Monthly Archives: March 2010

4MAT Train-the-Trainer: 6 Ideas for Improving Lecture

In our 4MAT Train the Trainer live and web classes, we facilitate an exercise where each of the four learning style groups gives examples of painful learning situations particular to their style. As many of you already know, the 4MAT Type One Learners appreciate relevance and meaning in a learning situation. Type One’s will tell you that it is painful when there is absolutely no dialogue or any sense of personal connection to the content or the group.. Guess what all four styles find painful: boring lecture.

I think we all know this, which explains why two of the most frequent questions we hear regarding lecture are:

 -How do you make lecture interesting?

-How long is too long?

On his blog (which we love) Dr.John Medina shared the following:

“Peer-reviewed studies confirm my informal inquiry: Before the first quarter-hour is over in a typical presentation, people usually have checked out. If keeping someone’s interest in a lecture were a business, it would have an 80 percent failure rate. What happens at the 10-minute mark to cause such trouble? Nobody knows. The brain seems to be making choices according to some stubborn timing pattern, undoubtedly influenced by both culture and gene. This fact suggests a teaching and business imperative: Find a way to arouse and then hold somebody’s attention for a specific period of time.”

Personally, I think a 20-25 minute lecture is ideal. If we subscribe to the idea that at each 10 minute marker, we need to shake things up frequently. Here are some “shake and bake” strategies:

Images-Images trump words every time. What image activity might you use to compel, intrigue and provoke the learner? Visual Explorer tools are excellent for this. What about a video clip or metaphor? There are plenty of free video sources out there.

Chunk-“Well-organized” is the key criteria in evaluating lectures. Learners describe painful lectures as “wandering”, “disorganized” and “all over the place”. Chunk the information into the big ideas. Introduce the big ideas and the organization of the lecture at the beginning. If you are using powerpoint, set up the structure for the lecture visually in the first few slides. (More on this in a future post-stay tuned).

Weave –a good lecture weaves together all the topics around a central concept. Make sure everything you deliver is shared in connection with everything else. Think of each piece of information as a thread and the overall lecture as a tapestry.

Stories-We learn in the context of human experience. Stories are containers for information. A well-crafted story packages up the information for the learner to store effectively.

Interactives-Active processing during the lecture can extend the time limit of attention. Think about incorporating “teach-backs” or partner shares throughout the lecture.

Powerpoints-. Powerpoints are not tele-prompters. Minimize the text-one phrase or sentence that captures the essence of the message is enough. Make sure the image aligns and reinforces what you are saying.

4MAT Facilitation: Handling Learner Questions

We have been exploring the topic of questions in our recent 4MAT blog series. In almost every 4MAT Train the Trainer program, the question of how to handle questions for which you don’t have the answer comes up. Let’s look at some strategies for effectively addressing questions we don’t know the answer to:

If the question is directly related to the course content and objectives, offer to find the answer. You can share something like: “That’s a great question. I’m going to make a note of this and do a bit of research. I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow morning.” If the course is wrapping up, alternatively, you can offer to send a follow-up email with the information.

If the question is advanced or of interest to only a select few individuals, you might choose to give them some additional resources to explore. You might share something like, “I see you are interested in exploring this further. Let me recommend a helpful book (or blog, url or article) that goes into depth on this topic.”

If the research is not available or contradictory around the topic, let the learners know this. You might say something like, “The jury is out on of this one. Experts such as xx, tell us that xx.  I recently read an article in xx that shared a different perspective. What are your thoughts on this?” Encourage the group to explore the topic further.

If the question is not relevant to the defined outcomes of the course, use a stay-on-track strategy.  If the question is taking the group down a rabbit trail that leads somewhere you don’t want to go, you can use the “parking lot”. Simply post a flip chart paper on the wall to record and  “park” questions or topics for later discussion. It is important to set this up early in the session and explain the use of the parking lot. You might say something like, “That’s a good question. Let’s put this in the parking lot. If we end up with a bit of time left over today, it would be interesting to explore. If we don’t, you and I can chat about this after the session.”

Do you have a favorite strategy for addressing unexpected questions?