February 2, 2015 – After conducting so many OSHA training sessions over 30 years, one tends to figure out what keeps the students’ attention, as well as what puts them to sleep. So I thought I would share two simple training tactics that I have found consistently keeps students strongly engaged during classroom training sessions.
Make your Post Test a Pre-test: After the initial introductory information is presented to the class, I pass out to each student a test which is comprised of several multiple choice and True/False questions about the key topics to be taught. I tell students it is just a pre-test, and that I do not expect them to know all the answers. I also stress that no one (even me) will see what answers they choose, so they are encouraged to take a wild-ass guess if they don’t know the correct answer. I also set a reasonable time limit for them to complete the test, and tell them not to dwell on any question too long, as the goal is to get a quick read on their level of knowledge.
Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, I ask them who aced the test (usually no one raises their hand), and who did not even know what some of the questions meant, much less what the correct answers were (usually get a lot of students raising their hand). Then I tell them that they actually just took their final test! I explain I gave the test to them before the training for two reasons; one is to get them focused on the subject at hand. And the second reason is to give themselves a baseline of what they already know so that when they retake that same test at the end of the course they can see how much they learned. Then I encourage them to pay attention during the class so that when we discuss the topics addressed on the test, they can go ahead and answer the questions as we go along. It is amazing how the students will really perk up when we get to those areas covered on the test. And they also comment on how much they have learned from the class.
Make Custom Notes Packets: Taking adequate notes during a lengthy, complex course such as confined space entry or excavation competent person training can be difficult at best for most students. And if we hand them a packet of completed slides for their notes (as many trainers do), that just results in most students reading information instead of listening to their instructor. So to facilitate note taking and increase knowledge retention, I give students a “fill-in-the-blanks” note packet made from the PowerPoint slides utilized for teaching the class. I’ll print the major slides from the presentation in a two-per-page format (see example below), but will first remove a key word from each phrase or leave blank bullet points so the students can write them down as we go along and still keep up. Another benefit that students may not even realize is that by writing down the key words or phrases as we go along, they are also increasing their retention level of the information being covered.
The first time I made these note packets for use in a class, I was amazed how much more attentive student became throughout the entire class. It is almost as if they are hanging on my every word so they don’t miss some key information. Some students even stay over during breaks to copy from a co-students notes packet if for some reason they fell behind! This method keeps students much more engaged and focused on key areas as compared to when the students are left to their own devices to take notes on a blank piece of paper. One important note; this only works well when the trainer uses brief phrases or bullet points typed in large font on their PowerPoint slides and associated note packet (see example above), and does not work well for those trainers who like to cut and paste entire paragraphs onto a single slide (a big no-no anyway).
Of course, there are many other tricks of the trade that trainers have come up with to engage students throughout the training classes. But I have found these two methods have worked exceptionally well for me over the years. Have you used either of these methods before? If so, did you think they made a difference for the better? What other tactics have you used that worked well? If you want to give readers some insight into your experiences, or would like to read comments submitted by others, please click here and entering your comment in the “Comments” box. And last but not least, I would like to encourage you to Share this Blog post with others in your Network who might benefit from reading this information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Curtis Chambers is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health. He has held numerous leadership positions managing and evaluating health and safety programs and providing training on workplace safety and health topics at various public organizations and private corporations. Mr. Chambers is currently the President of OSHA Training Services Inc. Visit their website at www.oshatraining.com.