According to Todd Kashdan, a psychology professor at George Mason University, anxiety and curiosity are two opposing systems. In order for learning facilitators to enhance the curiosity of their learners, we need to find ways to decrease the anxiety and fear that can be present. One strategy I created is called Fear Flipper.
I begin by modeling how I flipped a fear that I had when I moved to Florida. As an avid open water swimmer, I was anxious about swimming in Florida lakes that were sure to have alligators lurking nearby. I was concerned that I would be attacked, eaten, maimed…you get the picture.
To flip this fear, I generated a list of questions that related to my fears. This first step immediately gave me a feeling that I was taking control, rather than letting the anxiety control me. I then systematically gathered answers to my questions. When I had gathered the data, I found that I was comfortable enough to jump in the lake. I’ve been swimming with the gators now for four years.
After sharing my process, I ask my session participants to create their own Fear Flipper list of questions related to our topic. This example was generated during a session for a call center sales team whose data showed lower than average closure rates. Team members had also anonymously reported hesitance about asking for the sale.
After generating questions, the team divided responsibility for gathering answers, then shared information for a robust discussion. As they decreased their anxiety, curiosity about how to improve performance increased.
Fear Flipper is a simple strategy you can integrate into a wide range of training topics. What fear do you want to flip?
A shout out to Julie, the reader who left this Amazon review of my book, Caffeinated Training Design. Glad to hear you found it valuable!
I competed in my first ½ Ironman Relay team last weekend, doing the 1.2 mile swim leg. Over the last few weeks, my teammates asked me for predictions about my swim finish time so that they could estimate our overall time. I had to synthesize my knowledge of previous race times, weather, fitness level and motivation to make my prediction.
Predicting is a process that holds great value for our brains. It improves curiosity, activates prior knowledge, and increases brain activity across multiple regions. (Curious about my finish time? Read to the end.*)
You can gain these benefits for your learners by using this simple strategy to encourage predictions in your training sessions.
1. Create a slide that has a book cover related to your content. This works especially well if you have designed your session around the book or if you have some copies to give away.
2. Ask everyone to take a few minutes to jot down their predictions for the book’s Table of Contents.
3. Show the Table of Contents and have participants compare their predictions. Discuss the similarities and differences.
I usually show an example first as part of the directions. Feel free to use this slide if you’d like. This activity usually takes about 10 minutes but could go longer if you wanted deeper conversation to occur.
*My prediction was off, but in my favor! I expected about a 39-minute swim and finished in 34 minutes. There was a river current that sped me along :)
I had so much fun gathering and arranging ideas for my ATD@Home virtual presentation on curiosity and creativity. If you were unable to attend, here is one of my ideas for stimulating curiosity, even in an online session.
Curiosity can be defined as the gap between what we know and what we seek to understand. To make this a bit more concrete, try my Mind the Gap strategy.
Create a t-chart slide, labeling the top of the left column What do I/we know? And the right column What do I/we want to know?
Ask participants to create a similar chart on their paper and quietly reflect on the left column as it relates your topic or problem. After 1-2 minutes of reflection, ask participants to share and add to the slide. A sales team created the following example:
Next, ask participants to reflect silently on questions for the What do we want to know? column. After 1-2 minutes, lead them in a sharing, adding to the slide. Encourage questions that are “outside the box.”
Once the knowledge gaps have been identified and curiosity piqued, there are many ways you can structure further gathering of information. Individuals can explore topics, teams can review research or gather new data or you can bring in a consultant to fill the gaps.
If you have gaps in your knowledge about how to engage virtual learners or wake up your audiences, I'd be happy to work with you to upskill your trainers and facilitators. Reach out today!
Creative solutions often come from people who are willing to ask “Why?”
To encourage my teammates and session participants to
ask more why questions, I created a simple activity I call
The 5 Why’s Challenge. To grab attention I preface it with a short video clip of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from a few years ago and explain that this will be much easier!. Then I share that everyone will be participating in a different type of challenge today. They are to ask 5 why questions at some point during the session. I encourage everyone to draw 5 check boxes on a sticky note or piece of paper and keep track of how often they ask a why question. To support them, I show a slide with some question stems that begin with why and model a few examples.
Depending on your topic and desired outcome, it can also be helpful to provide your participants with a greater variety of question stems. You can download those here.
For more ideas on how to encourage creativity and curiosity, check out my session during the ATD@Home Conference, August 29-September 1, or contact me directly to schedule something for your talent developers.
You spent hours designing the course. Marketing created enticing registration announcements. The slides and materials are ready to go. You've had a good night's sleep and just the right amount of coffee. The first people begin to arrive. What do they see?
Our conference space sends immediate messages to our participants. Drab, cold and uncomfortable spaces might be saying "Be prepared for a long, boring day," or even worse, "We don't care enough to make the room comfortable and enticing." The time spent sprucing up your space pays big dividends in the long run. Watch this video to see a recent transformation I did prior to a training class.
My goal is to add color, dimension and activity to each table or space. I add things to walls (when permitted), provide sticky notes and arrows, dots, markers, doodle sheets, extra paper and Quick Read QR codes for early arrivals. These are the standard items, and then other things are added based on the content and activities I have planned.
What are your standard items for sprucing up your learning space?
* I originally wrote this piece in early March of 2019, just before the pandemic hit and all in-person events came to a halt. Now that we are beginning to return, I felt it was finally time to post it.
Did you know that the human stomach has gastric folds within it that allow it to stretch to contain up to 4 liters of food and fluid? This makes me think of the accordion blinds that hang in my office window.
This is one of many facts I am learning as I study anatomy – a COVID quarantine way to pass my time. Trying to learn something that is totally new and unconnected to my career path or other hobbies has been a fascinating journey. It has given me the opportunity to consider and apply the cognitive and neuroscience research from the perspective of the learner. This, in turn, has led me to create even more ideas to support the learners in my training sessions.
For example, we know from research that making connections between prior and new knowledge improves understanding and retention. Instructors often use analogies to assist learners in making these connections. While helpful, these are instructor-driven rather than learner-driven. Given that not all learners have the same background or personal interests, it has been proven more effective to have the learners create their own connections. Here’s a simple and effective way to do it:
Telling isn't that same as teaching. Participating isn't the same as learning. So pack your session with research-based ideas like this one. Want more? Contact me to discuss how we can customize some professional learning activities for your team.
Tired of hearing “we can’t” or “it’s impossible”? Sick of low expectations and negative mind sets? This winning strategy is a surefire way to make a strong point while also engaging virtual participants in a multi-modality activity.
1. Think of a word or phrase that you would like participants to remove from their discussion or attitude.
2. Direct everyone to grab a piece of scrap paper or sticky note, while you do the same.
3. Ask everyone to write the word or phrase on their scrap. Show a model in your video feed.
4. Direct all who are able to stand up. Once everyone is ready, ask them to crumple the scrap and toss it into the nearest recycling bin.
5. Facilitate as much follow-up discussion as you’d like.
I love simple ideas! If you do, too, check out my book Caffeinated Training Design or contact me at 720-934-1508 to design an idea-packed session for you and your colleagues. Here is a sample of feedback from my latest ATD session:
Learners of all ages like having control over their experiences. While it isn't always possible to give over complete control, we can build in choices that honor their preferences.
One approach is to offer two or more video clips on the same topic. Here's an example of how I did this in a recent virtual session on presentation skills. I found two different clips that addressed the design of instructional slides, lasting approximately the same amount of time. While the clips took very different approaches, the essential message was similar. Then I created a slide with QR codes so that my virtual participants could choose to scan either one.
After enough time passed, I asked participants to summarize their learning in the chat using 5 words or less. I encouraged everyone to look for patterns and we had some open discussion about their thoughts.
You can accomplish the same thing by providing two different links for learners to click but I like the variety of using QR codes and mobile phones. The change of pace helps to keep engagement high.
I'd love to share more ideas with your work team. Contact me to discuss a custom-designed option!
"People who shine from within don't need the spotlight."
This popular saying may apply to many circumstances but falls short in the virtual meeting world. When we have more than six people in a virtual meeting, it can be difficult to identify who is talking so that we can pay attention to their message. Our eyes get distracted by the cat walking across someone's desk, or the person who is clearly checking their phone messages while 'listening.'
Instead of losing everyone's attention and allowing engagement to drop, use the Spotlight tool in your virtual platform. Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams all have a version (and others probably do, too.) Spotlight will hold a person's video feed in the forefront so that everyone can easily see them while they speak, maximizing the strength of their message with clearer facial expressions and hand gestures.
Here's how easy it is to do in Zoom:
Zoom allows you to Spotlight up to 9 speakers at once. This is very helpful for panel presentations at a large conference.
Little things like this can make a big impact - especially when you combine several of them! For more tips - big and small - contact me to work with your trainers and facilitators.
With all the talk and writing about the Left and the Right over the last few months, the terms were kind of stuck in my head. Lately, I've been trying to be very intentional about turning anything negative into a positive, so I decided to do something with Left and Right that would flip the feeling. Here's how you can do it, too!
During your next virtual training, ask everyone to put their video feed on, stand up and center themselves in the view. Then share one or more statements, directing them to step to the left if they agree or to the right if they disagree. You might make statements specific to your content or more generic ones, such as:
My participants shared that they liked watching their colleagues move from their center position, and even predicted which way they might move! As a presenter, their movement gave me some real-time formative assessment data. Not to mention that movement increase alertness and memory. And the best part - no prep or cost!
I am now scheduling for live online training sessions for 2021. Contact me to explore a customized program for you and your colleagues. Here's some feedback from recent participants in one of my sessions.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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