#ATD2015 Session: Write Activities to make boring lectures disappear

Write Activities to make boring lecturesI sat in on this session to gain some new tools that I could share with Jamestown Community College faculty members. Jean Barbazette, Founder of The Training Clinic, did not disappoint. I walked away with five different ways to improve upon the lecture. 

Barbazette began by pointing out that the lecture was the #1 method most used by trainers. She asked why?

  • prior example
  • easy to do
  • control and predictable

In its place, she offered these five ideas:

  • Learning tournaments
  • Information search activities
  • Observation activities
  • Demos
  • Pre-work

Learning Tournaments

A technique to review new information in a competitive way.

Write the rules

  • players/judges
  • who is first
  • awarding points
  • wrong answer
  • starting game
  • winner

Select questions

  • multiple choice
  • true/false
  • sentence completion

Place information on bottom of card for where to find the answer.

Tips for success

  • Start with learning objective (Again, with the learning objective)
  • Make a visual impact
  • Emphasize the team win
  • Reward out of the box thinking

This is about a 30 minute exercise. It is important to debrief questions to summarize learning. It is a great way to to debrief pre-work. Also, good for flipped instruction.

Information Search Activities

A scavenger hunt type activity.

Write questions to:

  • assess learners reactions
  • identify the underlying concept
  • apply what was learned to the job.

How can you use this?

  • Combine with pre-work assignment.
  • Group teach activity.
  • Can have them learn where reliable materials are.
    • Call center training… good example.
    • On-boarding training
    • A wiki where to locate information.

This type of exercise makes them more active as learners. It caters to different knowledge levels. The instructor’s role is more of a facilitator.

It id more important to find out than know.

Observation Activities

Observe something such as watch a video or go on a virtual field trip.

Debrief questions. Talk about it to internalize it.

  • What was your reaction?
  • What barriers need to be overcome?
  • What are the key points?

Prior to watch an event, provide students with something to watch for. Have questions for students to keep track of as they observe. Provide them with a “travel guide. ” If learners are shadowing someone, they should have questions to ask. If they are being mentored, they should have questions to ask.

Always have a debrief.


A presentation of the process or procedure of how to do  a skill. It is important to have a demonstration checklist.

Demonstration checklist

  • Learning Objective
  • Background on the demo
  • Skills performance checklist

Was training and assessment done to a standard?

The demo checklist can also be used as a job aid or coaching tool


Pre-work is a great way to have learners prepared for an in-class session.


  • Reading
  • Completing an assignment
  • Gather and bring (course material for blended learning course)
  • Complete and return survey. To help completion, hold a raffle.

Give participants reason to come prepared, e.g., you will have to show your work.

Success tips

1. Begin with need

How will you partner with manager?

2. Identify the class

Focus? Time limit?

3. Who’s the target population

Who will attend? How many will attend? Do they have previous experience?

4. Learning objective

KSA – what is the purpose

5. How will you evaluate

6. How is this best delivered

7. Develop Materials

  • adapt or modify
  • create new materials
  • internal or external resources

Write processing instructions: steps of adult learning (8-10)

  1. set up activity
  2. learning activity
  3. share and interpret reactions (Debrief questions)
  4. identify concepts
  5. apply

Key processing questions.

11. Repeat 5 steps of adult learning for each class objective

12. Identify how much practice is needed

What’s the required achievement level on the job?

How will you achieve this in the learning environment?

13. Avoid activities over 15 minutes.

14. Write a knowledge test

15. Write programmed notes

16. Write a leaders guide

This was another successful presentation. Most importantly, I walked away with ideas that I can share with others.