Engagement in Training – Part I – The Pitfalls of Lecture-Based Training

Career educator, researcher, and academic rights activist Edgar Dale was serving as a professor at Ohio State University  in 1946 when he developed a learning model he called the “Cone of Experience” .  This learning model is still in use today and many L&D specialists worldwide frequently refer to it.

In this 11-stage model, Dale placed various learning elements or methods into categories based on what he considered their “concreteness.” At the base of the cone (or pyramid) structure, he placed the learning methods where students can use their five senses and fully participate in their learning experience. The experiences grow in their level of abstraction from the bottom of the model to the top. The top two portions of the pyramid represent the decreased levels of the learning experience because they represent only a visual and verbal level so students are not participating and instructors are only lecturing.

The Cone of Experience suggests that, although all learning methods have their place but learners’ richest experiences come when they participate and are highly engaged.  Over this series, we will discuss the importance of training engagement, what it is and isn’t.

Lecture-based learning is the weakest when it comes to learning and retention.  Lecture-based learning refers to the classic college model where a subject authority stands at the front of a class and talks for an hour while students frantically take copious notes.   To call this learning is a huge misnomer.  In this model, lecturers try to capture attention with PowerPoint slides that incorporates some visual elements.  Lecture and visuals do little to elevate or sustain  attention, learning and retention. Remember, visual and verbal symbols are at the top of the Cone of Experience.   This means they have the narrowest learning experience.

According to SERC (Collaborative Learning), the following weaknesses are inherent in lecture-based learning:

  • They fail to provide instructors with feedback about the extent of student learning.
  • Students are passive participants. No mechanism is in place to ensure they are engaged with the material.
  • Students’ attention rarely lasts more than 15 to 25 minutes.
  • Passive learners tend to forget information quickly.
  • Lectures assume all students learn at the same pace and are starting at the same level.
  • Lectures are not suited for teaching higher orders of thinking such as application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation. They cannot teach motor skills and are unlikely to influence attitudes or values.
  • Lectures are not suitable for teaching complex, theoretical material.
  • Learning by listening is difficult for students with different learning styles.

The solution to the problems lecture-based training poses is to find ways to engage the students and let them participate in hands-on learning utilizing their own learning style.    Virtual learning technology is making it easier than ever before to find and incorporate engaging training methods.  Using virtual training instruments such as Jigsaw Interactive’s  customizable small group learning rooms, multi-screen sharing, annotation tools, whiteboards, and collaborative boards passive learning is a thing of the past.  Utilizing the right technology for training and learning makes all the difference between an active learning experience and passive attendance.