Tip #349: Avoid Mistakes When Timing Learning Activities, Part Two

“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” Pearl Buck

There are ten mistakes that trainers frequently make when they plan and schedule time for learning activities. We considered the first five mistakes in last week’s Tip. This Tip discusses the remaining five mistakes.

Mistake #6: Not Building In Extra Time

Learning activities will rarely take the same amount of time with every group. It is important to build in some extra time so that you will be able to handle unanticipated questions or issues and still accomplish the scheduled activity. It is wise to budget for an extra 15-30 minutes for each activity. It is better to have the time available than to come up short. If the extra time is not needed for the activity, you can always fill it with additional discussion or (the ever popular) end early.

Mistake #7: Not Adapting an Activity to the Time Available

What do you do if you need 50 minutes for an activity, but something [an extended group discussion or a classroom management issue] ends up reducing the time available to 15 minutes? Clearly, the lesson design process determined that this activity was necessary and appropriate. It is better to adapt the planned activity to the shorter timeframe than to throw out the activity. For example, instead of having small groups discuss and report out their conclusions, you can conduct a large group discussion. Instead of small groups discussing a questionnaire, you can read the questions and have the participants signal whether they agree or disagree with the statements. You can then ask representative participants to explain the reason behind their signaled answers.

Mistake #8: Not Building in Time for Breaks

Brain studies have shown that people need breaks approximately every 50 minutes. Otherwise, their brains get saturated and the individuals get exhausted. It is very convenient if the content and learning activities fit neatly into 50- minute modules. But if they don’t, figure out how to split the content and activities in a reasonable place so the participants can take their breaks. For example, explain an activity, assign it and have the participants complete it. Then give a break. After the break, the participants can discuss or debrief the activity.

Mistake #9: Thinking That Participatory Activities Take Too Much Time

First of all, participatory activities are necessary to achieve any learning level higher than knowledge. It is true that some activities require more time than others. However, there are many different brief activities that can accomplish the same learning level. For example, if you want to check participant comprehension, you can use one-minute pop ups or shout outs, five-minute competitive brainstorming or signaled answers to a questionnaire, or ten-minute relay races.

Mistake #10: Not Leaving Enough Time for Closing Activities

There are at least three closing activities that should occur before the end of a workshop. First, there should be some activity that checks for participant comprehension of key content [such as a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet or a quiz game].

Second, there should be sufficient time for the participants to complete a [hopefully simple] workshop evaluation. Third, there should be some general summary [such as individual report-outs of their key take-aways or concluding comments from the instructor].

Avoiding these five mistakes should reduce stress for both the trainer and the participants!

May your learning be sweet.


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