The Art Of Reflection

How often do you schedule time for learner reflection into your course content?

My company is called “Learning in The White Space” because the one thing I know is…none of us learns a thing until we reflect upon the activity of learning. Meaning, later. After the doing. It is during reflection that the learning gets encoded and stored into our short-term memory. One article puts it this way, “We need time to absorb information” (https://www.theemotionmachine.com/reflection-improves-learning/).Overall, think of it as the brain filing the paperwork into labeled and color-coded folders. Note: Longterm memory is the folders being filed into the cabinet—the ultimate goal. (This is called building neurocognitive skills.)

As Learning professionals, we are tasked with crafting sound learning content, including all that goes before (assessment, analysis) and after (evaluation, iteration). We’re busy and fully engaged in the crafting of learning content, making it easy to forget to build in space for processing—and reflection. Forget at our own peril. It is vital to an individual learner’s process of learning.

DON’T OVERLOAD LEARNERS’ BRAINS

There is a phrase heard in our business and academia: “the forgetting curve.” It is a thing—and we do it to ourselves when we overload learners’ brains. The artful use of reflection during learning makes the difference.

Here are six quick tips to get you thinking about how:

  • Plan for it by writing “reflection” into every course map and/or class agenda.
  • Craft less content. Repeat to reinforce more. We all need to stop trying to cram more into the few minutes of learners’ attention we get. It just doesn’t work.
  • Set the expectation with learners up front that they are responsible for whether they learn or not. Allow them the latitude to “choose their own adventure.” For live instruction, ask learners for input on what they need to learn and check in often on whether this has occurred. For asynchronous learning, use scenario-based and problem-solving content. Also, allow learners to choose the order in which they complete the content. Being able to bypass or “test out of” areas they already have knowledge in works, too.
  • Look for opportunities for learners to use their critical thinking skills and past experiences (my way of saying not all content has to be spoon-fed).
  • Use “Fill in the blank” and “Finish this sentence”-type activities to encourage learners to recall information from their short-term memory.
  • Write better assessments (quizzes, tests). Much has been written on doing this well. Spend time getting better at this. Contact me—I’ll help!

Dawn J. Mahoney, CPLP, owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. Mahoney asks the tough questions to ensure the training content is relevant to the work and performance expectations. She does this work because she loves to see the moment when the learning “dawns” on her learners. If you need help, get in touch with her at: dawnjmahoney@gmail.com.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

Dawn J. Mahoney, CPLP, owns, Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. Mahoney asks the tough questions to ensure the training content is relevant to the work and performance expectations. She does this work because she loves to see the moment when the learning “dawns” on her learners. If you need help, get in touch with her at: dawnjmahoney@gmail.com.

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