Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Lively Worker Studying: How To Implement It

The power of active learning in companies

I was attending a Business Skills Academy when I walked into a room. There two employees of a large accounting firm prepared what I think was just another presentation. But when they started, I knew it was going to be something completely different. The two employees divided us into groups of five and gave us a task: to build a model of the Bosphorus Bridge. Why should an accounting firm give us a construction project? I soon found the genius behind it, and it had to do with something called the “learning pyramid”.

Why do we forget (almost) everything that we are taught?

The National Training Laboratory has done a lot of research to find out how people learn and they discovered the following things:

  • People have two ways of learning: passive and active. Passive is a one-way street where people only receive information, while active learning includes input from participants and communicates back and forth.
  • People have three learning styles: auditory (listening), visual (looking / seeing) and kinesthetic (touching / doing).

In addition, the National Training Laboratory found which learning methods produce the greatest results and stay the most. There are 7 different learning methods that lead to different results:

  1. lecture
    Passive mode, 5% knowledge retention, auditory style
  2. reading
    Passive mode, 10% knowledge retention, visual style
  3. Audiovisual (TED talk)
    Passive mode, 20% knowledge retention, audiovisual style
  4. demonstration
    Passive mode, 30% knowledge retention, audiovisual
  5. discussion
    Active mode, 50% knowledge retention, audio-visual-kinesthetic
  6. Learn by doing
    Active mode, 75% knowledge retention, audio-visual-kinesthetic
  7. Teach others
    Active mode, 90% knowledge retention, audio-visual-kinesthetic

The last three learning methods – discussion, learning by doing and teaching others – bring the greatest return on investment with a knowledge retention rate of over 50%. And that brings us back to the two employees from the auditing firm’s workshop that I attended. The two employees gave us the task of building a model of a bridge where we had to work together as a team, make a plan and presentation, draw up a budget and buy equipment from them with special points (scissors, paper, cardboard, etc.) so that we can build a bridge and win the competition.

But the bridge here is not important. The real lessons are hidden behind the scenes.

Why active learning outperforms passive learning

It wasn’t about the bridge, it was about figuring out how to work with my group, how to communicate and delegate effectively, how to choose a group leader, how to decide what to do, what to buy, and how to assemble something that actually works. Concepts such as open communication, delegation, decision-making, conflict resolution, stress and crisis management are implemented on site.

The best way to teach decision making to your employees is to put them in a situation where they need to make decisions. And the workshop I took part in is just one example of a company that learned early on that the best way to convey a concept is to experience it first hand. I’ve attended over ninety conferences in my life, but I can’t even name half of them. However, I remember building a bridge with four other people ten years ago and taking second place in the workshop (so close to first place!).

One of the employees was the HR manager for the country department, and she told me that these workshops, where people work together, are the smartest thing she has ever done in her country department, both internally and externally. Internally they implement and experience concepts that are difficult to understand, such as open communication, decision-making and conflict resolution, and build better and greater competence in their employees, which has a massive return on investment.

Externally, they implement it at various conferences, academies and even in recruiting processes. All of this strengthens their reputation and brand as a modern and up-to-date company that teaches people through interactive learning methods (and they’re fun). So the question is not whether these workshops work – they do; The question is: how can you implement this in your work environment?

With this in mind, there are two ways you can implement active learning in your corporate environment:

1. Learn by doing

The first way is learning by doing, and the best example of this is toastmasters. If you want to learn to speak in public, this is the place for you. And how do you learn public speaking?

With your application to Toastmasters you will receive a small PDF document called “Competent Communication” and your first task is “The Ice Breaker”. You get up and talk to people about who you are and why you applied. And best of all, you do this on the first day. There are no pre-presentations or long seminars that you need to attend. You learn public speaking by doing public speaking, starting now. And they’re not the only example.

Pixar has required training for you to go through and some optional courses for different skill sets – all on a “learn by doing” style. If the Bosporus Bridge taught me anything, it was that Einstein’s quote sounds true: “Theory and practice are the same in theory, but not in practice.” When implementing learning-by-doing methods in yours In the work environment, you must ensure that the participants are actively involved in the process. It doesn’t have to be a workshop; You can give employees a good book to read and then ask for a summary or essay about it.

2. Teach others

BF Skinner, one of the most famous psychologists of the 20th century, said: “Education is what survives when what is learned is forgotten.” Teaching others doesn’t mean you always have to bring someone from outside the company to conduct training. You can get another employee to teach others the skills they learned either on the job or in their free time.

Mindvalley [1], an education company based in Malaysia, offers its employees space to impart the skills they have learned to others. Google does the same with its Googler-to-Googler program [2]. And the way to do this involves a 4 step process known as “The Feynman Technique”:

  1. Pick a concept that you want to learn about.
  2. Imagine teaching a student who is in sixth grade.
  3. Identify gaps in your statement; Go back to the source material to better understand it.
  4. Review, simplify, and add stories.

When you consider this technique, not only will you develop people by applying the knowledge, but you will also show the next generation of people what they can do in the company. And the best way to learn is to teach it.

Are you getting the most out of your learning system?

Active learning is difficult and time consuming, especially when transitioning from a passive learning style. It takes time to research, create, test and verify that the process is successful and that all participants in the program / workshop / meeting are making the most of it. Even if you prepare everything, you don’t know if it will work or not because participant engagement is difficult to measure. The active learning instances do not have to be workshops; You can set up a book club with your co-workers and dedicate one day of the month for everyone to present a small essay about the book they have read.


[1] This is how you gain (and promote) brilliance in your workplace

[2] Guide: Create a staff-to-staff tutorial

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