit and reinforce what you learned?