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Sincerely Stefanie: Don't Be Like Charlie Brown's Teacher

Training your workers in a traditional lecture style could put them to sleep when it comes to safety.

You remember that class: Napping 101 (although it was more than likely a more academically-focused subject). You would stroll in just in time, or maybe a couple minutes late, knowing the next hour would be the perfect time to sleep.

The teacher’s words went in one ear and out the other and sounded much like Charlie Brown’s teacher. You somehow retained enough to pass the next test and not fail the class. A few months down the road, you already forgot what you had learned.

Disseminating information to your workers is the easy part of training, relatively speaking. The hard part is getting them to be curious, ask questions and—the ultimate end game—retain that safety knowledge.

Employee engagement is a critical component to a world class safety program. While traditional lecture styles work, studies show that using participant-centered approaches such as games, discussions and visual aids could help with retention.

Becky Pike Pluth, who has more than 15 years of experience as a training professional, presented to National Safety Congress (NSC) 2018 attendees about how to spark curiosity using different learning techniques in order to make safety training— and knowledge—more memorable.

The average person will retain 20 minutes of information in a one-hour lecture. However, motivating and engaging individuals could increase the details they will remember later on.

“Stimulating curiosity creates extrinsic reward motivation and creates a more effective learning experience,” Pluth said. “Whatever that curious factor is—what comes before and after it will make it more memorable.”

Pluth, along with Donald Elswick, assistant professor of environmental, health and occupational safety at the University of Findlay, suggested safety managers can use some of the following methods to improve training sessions:

  • Play a learning game to draw connections to content and help with memory through association.
  • Use creative visuals.
  • Play music.
  • Quotes, statistics or outrageous statements will keep workers
  • Have your workers become learning partners to keep one
    another accountable.
  • Place props and toys on seats and tables.
  • Provide surveys and polls to gauge opinions.
  • Start in a different way than what is expected.
  • Utilize videos to preview content.
  • Use fill-in-the-blank workbooks.
  • Take field trips or go outside to change up the learning environment.
  • Award prizes or incentives for correct answers or participation.
  • Allow opportunities for creative thinking.

“Curiosity prepares the brain for learning and long-term retention,” Pluth told attendees. “Humor and imagination allow for curiosity and calculated risk-taking. You want to reduce tension and increase retention.”

Next time you’re sitting behind your computer, getting that PowerPoint ready for that toolbox talk or training session, think about what methods you are using to engage your workers.

Think about their reactions. Are they falling asleep? Do they ask more questions? Are your workers motivated to learn more, or do they look at you like you’re Charlie Brown’s teacher? If you’re not getting the reaction you want, think about the different ways you can spark their curiosity.

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