I have a confession to make. As a designer, I give presentation pages the least of my time and effort (and by presentation pages, I mean those pages that don’t test knowledge or allow learners to apply skills). I’ve even completely failed to design presentation pages because I took them for granted; however, I have learned that these pages are too often a missed opportunity for meaningful training and development. If I’m going to use them in a course, I might as well use them the best I can, right?
I want to share one simple and scalable way to improve presentation pages: Help learners ask sincere questions before presenting knowledge.
I agree with cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch who said, “A question is the gateway to all significant learning; it’s the gateway to all real learning. It’s not grades that motivate us to real learning, it’s a question.” For example, this blog—a real learning experience for me— was sparked by a question.
When we ask questions, we are pursuing knowledge with an existing context or need to which that knowledge applies. Then, when we gain knowledge, it is immediately meaningful to us. This is ‘pull’ education. However, much of school and training is ‘push’ education—knowledge is pushed at us, and we don’t necessarily have a context or need to which it applies. When we gain knowledge without context, it is not meaningful to us.
Sincere questions generate more meaningful learning experiences. There’s a hitch, though. You can’t force questions on learners and expect to create a ‘pull’ learning experience. Learners have to add their curiosity to the mix and own the question for it to be sincere. Here are just a few ideas for how we can help learners do that in our training and development courses:
1. Personalize presentation to learners by asking about their age, values, experience, etc. For example, in a cookware product course, we asked learners to prioritize their values before presenting the content relative to each value. We then presented the content in order of their priorities.
2. Use a series of secondary questions to persuade learners to care about the primary question. For example, in a skincare product course, we wanted learners to wonder, “How does skin damage occur?” To help the learners care about this question, we began a little closer to home and first asked, “Has your skin been damaged in the last 3 months?” and “What kind of damage have you experienced?
3. Use social learning tools to allow learners to ask their own questions, to read other learners’ questions, and to respond to them. For example, in a teacher training course, we created a forum where learners ask questions and share ideas about how they are applying the training in the classroom. Other possibilities include chat features, messaging, polls, etc.
Don’t let simplicity fool you into overlooking the power of a sincere question to transform a training and development experience. What other ideas do you have for helping learners ask questions?