Tip #379: In Defense of Classroom Learning

“Technology is fine. . ., but that popular vision of the future, where you plug somebody in and leave them there and they don’t get out and interact with actual flesh-and-blood humans — you know the answer before I say it — that’s not good.” Dennis Miller

With all of the focus on using social media and e-learning for training, classroom training may seem less attractive and cost effective. However, there is certain learning that can only occur in a classroom, particularly skills that require face-to-face interaction. These include the variety of interpersonal communications, including interviewing, presenting, training and negotiating.

There are six reasons for this:

1. It creates a supportive learning environment.

The camaraderie, the opportunity to bounce ideas off of others and hear their ideas, the ability to ask questions and get immediate answers, the physical experience of connecting and working with other participants all combine to enrich the learning experience. There is a much greater likelihood that the learners will learn in a classroom.

a. The physical fact that the participants are seated in a classroom helps to focus them on learning.

b. Having others around them learning about the same things reinforces participants’ motivation to learn.

c. Participants can encourage, support and assist each each other in the learning process.

d. Learning is augmented by the other participant’s comments and participation.

2. The trainer can model the desired learning and behavior.

It is one thing to read a description, talk through a process, watch a taped demonstration or communicate through sound bytes. It is a very different learning experience when the participants can observe and ask questions as the trainer models the desired behavior.

a. The modeling occurs in real time, so participants have the immediate ability to ask questions and seek clarification.

b. Because it occurs in real time, the trainer can adapt the skill or process to the specific needs of the participants.

c. Verbal and nonverbal nuances, such as the tone of voice, facial expression and body language, are much more obvious in a live demonstration.

d. Learners can participate in all or part of the demonstration, which lets them discover what adjustments they need to make so that the process works effectively for them.

3. It provides an opportunity for guided monitored practice.

If participants are to retain what they have learned, they need to practice it several times. In a classroom, participants can first practice with the full involvement of the trainer. They can then practice working in small groups, where they are able to reinforce and assist each other. Finally, they can practice independently, with access to the trainer.

a. The trainer can listen to and observe the participants’ work, intervening where necessary.

b. The trainer can coach the participants or jumpstart their thought processes.

c. The trainer can intervene when difficulties arise, to either reteach or interject new information that will assist the participants.

d. Participants have access to the trainer for immediate guidance and feedback.

4. It allows participants to practice face-to-face interactive skills.

Interactive skills require whole body learning. In other words, just because a participant intellectually grasps the steps in a specific type of interaction does not mean that the participant is able to effectively handle the interaction in real life. The only way that learners will achieve confidence in their own competence is for them to practice their new skills in simulations that are as real to life as possible.

a. The participants can evaluate whether their verbal and nonverbal behaviors are consistent with each other, or whether they are giving inconsistent messages.

b. The participants get a chance to see how it feels to actually say what needs to be said to the other person.

c. The participant has to adjust to and handle unexpected responses of the other person.

d.It gives participants the experience of having to think on their feet.

5. It can provide scheduled kinesthetic activity.

The needs of kinesthetic learners are frequently underserved because they need to move their bodies in order to learn. Classroom training can easily incorporate kinesthetic activities, particularly to check for comprehension. Rather than texting or sitting at a computer, participants can move into and out of small groups, stand up to make reports, raise their hands, and play physical games such as relays.

a. Standing up increases the blood flow to the brain, keeping participants more alert and able to learn.

b. Movement increases the energy of the group.

c. Moving into different groups provides participants with new and different viewpoints.

d. Movement engages both sides of the brain, thereby increasing the probability of both learning and retention.

6. It can be decorated to reinforce a topic or theme.

A classroom can be transformed with pictures and colorful items on the walls and a variety of tabletop objects that emphasize key aspects of the topic at hand. The classroom can even replicate a real world setting with music, sounds, colors, audiovisuals and room arrangements. This increases the participants’ interest and attention, both of which will increase the likelihood of more effective learning.

a. A themed classroom can bring a topic or concept to life, simulating real life experience.

b. The more senses that are engaged, the greater the learning that occurs.

c. Stimulated senses enhance participant interest and energy.

d. A pleasant and appealing classroom creates a relaxed learning environment, and participants are more creative when they are relaxed.

Human beings are social animals. They are more likely to learn when they are together and they have a chance to articulate their thoughts, gain insights from others, and physically practice what they have learned. This is particularly true for learning the variety of interpersonal communication skills.

May your learning be sweet.


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