I just read an interesting article about the appeal of the Nintendo Wii.  The author’s point is that the Wii engages the user on a deeper level because it involves the entire body to play as opposed to traditional game systems that only require hand movements.  Greater physical involvement leads to an emotional component to play, which no other game system provides.

There is a lesson for learning here.  Actively involving learners will engage them more deeply than simply lecturing to them.  How often have you attended a training session and felt like the instructor was there to fill your head with knowledge with little or no concern for your needs or interests?

My experience is that the fictional example above is closer to reality than most professional trainers would like to admit.  It is the rare instructor who adapts a presentation to the needs of the attendees.  In the traditional teacher-centered approach the attendee is a passive receiver of information.  Do you feel motivated to attend training like this?  Neither do I.

The alternative to this approach is learner-centered instruction.  Simply stated, learner-centered instruction takes into account the individual needs and expectations of the attendees.  Click here to read a comparison of teacher vs learner centered instruction.  While a learner-centered approach can appear intimidating and labor-intensive, the benefits far outweigh the perceived drawbacks.  The video below is a good primer on learner-centered instruction.

Does this look like the stereotypical high school classroom?

Would you want to attend training like this?  What do you notice about the atmosphere in the classroom?

It is true that a learner-centered approach requires more planning and preparation.  However, this is offset by the reduced workload at the actual event and better results.  During the instruction the center of attention shifts away from the teacher to the student.  This allows the instructor to focus his or her energy on the actual needs of the students.  By responding to specific questions and providing constructive feedback the instructor has greater confidence that the attendees are getting the information they need and is able to correct any misunderstandings that exist.  In a teacher-centered approach there is no way of knowing if a misunderstanding exists or if learning is actually taking place.