Doing Trumps Reading: Training from the Back of the Room Workshop June 5-6 2014

What’s the best training experience you’ve been in?  Take a moment to put yourself through the retrospectoscope and consider what made it memorable for you.

Maybe it was a Scrum training.  Or a ski lesson.  Or perhaps a first aid class.  I’m willing to bet that whatever type of training it was, you’re not fondly recalling sitting in a beige room being talked at or PowerPointed to death.  What I remember vividly from a long-ago Scrum training is not the words of wisdom falling from the instructor’s lips, but rather the games, exercises, and conversations with other participants that illustrated and reinforced the ideas being presented.

In Training from the Back of the Room, Sharon Bowman has distilled and shared a powerful framework for designing and delivering training experiences to adults that will help make learning stick.  The Training from the Back of the Room approach is grounded in 6 simple principles (Sharon calls them the Six Trumps) derived from what we know about how the brain actually works to receive and retain information:

  1. Writing trumps reading
  2. Talking trumps listening
  3. Different trumps same
  4. Moving trumps sitting
  5. Images trump words
  6. Shorter trumps longer

None of these principles are revolutionary – yet we often fail to apply them when designing training experiences because they don’t align to what we’ve experienced in the past as a model of “how adult learning is done”.

I’d read Training from the Back of the Room a while back and had attempted to apply the principles in the workshops that I deliver to my clients, but it didn’t really all come together for me until I took Sharon’s class last December.  For me, the workshop was a transformative experience: while I didn’t burn all my slide decks after taking the course (because there’s useful content in there that I can repurpose to be presented in different ways) I will never again deliver training the way I used to.  A couple of weeks ago, I delivered a 3 day Agile team workshop making heavy use of TBR principles and I received excellent feedback from the participants about the interactive nature of the class and the very limited use of slides.  Afterwards, a couple of people in the class told me how apprehensive they’d been about having to sit through a 3day training session, and how delighted they were by how little sitting they actually did and how much fun they had while doing some serious learning and planning.

If you’re interested in learning how to make Training from the Back of the Room work for you, I’ll be offering a 2 day Training from the Back of the Room workshop with Glenn Waters in Guelph ON on June 5-6 just before Agile Coach Camp Canada 2014.  It’ll be a ton of fun, and you’ll walk away from the experience knowing how to apply the Six Trumps and 4Cs (next post!)  to delivering your training content, two of Sharon’s excellent books, and a toolkit of activities and ideas that you can use right away to revitalize the training you deliver whatever the subject matter.