5 Training Myths And The Truth About Effective Trainings

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After fifteen years designing and leading trainings for social change, I have seen (and made) my fair share of mistakes.

That’s ok, mistakes are a part of learning. But the consequence over time is that even though people might enjoy the training and learn something interesting, nothing really changes after it’s over.

As trainers interested in building a better world, we owe it to learners to move education into action that makes a meaningful impact.

To help you do this, here’s a list of 5 common training myths…and the truth about designing trainings that work.

Myth #1: You have to be an expert on the subject you’re training about

While the trainer needs to be prepared for the workshop, they do not have to be an expert on the subject. In Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, the authors explain that –contrary to popular belief– the better you know something, the more difficult it becomes to teach it.

You might think that in order to train people about policy change, for example, you need to invite a lawyer, a policy wonk or an academic. Their information might be useful, sure, but as a trainer you need to create a space where learners can see the relevance the information provided has in their lives.

Myth #2: Training is about what people need to know

A training that leads to action is about what people need to do, not what people need to know. As a trainer you should figure out action priorities in advance that will help your team move towards its collective goals. The content of your training isn’t just about transferring information you think is important, it should help learners take action to improve their lives and community.

Myth #3: Icebreakers go before the training starts

Games and activities can be woven throughout the training while people are learning, not just be used as an interlude before or between powerpoint slides. It’s great for people to get to know one another and share a few laughs, but you can do that while you are learning instead of doing it before or after. If you need some ideas on how to do that check out our post: “To Design Activities That Last, Think of the SEA.

Myth #4: We should minimize training time and maximize time for people taking action

According to educational philosopher John Dewey, “we do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” That’s because the world does not give us the skills we need to create social change, if it did the world would look a lot different! As a trainer you are helping people practice the skills they need to work together to create change.

Myth #5: For your team to learn a new skill, send them to a one-off training

A one-time training is not the solution for most learners. Research shows that on average, people forget 90% of what they learned within a month after the training is over. In order for them to convert learning into action you need to build follow-up into your training plan, not just have a one-off event.

Next time you design a training, consider these lessons and let us know what you think!

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Riahl O’Malley and Indira Garmendia, co-founders