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Category Archives: Corporate Training

Returning…

Dear Readers,

It has been a while that I posted anything here. A medley of reasons kept me away – the most important being some critical health issues. Yet, every dark cloud that hovers over your head filling your view of the world with darkness and gloom, either explodes into a storm of rain and drenches you cold, or sails away in time. This cloud is sailing away, and though I can still see its tail on the horizon, I am confident that the wind won’t reverse its course to bring it back. At least I hope that it won’t.

So, in all probability I am back.

I intend to dust away the cobwebs and scrub this blog to make it sparkle again. I also want to thank the latest follower of this blog who inspired me to return. (If you followed this blog yesterday, you are the one I am talking about.)

As I couldn’t move about a lot, I spent the last whole year experimenting with some new learning mediums. I worked extensively on the mobile platform (specifically iOS) and this year I intend to work on development of Android apps. I intend to share my learnings on content development for the mobile learning or m-learning medium here along with my thoughts on e-learning. I am also experimenting with Kindle. Recently I have once again started accepting corporate training assignments in Instructional Design and eLearning. I also plan to share my experiences from those programs here.

This blog primarily focuses on the psychological principles that relate to learning (directly and indirectly) so expect to see the regular stuff on cognitive psychology too 🙂

I leave you with a link to my latest article on the Creative Agni Website.

 

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The Serial Position Effect and Its Use in Training/Course Design

Introducing the Serial Position Effect

Have you heard about the Serial Position Effect?
Of course you have. When you are positioned at the beginning of a list, you feel as chirpy as a bird, and when you are at the end, your nose scrubs the floor. When you are in the middle, you are just there – nothing feels great or lousy, and it’s just another day! So that’s the Serial Position Effect! The Cognitive Psychologists explain in greater detail and their explanations help us formulate some quick tips for making our content interesting. But let’s begin by putting on our experiential shoes.

Serial Position Effect – An Activity

Here’s a list. Read it and then hide it. (Scroll down, click alt-tab to bring up the Beyonce Knowles or George Clooney screensaver, or do whatever you usually do to hide the content on your screen.) Next, jot down on a piece of paper, all the words that you remember.

  1. Poodle
  2. Tree
  3. Dance
  4. House
  5. Airport
  6. Sugar
  7. Child
  8. Ground
  9. Watch
  10. Squirrel
  11. Truck
  12. Building
  13. Hospital
  14. Pencil
  15. Terrace
  16. Lamp

Which are the words that you remembered. According to the Serial Position effect, you must definitely have remembered the terms Poodle and Lamp (the first and the last terms.) The other terms that you remember too would have a greater chance to be found either in the first or the last few terms in the list.

The Serial Position effect (Ebbinghaus) combines two effects:

  • The Primacy Effect (We remember what is at the beginning of a list.)
  • The Recency Effect (We also remember what is at the end of a list.)

The Primacy Effect:

The primacy effect is the outcome of our conscious effort to retain the learning. Recall your experience. Did you repeat the first few terms, trying to “commit” them to memory? You were trying to shift your learning from Short Term Memory to Long Term Memory. This effect wasn’t possible if I had asked you to read the list in 10 seconds, instead of allowing you to stretch the time according to your convenience.

The Recency Effect:

The Recency Effect is the result of “recency.” Recall that I didn’t ask you to wait for an hour before jotting down the terms, instead, I asked you to do it (immediately) after reading the list. Chances are few that you waited before listing the terms you remembered. This effect, thus, is lost when there’s a time-gap between reading the list and recalling the terms. Note that Recency Effect doesn’t require you to shift your learning from the Long Term Memory to the Short Term Memory!

Some other examples that illustrate the Recency Effect are:

  • Forgetting the names of the family members of a person introduced to you in the last party you attended. (You remembered them for the duration of your conversation with the person in question.)
  • Forgetting single-use phone numbers immediately after use.

In both these cases, you didn’t think that the “learning” (names/phone numbers) was important enough to be sent to the Long Term Memory.

Using The Serial Position Effect in Course/Training Design:

Let us put a stop to the theoretical discussion on the Serial Position Effect and review its impact on course/training design.

  • When you want your audience to remember something, put it either at the beginning or the end of your session/lecture/series of activities.
    Sloth: Now you know why the beginnings and the ends are so much more fun than the body of the session. The trainer is trying to obtain a happy “reaction” from the audience. The trainer is also aiming at leaving the audience with happy memories!

    Don’t worry about Sloth. He’s got this uncanny ability to turn the concepts upside-down (not inside-out.)

  • If you can structure your content in form of expandable lists, do it – but make sure that its got a chiseled midriff – put all the groovy stuff either at the top or at the bottom. (You know that the metaphor is unintentional – it just happened:-) But even if you think otherwise, please yourself!)
  • Break your longer lists into two or more columns. The learner’s mind will then perceive each list as a separate one and the Primacy Effect will help him/her remember more.

Sloth: You should train yourself to begin your content with “What the learner would gain” and end with “What the learner has gained!” Then you’ll have a successful training program, without having to design and deliver anything else!

Froth: Sloth’s right. Having patented his technique of designing “Beginning-to-End in 60 seconds” training programs, he’ll shortly make his first million!

 

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Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Application in Training & Content Development (3 of 3)

Following are the two posts that precede this post.

  1. Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Why People play down the Achievements of Others?
  2. Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Stability & Controllability

This is the third and final post in this series. Through this post, let us discuss some applications of the Attribution Theory.

Recall how Sloth and Froth applied different causes to their own and other’s successes and failures. What we saw was something that we’ve all experienced intuitively – the primal human tendency to improve ones appearance. An interesting application of Attribution theory, which popped into my head just now, can be seen in the behavior of a young woman viewing a picture of another woman (someone that her spouse or sweetheart may have found attractive.) The reasons that this woman would attribute to the “success” (read: attractiveness) of the woman in picture would probably read as:

“A play of lights. Those photographers can make anyone look beautiful! And I wonder why you don’t see those spots on her face that I saw when the camera did a close-up in…what was that show – Oh…Koffee with Karan, I suppose. And that figure?! Hasn’t anyone heard of Photoshop! She’s got curves?! Hah!”

And upon viewing her own photograph…
“The photographer didn’t know his work! Look at the way he messed up the lighting! I don’t have those three rumbling chins – no way! And my skin is actually many shades lighter. What’s that spot on my cheek? Must be a speck on the camera lens!”

Funny…but true! And we all know that it is true:-)

What’s Lacey’s Viewpoint?

The question is how can we use this reality to make learning more effective?

Here are a few tips.

1. Empathize. Feel what your Audience Feels!
2. Appreciate the Cultural Angle of Attribution
3. Ascribe Failure to Unstable and Controllable Causes
4. Ascribe Success to Internal and Controllable Causes

Empathize. Feel what your Audience Feels!

Remember that the audience attempts to view his/her success or failure in the best possible light. This of course means that for everything that happens during a learning experience, the audience’s mind is busy determining causes. By the time, you get around to explaining something, the audience has already booked a cause for it. So, Never tell the audience that his or her failure was due to an internal factor. (In all probability, the audience has already pinned the blame of failure on to something else, such as you, or the study material, the methodology, or even a visiting aunt.) If you differ, your explanation will be met with a cognitive dissonance.

Appreciate the Cultural Angle of Attribution

Always review a learning issue within the context of the culture. For instance, as Indians, we make external attributions for a person’s undesirable actions more often than the westerners. This is so because as a society we are driven by external obligations, humility, and the demands of our social/familial roles.

Thus, if a person is caught taking bribe, a westerner would probably be more disposed towards attributing the action to that person’s trait of dishonesty, while we would most probably blame it on the system.

Here’s another example.
My personal experience of dealing with the topic of plagiarism in a training program taught me that this topic has to be handled very carefully, else it would hit a wall of resistance. Discussing plagiarism as a malady to be remedied results in more productive discussions that discussing it as an act of dishonesty (which results in drawn swords.)

Ascribe Failure to Unstable and Controllable Causes

This is an old one, and I am sure that you are already a master at doing this. Ascribe failures to unstable and controllable caused (for example, if a learner fails to perform according to expectations, ascribe it to “lack of directed effort” (something that can be controlled, and which isn’t stable – are you wondering whether all that is internal and unstable can be controlled? Reflect.) Don’t ascribe it to “lack of aptitude for science.”)

If you think that a learner has developed the tendency to ascribe failures to external, stable, uncontrollable factors, gear up to steer this learner away from this defeatist attitude.

Ascribe Success to Internal and Controllable Causes

In societies such as ours, we grow up ascribing our successes to the hand of fate. When I was growing up, before and after my exams (until the results were declared,) I’d pray and hope that somehow my prayers would improve my results. Thankfully, my prayers were never answered and I learned to ascribe success to “internal and controllable” causes. I shudder to think what kind of person I would’ve become had I turned “lucky.”

We should attempt to help the learner view his/her successes as a result of her internal, stable, and controllable factors (such as the output of concentrated effort,) instead of external, unstable, and uncontrollable factors, such as luck.

I believe that such positive attributions can go a long way in bolstering the confidence of our children who would find themselves in control of their destiny instead of being controlled by it.


Photo by mikebaird

Of course, Attribution Theory has many other applications, and I don’t think that I can cover all of them, but I do feel that a conscious effort to keep the three parameters of Attribution Theory in mind could help all kinds of learning professionals – the trainers, the teachers, and the instructional designers. It could help us reach out to our audience, empathize with them, and become a positive influence in their lives.

 

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The Shaky Grounds of Learner Motivation – Motivating the Learner in Corporate Trainings!

Underneath every learning action is an inner desire to improve one’s abilities. Right? Wrong.

Here’s a situation.
Anita’s boss, who supervises 9 others in her team, reflected upon the productivity and quality data for her team, and decided that the team needed to be trained for their core competencies. So Anita too was sent for a training that would help her do her job better. Anita, however, felt that she didn’t need the training program, what she really needed was a transfer… her project manager’s.

Anita didn’t believe that the training program could help her – in fact, she didn’t believe that there was a need for her to take the program. Her action of attending the training program didn’t stem from any “inner desire” to improve her abilities. Anita would probably put on her mental blinkers the moment she enters the training hall and keep them on until she leaves.

Anita represents the stark truth of corporate training environments, where instead of the participant paying for the training program, his/her organization pays for it. Unfortunately, corporate trainings and even open training program that have an organizational sponsorship component are extremely common, and in fact account for most of the big budget training projects!

Here are three important tips for making these participants more amenable to your training programs.

  1. Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals.
  2. Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.
  3. Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

In other words, figure out who the robin is and what she wants!


Photo by Foxypar4

1. Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals:

People are different from one-another and they like to be perceived as individuals. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Carnegie says that for each of us the sweetest sound in this world is the sound of our own name. This also holds true for the training programs that we conduct, for we generally find ourselves training humans – the species that has the highest degree of self-concept. But I recommend that you don’t stop at memorizing names. Instead, devote the first ten minutes of your training programs, determining what differentiates one participant from another.

I know, it’s easy to preach but difficult to practice – and I too am guilty of ignoring this tenet in some of my training programs – but I make a very sincere effort. Include eye contact, inclusive gestures, and use your learning about their personalities.

All this will help transform your unwilling participant into a willing audience – Expect the degree of this transformation to be inversely proportional to the participant’s unwillingness and directly proportional your perspicacity.

2. Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.

My experience tells me that you can learn a lot about your audience’s personality and their attitude towards the training program through some pre-training initiative. I believe that a good trainer should spend the time immediately before the training, preparing himself – not by going through the training content, but by reviewing the individual profiles of the training participants.

Sending out the audience information sheet for the participants to complete and email to me, is the most important preparation activity that I do, “before” conducting any corporate training program (of course, I expect the group’s average motivation quotient to be sitting at the nadir, in the case of corporate trainings – and so I treat them with utmost caution.) For these formats I set open-ended non-obtrusive questions that are extremely instructive and help me design/re-design the structure, and even the delivery of my programs. I will write more about setting these formats…one day! (Sigh!)

Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

This is cool – but tough…and somewhat risky. You need to figure it out how it could help you connect with your participants – especially in a corporate training environment, where instead of the participant, the participant’s organization is your client! The client organization’s primary interest would be that you map all the learning outcomes (stated as well as unstated) to the organization’s goals. However, this focus on organizational goal mapping may reduce your audience’s appetite for learning even further.

Remember, as the Training Guru Robert Pike points out in his hook-them-up and reel-them-in style, the adult learner (and if you ask me – any other kind of learner as well,) is interested in What’s-in-it-for-me (or WIIFM, a term that adorns the vocabulary of every trainer under the Sun.)

I was once addressing a group of highly intelligent engineer trainers who were working with a Public Sector Organization. All my audience were between 40 and 55, with their kids all grown up, and with their lives settled on the borders of boredom. Most of my audience thought that writing for the web was a new-fangled absolutely non-serious kind of pursuit – and I needed to take them through web 2.0! So, I did what I just asked you to do. I established a personal goal for them. I started by telling them about blogging and what it could mean to individuals like them.

I spoke of its use in expressing themselves for:

  • Post-retirement part-time options such as training and consulting.
  • Personal satisfaction and possible growth options in terms of using their own brand-equity (developed through their blogs) for representing their organization

My extremely intelligent and smart adult audience interpreted it in their own ways – I had thrown light on the possibilities, they connected the rest of the lecture with their personal goals. Obviously, that session went through with most energy. Everyone wanted to know more – there were discussions, there was laughter, and at the end of it all, there was a satisfied audience. All in the session that had been scaring me the most.

So, to sum it up:

Make your trainings successful by:
· Addressing the Individuals in the Group
· Sketching the profiles of your participants, before the training.
· Helping participants map the content to their personal goals.

Until Tuesday then:)

Motivation, learner motivation, motivating the training participants, motivation in corporate trainings, methods of motivating the trainees, WIIFM, what is in it for me, robert pike, robert w. pike, train the trainer, dale carnegie, how to win friends and influence people, audience psychographics, entry behavior, audience analysis, adult audience

Underneath every learning action is an inner desire to improve one’s abilities. Right? Wrong.

Here’s a situation.

Anita’s boss, who supervises 9 others in her team, reflected upon the productivity and quality data for her team, and decided that the team needed to be trained for their core competencies. So Anita too was sent for a training that would help her do her job better. Anita, however, felt that she didn’t need the training program, what she really needed was a transfer… her project manager’s.

Anita didn’t believe that the training program could help her – in fact, she didn’t believe that there was a need for her to take the program. Her action of attending the training program didn’t stem from any “inner desire” to improve her abilities. Anita would probably put on her mental blinkers the moment she enters the training hall and keep them on until she leaves.

Anita represents the stark truth of corporate training environments, where instead of the participant paying for the training program, his/her organization pays for it. Unfortunately, corporate trainings and even open training program that have an organizational sponsorship component are extremely common, and in fact account for most of the big budget training projects!

Here are three important tips for making these participants more amenable to your training programs.

1. Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals.

2. Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.

3. Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

In other words, figure out who the robin is and what she wants!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/foxypar4/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Carnegie

Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals:

People are different from one-another and they like to be perceived as individuals. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Carnegie says that for each of us the sweetest sound in this world is the sound of our own name. This also holds true for the training programs that we conduct, for we generally find ourselves training humans – the species that has the highest degree of self-concept. But I recommend that you don’t stop at memorizing names. Instead, devote the first ten minutes of your training programs, determining what differentiates one participant from another. I know, it’s easy to preach but difficult to practice – and I too am guilty of ignoring this tenet in some of my training programs – but I make a very sincere effort. Include eye contact, inclusive gestures, and use your learning about their personalities.

All this will help transform your unwilling participant into a willing audience – Expect the degree of this transformation to be inversely proportional to the participant’s unwillingness and directly proportional your perspicacity.

Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.

My experience tells me that you can learn a lot about your audience’s personality and their attitude towards the training program through some pre-training initiative. I believe that a good trainer should spend the time immediately before the training, preparing himself – not by going through the training content, but by reviewing the individual profiles of the training participants.

Sending out the audience information sheet for the participants to complete and email to me, is the most important preparation activity that I do, “before” conducting any corporate training program (of course, I expect the group’s average motivation quotient to be sitting at the nadir, in the case of corporate trainings – and so I treat them with utmost caution.) For these formats I set open-ended non-obtrusive questions that are extremely instructive and help me design/re-design the structure, and even the delivery of my programs. I will write more about setting these formats…one day! (Sigh!)

Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

This is cool – but tough…and somewhat risky. You need to figure it out how it could help you connect with your participants – especially in a corporate training environment, where instead of the participant, the participant’s organization is your client! The client organization’s primary interest would be that you map all the learning outcomes (stated as well as unstated) to the organization’s goals. However, this focus on organizational goal mapping may reduce your audience’s appetite for learning even further.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Pike_(Bob_Pike)

Remember, as the Training Guru Robert Pike points out in his hook-them-up and reel-them-in style, the adult learner (and if you ask me – any other kind of learner as well,) is interested in What’s-in-it-for-me (or WIIFM, a term that adorns the vocabulary of every trainer under the Sun.)

I was once addressing a group of highly intelligent engineer trainers who were working with a Public Sector Organization. All my audience were between 40 and 55, with their kids all grown up, and with their lives settled on the borders of boredom. Most of my audience thought that writing for the web was a new-fangled absolutely non-serious kind of pursuit – and I needed to take them through web 2.0! So, I did what I just asked you to do. I established a personal goal for them. I started by telling them about blogging and what it could mean to individuals like them.

I spoke of its use in expressing themselves for:

· Post-retirement part-time options such as training and consulting.

· Personal satisfaction and possible growth options in terms of using their own brand-equity (developed through their blogs) for representing their organization

My extremely intelligent and smart adult audience interpreted it in their own ways – I had thrown light on the possibilities, they connected the rest of the lecture with their personal goals. Obviously, that session went through with most energy. Everyone wanted to know more – there were discussions, there was laughter, and at the end of it all, there was a satisfied audience. All in the session that had been scaring me the most.

So, to sum it up:

Make your trainings successful by:

· Addressing the Individuals in the Group

· Sketching the profiles of your participants, before the training.

· Helping participants map the content to their personal goals.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,