3 Ways to Use Spaced Repetition in Training

In first grand we learned the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Spaced repetition in school allowed us to learn where they came from, why they came, and that they really landed on Cape Cod first

Albert Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” It is all those things you know, but you could not tell someone how or why you know it. If you think back to your school days and the lessons you learned you would find out that you did not learn as much as you think. You learned the same things over again in different grades. For example you learned about the Mayflower and Paul Revere’s ride in First Grade. When you in perhaps Fourth Grade, you spend another year learning American History but instead of the fairy tale version, you identified and learned what caused the pilgrims and patriots to act. When you studied American History again in middle school, you identified the consequences of the actions of key events and figures in history. In high school, you were asked to think critically about how history could have been different if historical people made different choices. Your learning about American History was spaced over time. Each time you added to what you previously learned. As an adult instructor or leader, find ways to introduce spaced repetition into your training. As a trainer you can build on earlier lessons whether the training event is a few hours or a few weeks.

As a trainer you have a responsibility to develop lessons that build on each other to reinforce earlier lessons and help students understand why skills and information taught earlier are important. Using spaced repetition is easier when your lessons occur over days or weeks. Spacing important learning points in a lesson that lasts only hours is more difficult but not impossible. Start by knowing the learning goals of your lesson. Here is a link to preparing learning goals: https://saintcyrtraining.com/2013/08/27/inspire-others-to-go-forth-and-do-good/.

After you identified the important learning goal of your lesson, you know what points to target for spaced repetition. Arrange your lessons so each learning goal is a logical building block. As you complete lessons for each learning goal, do a quick review to show how learning goals build on each other. Each review serves as a spaced repetition of early lessons.

Practical exercises allow students to use skills, ideas, and information learned earlier in the training to make connections and employ spaced repetition.

Another method to employ spaced repetition is to develop practical exercises that require students to use skills learned earlier. For example if you are teaching a group of students to navigate in the woods you would teach them how to read a map, how to use a compass, how to calculate ground distance, and how to calculate the difference between the magnetic and map north readings. After teaching the lesson on distance, you give the students an azimuth and direct them to move along that azimuth for a certain distance. This activity requires them to use the compass and practice the skill of determining distance while moving along the ground. In the final exercise you give them two points on a map to go and find on the ground. This exercise requires your students to read a map, use a compass, calculate the difference in north readings, and measure distance on a map and on the ground. Each exercise builds on earlier lessons and gives an additional repetition space over the course of the training event for each learning goal.

Training events occurring over a longer period of time allow instructors to create more space before each repetition improving retention. Begin each new session with a brief review of prior learning. Ask students to share how they applied what they learned in their lives. Ask for them to report on the results achieved. At the end of the session, ask the students questions to make connections with past lessons. Ask how implementing today’s lessons will improve results by adding the skills learned today to the skills they learned before.

Using spaced repetition during training sheds light on lessons.

Repeating information throughout a training event allows students to make connections to each learning goal. Students understand how each learning goal related to the others. Students improve their understanding of the overall main idea by making connections between learning goals. Spacing the repetition of the basic building blocks of the main idea reinforce those foundational lessons improving retention. Developing various exercises to support each learning goal allows the student to see, feel, hear, and understand the skill in practice by doing it. Spaced repetition is a great way to improve your students’ skills when they return to their world. They know, understand, and do what they were taught which is the objective of every training; changing behavior. Add spaced repetition to your training and watch the light bulbs illuminate in your students.

Photo Credits

  • 1620 by Robin Booker from pixabay.com using pixabay license
  • Map and compass by Hendrik Morkel from unsplash.com using unsplash license
  • Lightbulb by Fachy Marin from unsplash.com using unsplash license

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Inspire Others to Go Forth and do Good

ImageAs the hour draws to a close the speaker comments on what a great bunch your group has been. She was so concerned things would not go well because she was not sure what she had to offer would meet the needs of the rest of the team or that she had enough material for the 60 minutes she was allowed. She asks of there are any questions; there are none, and thanks you all for coming. You stand up hoping to sneak out of the room before your boss has an opportunity to corner you about the poor performance of your direct report during the monthly senior staff training, too late, he yells across the room to meet him in his office in five minutes. What went wrong?

Often employees or outside subject matter experts are asked to make presentations about hot topics. Powerful presentations are not guaranteed just because the presenter possesses expert or referent power and may deny the members of the organization the inspiration to do great things with what they have learned. Even when the person makes a great presentation, they may end up talking about everything except the one or two areas of concern for your organization. Taking the time to identify objectives of what you want participants to learn helps you and the presenter focus on material that will enlighten, educate and inspire. Steven Covey calls it beginning with the end in mind.

It may seem too simple to write out a comprehensive terminal learning objective. Doing so focuses the efforts of the trainer to only that information which will help the audience achieve the final educational goal. The end result is a focused presentation meeting the needs of the audience. Steven Covey covers this principal when he advises his readers to begin with the end in mind.

There are three important parts of every learning objective whether it is the capstone objective, or a smaller piece of the puzzle. The parts are action, condition and standard. The action is what you want the student to learn how to accomplish when they complete the training. An example might be something like, “The clerk will complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.” The conditions for the task or action to be completed should include the environment and any tools or resources available while completing the action. Often training is conducted in a classroom or conference style setting and that should be reflected in the condition statement. Finally spell out how someone will know when the student has achieved success by stating the standard. This can be performance steps, standards for a finished product, a score on an examination or any other means of measuring performance. Often in a classroom this may be as simple as, “The student will respond correctly to questions related to the action.”

This is a sample of a TLO for a classroom setting where there will be no formal testing.

Action: Complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.

Conditions: A classroom environment, a block of instruction and random questions from the instructor.

Standard: Correctly answer questions related to taking a customer order on the phone and entering the data into the computer.

Ideally action statements start with a verb. Conditions describe resources available to complete the action. Standards should be measurable and attainable, very much like setting SMART goals.

Establishing learning objectives when assigning someone to conduct training improves communication and enables the trainer to understand the perceived needs of organization. Given an objective such as the one above instead of some generic statement like, “Hey Smith, I need you to give a class on that new software at the next staff training conference next week.” With the first, employees should walk out of the training understanding how to take customer orders using the new software. Who knows what you will get with the second. When you are tasked to provide training, having an understanding of the process allows you to develop a TLO, run it by the person who assigned it and then help you focus your attention on what is necessary to meet expectations.

Developing training objectives help trainers focus on presenting important information in the time allowed for students to achieve a given task. When assigned, both the manager and the trainer have better expectations of what the finished product includes. Quality learning objectives contain three parts, the action, the conditions, and the standards. When assigned by your manager to train others using a learning goal ensures you and he understand what is expected of you. Don’t let your next presentation flop. Take the time to develop an objective for the time you are given to teach others.

References

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. electronic edition. New York, NY: Rosetta Books, 2012.

Henry, V. E. (2002). The COMPSTAT paradigm: management accountability in policing, business, and the public sector. Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications.

http://www.grayharriman.com/ADDIE_Writing_Learning_Objectives.htm

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