A new study shows, it is a fact that – Learning is more effective if a lesson or learning experience is with time spent thinking about what was just presented. In “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance,” a team of researchers from Harvard Business School, and the University of North Carolina describe the effect of reflection on learning. Reflection simply means taking time after a lesson to synthesize, abstract, or articulate important points of the learning experience. However, this process of reflection is often missing from organizational training programs. L&D professionals in the organization are often pressed for time and time is money! It is difficult to get learners together for a classroom session and when they are present, the main aim is to share the required information – leaving no time to reflect or ponder over the information gathered. In e-learning too, the learner is required to complete a course from start to finish – with little scope for reflection.
Keeping in mind the limitations of time in both classroom learning, there are some strategies that we can adopt to make sure learners are able to reflect and assimilate better. Post learning support is as important as the learning itself. Here are some ways of providing support when learners need it the most:
• Based on the learning that has been shared, learners can be placed in scenarios to leads them closer to applying the gathered knowledge. This gets them thinking and is very successful in trainings that emphasize behaviour-change. While creating a scenario, it is important to create a proper context that the learners can instantly connect with and then put their assimilated knowledge in good use. Using familiar names, designations or locales can be of help here. This can be a great way of reflecting and a valuable exercise in weighing all options that will help out the learner tremendously in similar real-life situations
• Simulated environments can also be created to make learners reflect and apply the learning. Though this route can take some time and strategizing, 3D environments can be a good area for learners to reflect and assimilate. Various interactivities can be built within the environment that encourage learners to think, evaluate their decisions and then make the right one. Multiple tries can be allowed, to encourage the learner to try till they succeed.
• In a traditional classroom, the instructor presents learning content through a lecture and perhaps a few examples or case studies. Then learners are expected to leave the classroom and practice on their own. This can only get the learner far in the reflection process. The ability to discuss ideas and concepts with instructors and peers is often needed to get learner to the ultimate goal of understanding. The learner views or reads lecture information before a classroom session. Gap between consumption of “content” and classroom session where learners can practice what they have learnt first encourages – individual reflection and then reflection in a group situation.
• Sharing experiences can also be a way of reflecting on the lessons learnt. With the help of social network, learners now have the platform for sharing their experiences on discussions boards, through IMs or even blogs. Peers can discuss their experiences in the context of what has been taught and this creates a continual process of reflection – not just on theoretical knowledge but practical knowledge as shared by fellow learners.
To provide an ideal environment for learner understanding and retention, there must be scope of reflection within the course design and delivery. Alternatively, other tools like performance support or a flipped classroom approach can help L&D managers create impactful learning that stays with the learner for long.