Note-Taking Guides in Training


Taking notes during class is a tried and true method to improve information retention. Developing a note-taking guide or workbook is a great way to encourage your students to take notes during class. A good note-taking guide is more than the traditional presentation handout with three slides on each page and lines in the right column. A good note-taking guide requires active participation by students to record and receive all the information. It takes time to develop a good guide. It begins as you plan your lesson. Here are some tips and ideas to make a great note-taking guide for your students in leader training.

Using your slide deck is a great place to start. You can simply replace key text with underscores to create blank spaces for students to complete. If you select the two slide per page option, the slide is large enough for the student to write their answers. If you develop great slides, the kind with pictures and little text, using the fill-in-the-blank method will not work. A little creativity, however, allows you to incorporate pictures into your note-taking guide and still provide a space for the student to insert keywords for retention. The SMART Goals page is an example of using this idea. Using pictures in your workbooks reinforces the ideas from your slideshow. You need to creatively find ways so students will insert the keywords to help them remember the meaning of the picture.

There are times when text is necessary such as introducing laws, rules, definitions, or quotes. Replacing keywords from the text with blank spaces is a great way to ensure students record the key ideas from messages requiring lots of text. Often, students who do take notes in a traditional notebook try to copy every word of every slide. When they take notes this way, they miss the supporting information spoken by the instructor. The blank space replacement method permits enough writing to reinforce important messages from the slide, and also allows the student to listen to the explanatory message from the teacher. Providing some additional space allows the student to record connections they make from the information to their experiences.

Fill In The Blanks.jpg

Copy the high points of your lesson outline into a separate word processing document. Using this method provides the same information as slides, but allow you to reduce the information in the workbook. It also is a great way to provide a note-taking guide if your slides do have lots of pictures instead of text. Go back and delete important points and replace them with the blank line. The blank lines send a message to students that the missing information is important. Having the high points puts students on notices about the general direction of the training. They know when important information is coming and are understand what the main ideas are versus the supporting ideas. Another method is to provide the category of information and then place an empty numbered list below the heading.

Training classes should have learning activities sprinkled throughout allowing students to practice what they learned. Use individual, collective, and small group activities during leaders training. The note-taking guide is the perfect place to insert worksheets, instructions for exercises, or a place to record reflections of the learning activity. Frequently individual worksheets become separated from students notes. When they return to the notes later in their lives, they lose the benefit of the lessons learned during the classroom exercises using worksheets. If those learning steps are part of the class workbook, they are available to students days or years later when they reflect on finer points of the training that they want to remember at that later time.

As you prepare the note-taking guide, you will find it tempting to include everything from every slide in your presentation. Do not do it. I took a two-day class some time back. The students were provided with copies of the slides later. There were over 300. I have a two day class on professional decision making I teach. There are less than 80 slides. The note-taking guide allows students to note the most important learning points from your lesson. No one is going to easily find the information they are looking for by reviewing 300 slides. When I attend a training, I try to limit my class notes to one or two typed pages per hour of class time. With that number in mind, you should aim to only have one or two workbook pages for students for every hour of class. This number does not include any worksheet activities. If the class I took with 300 slides had information from each slide in the note-taking guide, the document would probably be 150 pages. Notes should be a summary of what is learned in class. A 150-page notebook is not a summary.

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Flow charts showing processes and decision points are great for inclusion in note-taking guides. The page includes all of the steps and decision points but excludes text. Include text for the most critical points so students have that information after class. Leaving most of the steps empty however requires the students to pay attention and fill in the blanks. When they leave class, they have a model of the whole process. The remember more of the process because they wrote it down in the note-taking guide. They can return to it anytime and review the process improving the quality of their work without supervision in the future. Their behaviors conform to the organization’s expectations which is the point of conducting training.

Developing a note-taking guide for leaders training is a way instructors encourage students to take notes during class. A well designed note-taking guide serves as a workbook by including adequate space for structure and unstructured note-taking, forecasts what points will be made during the training, includes worksheets for use during learning activities, provides pictures with meaning, process charts for student completion, and improves lesson retention. Students structured notes to refer to in the future to share their learning with others, and to refresh their learning. An ideal note-taking workbook is one or two pages for every hour of training exclusive of any learning activity worksheets. The guide is not a copy of the slide deck used in the presentation, rather it complements the slide deck. A well designed note-taking guide improves learning but takes time to develop. Development begins as you work on your lesson plans. Your students will leave class thinking you are the profession expert you professed to be when you provide a quality note-taking guide.

Image Credits

Person Taking Notes: attribution information.

Workbook page examples: Author from examples of his note-taking guides.

The RSA language is from

Can Do, Building Skills organizations confuse training and education. Training is a process of teaching people skills. Education is a process of transferring ideas or knowledge. Often organizations educate people but call it training. People learn ideas and gain knowledge from education. People learn skills from doing the required task. Education is necessary to build skills. Building a skill is not required to aquire knowledge or learn new ideas. This is were the disconnect between education and training occurs. Trainers think passing ideas and knowledge to learners means learners understand how to use the information to complete tasks. For people who posses skill in a given area, this may be true. More often, new learners need practice completing the skill one task at a time after receiving foundation ideas and knowledge. People learn skills by doing. the movie, The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi teaches Danny several karate defensive moves through the process of household chores. Miyagi never tells Danny why he is expected to complete certain tasks in the prescribed fashion, only to follow instructions. Eventually, Danny learns the basic skills of karate.

Most adult learners require understanding of the ideas behind a skill. Education is required to pass along knowledge and ideas. Typically ideas and information are presented in slide decks lulling learners to sleep. Transferring knowledge requires communication. Sleeping students receive less information that alert students. Showing images related to the task while discussion the action supported by an idea improves knowledge. Require students to take notes during your talk so they can access knowledge during skill building exercise.

Students remember slides with images better than slides with only text. Use an image that has something to do with the information presented. Trainers committed to improved slides often turn to photographs or computer generated drawings. Charts and graphs are also images. Charts and graphs help learners understand how information relates to similar information. Images of flow charts showing steps required to complete a task, or data comparison puts information in perspective.

Follow up each bit of knowledge with a check on student learning. This can be in the form of questions, asking students to discuss their understanding, or a short worksheet. Learning checks ensure students received the knowledge, understand it, and remember it. This step serves as the base for the next step, building skills. If the foundation is defective, the structure eventually fails.

person-smoke-military-portrait-soldier-army-732095-pxhere.comCompleting the educational piece of the training sets up students to work on skills. Whether the skill is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, conducting an analysis of data, or building a rocket motor to take a space vehicle to Mars, knowledge is the basis of the skill. Skill building exercises begin the process of changing ideas and beliefs into actions to achieve results.

Skill building exercises can but used as checks on learning as described above after the introduction of certain information, or as separate learning steps after information transfer. In the example of analyzing data, students may need to understand data base basics like data entery, how reports are generated, or how to write a standard query language command. The instructor determines what information students need to know and develops a means to transfer that knowledge. The instructor follows up with some questions. The skill builder requires students to enter certain portions of data from a stake of 3×5 cards. The exercise teaches students how to find data in a source document, how to work the software, and develops understanding of how errors may occur. These exercises reinforce information provided students during the education portion of the training.

Another exercise might require the students to organize the cards manually so they understand the process databases use to organize data. The teacher might ask a group to alphabetize the cards by last name. Another group organizes the cards numerically by phone number. A third group sorts the cards by age of the person. The first two are pretty simple. The last exercise helps them understand how the computer has to calculate the year and then sort by month and then day. That is a more complex task than just alphabetizing, especially of the date fields include month by name rather than by number. skill building exercise should be developed to allow students to connect the skill to information learned during the educational portion of the training. Connecting knowledge to skills improves understanding so when things go wrong, students can trouble shoot the situation. Teachers and instructors cannot teach students how to respond to every possible situation they may encounter. Connecting skills to knowledge allows students to effectively solve problems in the real world.

As students work their projects, they will make mistakes. Making mistakes is an important part of skill building. Mistakes in training are opportunities for instructors to provide deeper information, improve understanding, and identify areas where knowledge may not have been transferred effectively. Mistakes allow students to rely on what they learned to correct mistakes on their own. Correcting mistakes allow the student to practice again.

Instructors share information with the class based on student mistakes improving overall understanding. People absorb only so much information in an abstract sense. As they begin to develop skills, mistakes opportunities to provide additional information and improve understanding. Use mistakes as opportunities to expand student knowledge of how a task step effects the overall skill.

Sometimes instructors fail to effectively transfer information to students. The information may have been communicated poorly, or the student may have a barrier preventing reception of the message (like sleeping during your boring slide deck). The instructor should accept responsibility for the lack of transfer and send it again. In the process, the instructor may learn other students failed to receive the information correctly. Restating the information using other terms may improve understanding. Asking a student who demonstrates understanding to explain is another way to help students learn.

Training and education are not the same thing. Education is an important part of training. Education is simply passing knowledge or ideas from one person to another person. Training requires the transfer of skills. Skills are best learned by doing. Training is doing. Instructors identify critical knowledge and tasks required to learn a skill when they develop training. During the educational portion of the training, the instructor passes on knowledge and ideas to students related to the skill. During the doing portion of the training, the instructor develops exercises to build skills one step at a time so students can complete the task upon completion of the training. Students develop skill by doing activities. Training develops skills so people know and can do. Next time you are assigned to conduct training, develop lessons that transfer knowledge and incorporate doing.

Photo Credits

All images from used under a 0CC license.

One Thousand Words

Sitting through a presentation of slides with nothing but text is a torture bordering cruel punishment. popular instruction beyond the basics of how to create slide decks emphasize the importance of graphics. Presenters face challenges finding inexpensive images to really make their learning or persuasion points powerfully. Learning about and finding public domain and Creative Common licensed images liberate presenters from corny clip art and open a world of high quality pictures, clip art, and video free from fees and royalties.

The Licenses

Public domain is the least restrictive level of licensing for any work. Something that is in the public domain is a work of intellectual property with an expired copyright, or released by the author into the public domain. Works commissioned by the U. S. Government and many educational institutions release works as public domain. Anyone may use them for any non commercial purpose for free. One may encounter advertising restrictions when images contain recognizable persons.

Creative Commons licenses come in several varieties. You can find the details of each at Generally a work released under a Creative Commons license is free to use for many purposes. The originator may choose to require an acknowledgment, limit modifications, limit commercial use, or any combination. Many times you can use works simply by providing credit to the creator or photographer which is a best using any reference not of your own creation.

Where to Find the Images

My readers will find I frequently use for most of the images that appear in my posts. I frequently turn to flickr for my slide Flickr is the big name, but not the only source for free images. Google Images provides access to lots of images. Like flickr, not all are free, but like flickr, you can filter your search result to show just public domain or Creative Commons images.Google.PNG images are all Creative Commons licensed with no use restrictions. That means anyone can use or remix any image for any legal purpose according to the website. pxhere.PNGClip art is more difficult to find, but a good source is All images are open source. Users should familiarize themselves with the restrictions of each type of license before using images from any source.

Decks of death should be something of the past. Good presenters use images to make their points. Everyone knows a picture is worth 1000 words. Why fill your slide with boring text when an inspiring image communicates your message better? Learn to find and use free images published in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license and avoid accusations of subjecting others to cruel and unusual punishment during your next presentation.

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Photo Credits

After lunch meeting —

Screen shot of search by author

Screen shot of by author

Screen shot of by author



Measuring Success

Measured-Michael_Coghlan.jpgTrainers and leaders need to measure success. Measures of success demonstrate the organization does things correctly and does the correct things. Trained tasks support the organizational mission, the organization’s why. Trainers measure performance and leaders measure effectiveness. Understanding the difference ensures organizations correctly apply the correct measures to tasks by the right people.

Performance measures are those things that show we are doing something correctly. Examples include demonstrations of completing a task within a set of given guidelines, passing a test demonstrating knowledge of selected ideas, or achieving a certain result we believe leads to effectiveness. All these examples show the task is being performed correctly. These are the measures a trainer uses to demonstrate tasks are understood and performed correctly. Front line leaders use measures of performance to demonstrate assigned tasked meet defined standards.

Effectiveness measures are those things that show the organization is accomplishing its mission. Effectiveness is harder than performance to measure because organizations often have poorly defined missions. Effectiveness comes down to an individual or organization being able to focus on their one reason for existing. Examples of effectiveness measures include things like changes in behavior favorable to the organization, increased trust between employees, customer loyalty, or improvement in a given condition. Measures of effectiveness demonstrate mission accomplishment by the organization.

Organizations must understand and communicate why they exist in order to be able to measure effectiveness. Jim Collins talks about businesses that learn how to laser on their purpose for existence. Great businesses last because they were designed well in the beginning, or transform to meet changing times. There are many books that talk about the importance of why including Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, and Stephen Covey’s First Things First.  Senior leaders use measures of performance to determine success when the organization meets its mission.

As leaders and trainers measure success, they need to learn how to measure both performance of individual and collective tasks, but also the effectiveness of those tasks. Everyone may be doing everything well, but if they are doing the wrong things, they fail. Knowing which measures to use and when help organizations ultimately complete their mission. Find your why; determine what an how to achieve it, then measure your success.

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Photo Credit

Measured by Michael Coghlan from under a Creative Commons License

Envision Effective Training


Steep-Rocky_Paul-Irish.jpgThe task is like climbing Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. The task is simple but not easy.  Mt. Washington is a deadly peak showing little mercy for those who may make even a small mistake. High winds, sub-freezing temperatures, and snow are common even in July. The terrain steep and rocky. The views approaching and above tree line are dramatic, distracting, and just plain awesome. The task is simple really, inspire your students to learn what you are teaching and incorporate the lessons into their daily lives to become better at what the do. However, like trails to the summit of Mt. Washington, the path to successful training not easy. Adult learners are distracted in many ways. Some dealing with problems at home. Others deal with problems at work. Problems are like the tremendous views causing students not to pay attention to the trail. Some students do not feel they need to learn what they were sent to learn at your training, while others may think they know more than you do about the topic (and they might). Both groups are like large rocks tripping you if you do not pay attention to your student’s needs. Like to cold in July, some students remain cold through out the class. Vision is often discussed as a leadership tool to help employees focus on what is right. With vision comes passion. Vision in training and education accomplishes the same result as it does in leadership. With learners, vision creates a desire to pay attention, focus on the learning, and demonstrates you are prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you.

An example of casting a vision that catches the eyes of your student could be as simple as the opening of this blog. It is a short glimpse of an exotic place rife with danger. Showing (showing is a vision word) how your lesson connects to something exotic captures your students attention. It also provides you the tool the show your passion for the subject.

Instructors with passion retain the interest of students longer. In order for your training to affect the behaviors of students, they first must receive the information you provide. Passion for your topic, demonstrated through your vision, keeps their attention on your message.

As a believer, an instructor provides opportunities during training for students to practice new skills. Simple practice exercises allowing students to try skills keeps them focused, and reinforces you know something about what you teach. Skills students master during training are more likely used in life outside the classroom. They leave with the courage required to accomplish change.

BeachHammock-Kok_Chih_and_Sarah_Gan.jpgMost people want to learn to work better, rather than harder. Paint a picture of a hammock  strung between two coconut palm trees, the wind gently swinging them back and forth as they sip a cool tropical drink on a quiet, sandy beach. Let them leave your training with the passion, vision, and confidence that using your ideas and skills will lead them to that hammock. Students who understand how your lessons creates a simpler life encourages them to pay attention and learn more. Some say life on the beach is better than climbing mountains. Creating a vision of success inspires your students to implement the things they learned from you.

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Photo Credits

Both from using Creative Commons License

Rocky Trail by Paul Irish
Beach Hammock by Kok Chih and Sarah Gan


Student Engagement

Ask, Pause, Call

Good instructors engage their students during the training.QuestionMark.byme.png Inexperienced instructors struggle to learn ways to involve their students. A simple, yet effective method is Ask, Pause, Call.

Every instructor has experienced the long silence after asking a question about a point he is sure the students know the answer. The teacher knows understanding this point is necessary before presenting the rest of the information. He stands in front of the room wondering what to say next.

The Ask, Pause, Call method provides a means for instructors to engage their students and ensure the class is receiving and understanding the information. The first step is as simple as it sounds; ask the question. The next is to pause. This allows the students to think about the response to your inquiry. Next ask a particular student to answer the question.

Use this model from the beginning of your class for greatest effectiveness. When used from the beginning of the class you establish the model as the standard. Students will expect you to use Ask, Pause, Call through out the class and will expect to participate.

Pause.byme.JPGAsking questions through out your training helps students pay attention. They never know when you will call upon them to answer a question. It allows them to make connections to other learning and experiences. Their answers let you know if they are receiving and understanding the information, or if you need to represent the information using a different approach.

You want to know that all your students are learning. It is important to call on everyone in the class, not just those who always raise their hands. Every class has a few students who hang back and chose not to participate, however the only way to know if they are tracking the information is to engage them too.

An effective method to drag those shy students out is to reverse the model. First call on the student by name. Pause to ensure you have their attention. Ask the question.

Asking a question that only requires a yes or no response is a good way to begin. After you receive the answer, follow up by asking the student a why or how question. If the answers are what you expected, finish up by summarizing raisedhand-steven-lilleytheir answers to make the learning point. If they are a bit off, follow up with leading follow up questions that tends to suggest the correct answer.

Ask, Pause, Call is an effective model to engage students in discussion during training. Selecting different students during the training ensures you know all are tracking the important information you are teaching. Asking questions of your learners through out the training keeps them engaged improving retention and understanding. Including students in the lesson allows them to connect the information you present with prior learning so it make sense for them. The next time you teach, ask a question, pause for thought, then call on someone to answer.

Photo Credits

Question Mark and Pause Button by Author

Raised Hand by Steven Lilley at under a creative commons attribution license.

Building a Foundation for Character with Organizational Guiding Principals


Guiding principles, or values, lay the foundation of character for every organization. A wide variety of people make up organizations, coming from different backgrounds, and bringing different personal and cultural values to the group. An organization’s guiding principles establish what things are important for the organization. Successful organizations establish and ingrain compliance with their guiding principles through training. Using a daily or weekly meeting is an easy way to train employees about the organizations principles.

Let’s say the organization has three guiding principles; loyalty, quality customer service, and finding winning solutions for everyone. Supervisors hold meetings every Monday with their staff. In addition to the regular items, modified_meeting_torimiddelstadt_uaf-school-of-managementthe supervisor includes one of the guiding principles on the first Monday of the month. The supervisor provides the company’s definition of the principles and facilitates a discussion about ways employees can incorporate behaviors into their work lives to live up to the principle. This week they discuss loyalty. The conversation includes loyalty to the company, the smaller group, customers, and shareholders. The meeting breaks and employees go about their work.

During the week the leader moves about the work area looking for opportunities to recognize behaviors that comply with loyalty issues discussed during the weekly meeting. The leader notices a technician on the phone who appears to be talking with a customer. He tells the customer how much he appreciates his loyalty by sticking with company. He explains that he cannot do the repair work for free but will research a discount because of his loyalty.

During the next Monday meeting, the supervisor continues the discussion on loyalty. He starts the conversation by telling the story of the technician who found a way to stay true to the company while rewarding customer loyalty. Next he goes around the room asking others for stories of things they did during the previous week to live the principle of loyalty. Not everyone had a story, but all participated in the conversation. He also facilitated a conversation about how their views of loyalty changed during the week as they focused on different ways to be loyal to all the company stakeholders. The conversation was lively. Eventually the supervisor had to cut them off so they could conduct the business of the company.

The following week, the leader may start the loyalty discussion by telling a story of an experience he had where the principle was the focus of the situation. He opens the floor for others to tell stories. One way to ensure there will be some discussion is to have a chat with one or two employees during the week ending by asking them to share their story at the next weekly meeting.

On the fourth Monday, the group engages in a conversation wrapping what they have learned about loyalty. Again there should be time to allow story telling of application of the principle, but the conversation should shift to lessons learned and how to apply them. Using these steps allows people to be taught about an idea, followed with examples of how to use the idea and concludes by them practicing what they learned. The discussion allows corrections to be made so everyone becomes better and also recognizes behaviors meeting expectations for the particular guiding principle.

On the first Monday of the next month the supervisor introduces the next guiding principle, quality customer service. He follows the same format during the month when they learned about loyalty. The employees are told about quality customer service. They are shown examples of quality customer service. They try and report on their efforts. They are praised for success and coached to improve when they fall short of the standard. The process is repeated the next month for the finding winning solutions principle.

Change up things after going through the guiding principles once . Ask one of the employees in the group to lead themodified_geese-flying_john-johnson conversation when you return to the first guiding principle. Allow that employee to discuss and introduce the guiding principle. She could lead the conversations about how others engaged in behaviors exemplifying the principle. Repeating the process instills a deeper understanding of each principle and allows employees to further ingrain that principle into their daily lives. As new employees come on board, they learn not only how things are done, but why.

Creating organizational change is difficult. Helping employees improve their understanding of an organization’s guiding principles is one step leading to change. As employees begin to live the principles of the organization, the culture changes. Reinforcing each lesson through reflection of behaviors supporting compliance with organizational principles ensures lasting change. Employees see how small changes improve working conditions and organizational cohesion. Focusing attention on a guiding principle at daily or weekly meetings results in easily training teams about each principle. Try it at your next group meeting.


Photo Credits

All photos from with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Granite wall by Wolfgang Tonschmidt, cropped by author

Group meeting by Tori Middelstadt at UAF School of Management, modified by author

Geese by John Johnson, modified by author