Motivating & Involving Learners – Part 1

Recently, I conducted an Instructor Workshop for Subject Matter Experts who regularly deliver technical training. Their training often relied heavily on lecture and demonstration, with some computer labs for hands on training. Learners sometimes felt overwhelmed and weren’t always able to translate the training into knowledge and skills.

For this reason, I decided to build the workshop around developing skills to motivate learners and get them more involved. I used the ARCS Motivational model, developed by John Keller, and Active Learning methods as the basis for this workshop.  I’ll breakdown these ideas over the next several posts.Learner Motivation in the center of a circle, surrounded by the words Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction

First, ARCS stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. These are the elements necessary for learners to be motivated.

Now, when I say motivated, I don’t mean that learners are not already driven to learn when they come to a class or take online training. In the business world, most people want to learn, especially when they understand it will make them more valuable in their roles. However, I think we’ve all experienced training that was hard to be excited about, or even stay awake for.

Let’s start with the A in ARCS = Attention.

This seems obvious, you need to maintain your learners’ attention. But how do you do that, especially if the content of your training isn’t exactly exhilarating? There are several methods that you can, and should, incorporate.

  • Stimulate curiosity – tell a personal story; make up a scenario that illustrates your point
  • Provide novelty & surprise – introduce something unexpected; use humor; require physical interaction from learners, like having them write something on a white board
  • Invite participation – ask open ended questions; if demoing something, ask learners what you should do next; have group discussions to uncover knowledge
  • Pose problems to solve – require learners to use critical thinking; provide part of the information and let learners try to fill in the rest
  • Vary methods – don’t rely on one method, open ended questions for example, change it up and they’ll be curious about what might be coming next

The best way to make sure your planned training will keep their attention is to add several methods to your lesson plan and practice! This is not only important for those who are not confident about the content. Those who know their content well are often tempted to just start lecturing and demoing because they know what they’re doing, but they forget that those things don’t hold attention for long.

Planning and practice are essential to any successful training!

Next time – the R of the ARCS model = Relevance.

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