How to Maximize Learning and Engagement at No Cost

The advantages gained by implementing a “learn-by-teaching” process can add exponential value to the learner and their team.

How do we best use our resources to deliver learning that has longer-term and wider impact?

Training professionals deal with the challenge of improving a learner’s retention after they leave the classroom or an online training experience. “Learning by teaching” is a best practice I observed by coincidence, which can easily be replicated.

The “Protégé Effect”

My workshops always begin with an Action Plan Form, which participants use throughout the program to record their key learnings and how they will apply them. At the end of the program, participants share their key learnings and the actions they plan to take as a result of the program. After delivering more than 800 workshops, I have found those who were told before the workshop that they would have to “teach” what they learned and share their action plans with their mangers and peers had significantly more key learnings and had much better actionable items to implement than those who were focused solely on their own learning. Why is this the case?

Learning and Talent Development practitioners understand that we learn the most through experiential learning and the least from non-interactive classroom or Webinar programs. One way to maximize all learning is to apply the “Protégé Effect,” which enhances learning and retention when someone knows they are going to teach what they are learning to others.

The Forgetting Curve

Multiple studies have demonstrated that humans forget 50 percent of new information within an hour of learning it. This increases to 70 percent after 24 hours. This natural but formidable phenomenon has far-reaching implications for learning and development in the workplace. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus initially identified this issue. He discovered that information is exponentially forgotten from the time learners consume it. This phenomenon is referred to as the “Forgetting Curve”; it also is referred to as the “Memory Curve.” The “forgetting curve” demonstrates that humans tend to reduce their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material.

This simple application demonstrates that students’ learning retention can be significantly increased if there is early repetition of the learning through teaching what was learned. This is especially the case if the manager is requesting a review of the program.

Benefits for All

Another important benefit of sharing what the team member learned is that the entire team benefits from learning new information and the discussion of how the action plans can be modified and applied to help the team meet its business plans. Additionally, the team builds a sense of camaraderie from participating in the learning experience, resulting in better alignment within the team. The person delivering the report retains more of what they learned and benefits from the feeling of accomplishment, competence, status, and pride from being the “teacher” to their peers and managers.

This simple step allows managers to play a significant role in adding value to learning by supporting employees, both before and after training. These managers also can report the benefits of the training when they submit their budget requests.

A Case Study

At an international conference for Learning and Talent Development professionals, I was coaching a group of Korean delegates. I asked them to meet with me as a group on the first day of the conference at 5 p.m. when many of the other attendees were taking a break. At that meeting, each of the 10 Korean delegates reported on one valuable session they attended and how the session could add value to their team. After the first day, the leader of the group asked that we do the same activity after each day of the conference since this added so much value to the team and helped justify the expense of attending the conference. The leader also asked me to facilitate a post-conference session where all those who could not attend the conference could hear and respond to the participants’ reports. The Korean organization adopted this as a best practice for future conferences whenever feasible.

The advantages gained by implementing a “learn-by-teaching” process can add exponential value to the learner and their team.

Please share similar practices that enhance learning or send me questions at:

Neal Goodman, Ph.D.
Dr. Neal Goodman is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer, and coach on DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion), global leadership, global mindset, and cultural intelligence. Organizations based on four continents seek his guidance to build and sustain their global and multicultural success. He is CEO of the Neal Goodman Group and can be reached at: Dr. Goodman is the founder and former CEO of Global Dynamics Inc.