Quality Vs Quantity

qual-vs-quan-street-signI saw a post the other day that focused on how training in the emergency services never stops – even on weekends people are out there training.¬†I was also recently speaking to a member of a fire brigade who was less than enthusiastic about attending the next training day at the station… because they have training booked every week, yet they felt they didn’t really gain anything from it.

So let’s raise the issue of what is more important: quality or quantity?

The Training

OK, so I have to steal a line here from a fitness training article… the brain is a muscle after all! ūüėČ

You will be more successful if you focus on performing very few quality focused repetitions, rather than dozens of reps, where you may fatigue and perform poor reps.

Source: Maximum Training Solutions 

Can this same accepted truth be applied to learning and training?

  • Is it better to have less frequent training sessions with more effort put into the organisation and learning activities, rather than running lots of shorter, poorly planned, boring, or repetitive sessions?
  • Would running training less frequently impact the retention or development of knowledge and skills in the required time frame?

The Participation

There is also a lot of research as to how participants interact and engage with learning. Is it better to have frequent, quick but shallow engagement? Or is more gained from considered thought, longer and deeper engagement?

The way people interact on social media is a good analogy here. What is of more value: The person who hits the like button on every post written in the group, or the person who contributes a thoughtful answer to an idea that has struck a note with them?

Is this like the person who attends each training session but hangs around talking or just watching on the edge of the activity, compared to the person who makes it every few weeks but is actively involved, asking questions and looking for feedback on their performance?

  • Would members (especially volunteers) be more motivated if they knew they just had to complete once a fortnight or once a month training rather than weekly training, and if they knew it would be of higher quality?
  • If training was designed to require deeper engagement from everyone involved would it improve the participation and motivation levels?

The Repetition

Some of the most experienced operators in our emergency services will also be quick to highlight the importance of muscle memory and drilled skills. I totally agree with this too!

When you look at the research for when quantity is more important than quality, it often relates to people trying to master practical skills or knowledge facts. This is where practice makes perfect.

The shorter path to maximized quality is in maximized quantity, and executing on the feedback after each finished product.

Source: Medium

So how do we incorporate this idea, while holding true to the other thinking on quality over quantity? By keeping it short and sweet. The nature of these facts, skills and drills that require repetition to build muscle memory means that it should only take a few minutes at most. The key thing is it must be kept high pace and brief!

  • Could short skills and drills be included at the start or end of training sessions? (Think the first 5-10 minutes max).
  • Can videos and other support materials be developed that support individuals revising and practicing these elsewhere?
  • Could multiple skills stations and mini competitions be used as a training session periodically to support members in practicing these skills and tasks?

I’m sure this could be a polarising issue, so what are your thoughts?

Training Tweak: Replace “Explain”

Resuscitating your training session to make it more engaging and interactive holds similar precepts to resuscitation through CPR: Something is better than nothing!

Not many of us can find the time to rework a whole session, but all of us can learn some new habits and take literally 3 seconds to tweak a session to make it better.

Having seen standardised session plans used by many different Emergency Services, it is easy to see that L&D have broken it down and made it as easy to follow as possible. Many include verbs to guide the trainer in how to deliver the session. So today, let the challenge be to replace just one word in your training session plan: Explain.

This verb is used to indicate to the trainer that they need to share a body of theory with learners. Explain how… explain why/why not… Explain the process…

There is nothing wrong with this verb, except for those of us that are trying to find ways to make learning a more active experience, it involves learners listening and absorbing.

Instead, swap this verb out with Ask.¬† Why do you think…? How do you think…? Why wouldn’t you…? How could we…? What would happen if…?

This tweak will ensure you cover the same content. The difference is you will draw out what the learners already know and force them to think about the content first, before you clarify and expand on any ideas as needed to make sure you covered all the required points.


What Can Trainers Learn From Social Media and Online Marketing?

I guess it’s not too hard to believe that you can now get a degree in Social Media and Online Marketing. Personally, I am heading down the self directed learning route for this one, but the more I learn the more I find ¬†in common between marketing online and training learners.¬†I have now read lot of acronyms, tried to understand various complex processes and considered multiple views on the best way to engage an audience. (See – sounds like the training sector already!)

So let me share just a couple of ideas from the social media and the online sector, and my takeaways for trainers and online learning managers.


Image Source

1. Market Research

Online world:¬†They say don’t bother spending money or investing lots of effort until you have a clear picture of the audience you want, and what they want from you! Do the quick quizzes, polls, user interviews, user surveys, focus groups, field observations and trials. You can always pose a question online and get people to DM* you, or open it up to a AMA* scenario to see what people are thinking about. Once you have the picture clear of what people actually need and what you have to offer, then you can clearly target and advertise to your audience.
*DM = Direct Message, AMA = Ask Me Anything,

Training world:¬†I think market research is just another industry’s term for training needs analysis, learner needs survey and training evaluation… although they seem to have a lot more cool ways to collect the data. Maybe there is something we should be learning from that.


Like I need to remind you, but don’t forget the importance of real training needs analysis (the actual people component, not the % of people completed part). Working out how people are really connecting and accessing training (as opposed to the official way they could be doing it) is also valuable. Yes there is stuff on a page on the intranet, but the real conversation is happening on that closed Facebook group! Save energy and align things to make a system that really works in your real world, or at least make it easy to link the two worlds together.

2. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Online world: There is high competition in the online world to be the highest rank webpage for user searchers. Being topped rank means easier to find, and therefore more internet traffic and audience to your site. There are some really clever online tools that will even analyse what keywords people are using to try and find something. SEO is getting smarter now – its not just about keywords, its also about usability and user experience on the site. This includes responsive design for the ever increasing percentage of mobile users. I like this visual to explain it easily.

Training world: If learners can’t access training or find the content easily, they will give up trying. How often have you heard someone say that the system is too hard to access? Or they can’t find the learner guide online? People may click to visit your site, but the bounce rate will be high if its too hard to move further in than the front page. In the physical world it still holds true. Think about the layout and structure of printed materials – is it easy to read and find things? Visuals matter now more than ever. Practical or visual versions of information are preferable and more often referred to and remembered.


We need to be reviewing the layout and structure of our online learning modules and especially the login point and layout of our Learning Management Systems and intranets to make sure it is easy to read, easy to navigate and gets to the point. Oh, and extra points if it works effectively on mobile devices. We need to add a Graphic Designer Badge to our trainer toolbox, or find someone who can do it for us. Look at training materials with fresh eyes and give it a face lift.

3. Power of Community

Online world:¬†Social media is a place to make connections, maintain relationships, influence purchasing and remain in people’s mind. Ideally it isn’t just about your own content, its about sharing other information that supports your ideas and audience. It’s a way to add value and get more people following you – so when you put out your own content there is a bigger audience to see it… not to mention that having people attracts more people!

Training world: Training has an increasing online presence and there is an explosion of online Communities of Practice. Social Media is now more commonly the way that learners are contacting trainers and others to ask questions, check information and stay up to date. Outside of social media, we often seem to spend time writing newsletters, writing training updates and organising professional development workshops. We also try to develop community within training groups Рuse of collaborative and cooperative learning activities help strengthen this.


The power of the click to follow someone on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram is amazing. You instantly have a way to connect and keep people posted about things. Connect with other peoples connections – ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ spread the word extremely quickly! Using a Call to Action is also a great way online to start interactions from social media and link it to other things you have going on. Giveaways work well: one click to download a quick guide on support learners with special needs, or a one page cheat sheet on how to put together a piece of new equipment? Yes please! Whether you are online or not, finding ways for learners and trainers to collaborate and work cooperatively should definitely be a part of your ongoing methods.

I will be continuing my exploration into this world, keeping a glossary handy. I am sure I will find many other similarities which will hopefully help the marketing stuff stick as it connects with the training stuff that already fills my brain, and hopefully pick up a few new ideas that will help my training as well as my marketing!

We Need More Concrete!

David_KolbThe name is Kolb. David Kolb. OK, he’s not quite 007, but he is a constructivist, he has a warm smile and his work does get my heart pumping just the same.

If you haven’t heard of him, let me introduce you. He helped frame the experiential learning model which can really support our understanding of human learning behaviour, and how we as trainers can set up experiences that help others learn.

As Einstein said, “learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”

We all learn from our experiences. New experiences and the process of problem solving leads to acquisition of new skills. Mistakes and failed solutions contribute to experience and to learning. When we stop to reflect about what we have done, we can then come up with new ideas to try next. There is also a lot of relearning when we find out what we thought was right doesn’t work, or at least not all the time.

In basic terms the model shows four elements that work like a spiral.

  • Concrete/real experience
  • Reflection on that experience
  • Formation of concepts based upon the reflection
  • Testing the new concepts
  • Repeat process

You can start anywhere, but usually most trainers start at the concrete experience. As a training structure that follows this idea, trainers have also been known to use the Critical Reflection Model of three key questions: What? So what? Now what?

reflective_learning_modelWith words like experiential, practical, scenario based, problem based, inquiry based all being words that makes my inner trainer squeal with joy, I hope you can see why I support this model.


I also hope you can also see how well this model applies to training in the emergency services.

We know that there is no better training than real life experience… and the reflecting and debriefing that comes after this. We can’t always get the real experiences, but we can try to at least provide the concrete¬†hands on and simulated experiences as the next best thing. We absolutely must take the time to properly reflect and debrief after these practical activities and scenarios – this is where the learning really sticks in learner’s brains.

It is possible to tweak and restructure standard training sessions so that it is based on lots of concrete experiences and reflections. It does require the trainer to reconsider their role – to be a great questioner, a patient observer, a situation and problem poser, and someone that understands the value of making mis-takes.

Differentiating Training in the Emergency Services

AppleFollowing on from the research on how different we all are, it is also worth sparing some thinking time to how we then differentiate learning to meet the needs of the varied learners that we know exist in our training groups. Differentiation needs to consider:

  • Content¬†– Resources and methods used to instruct and share information
  • Processes¬†– Activities learners undertake to better understand content
  • Products¬†– Demonstrable outcomes or questions answered to assess skills and understanding
  • Environment¬†– ¬†How and when learners need to be learning

There is tons of generic education research available listing strategies to support differentiation of content, process and product. Google is your friend – check some ideas out… but always ask yourself: will this standard suggestion work for me in the Public Safety Sector?¬†Hmm, often the answer may be ‘sorta, kinda, maybe’ because we have some extra challenges to face here.

Emergency Services in Australia delivers mainly competency based training and assessment and awards nationally recognised units of competency. For consistency of delivery and reliability of assessment, training material is mainly developed at an organisational (and increasingly, a multi-agency) level. ¬†The content, processes and products are already set and for many valid reasons, trainers and assessors are not required to (and are often discouraged from) developing their own sessions and materials. Let’s also add on top of this time pressures to complete training within available session times and the need to have members “job ready” ASAP!

So how do you differentiate learning when you have standardised session plans and tight time frames to train it in?

1. Work within constraints of your current training

As a quick summary of what generic education research suggests, key strategies for differentiation includes:

  • Using inquiry/problem based learning scenarios
  • Delivering material in a variety of formats and using different learning styles
  • Chunking learning into smaller parts
  • Focusing on need to know not nice to know
  • Using buddy systems

Some of these should hopefully already be developed into your standard organisational training materials. Others are training tweaks that you can apply within the normal session, such as asking people to buddy up for different activities or noting down where to pause for a quick brain break, state changer or repetition of key idea. As time allows, some things could be included as extra non standard sessions, especially in preparation for assessment. Problem based or scenario based activities are examples of this.

2. Support organisational level change to training materials and training approach

This is a solution that won’t happen overnight, but can (and needs to!) happen. There are several agencies already heading down the road of differentiated learning, so hopefully the thought virus will spread quickly. Learner, trainer and assessor feedback that gives helpful and concrete suggestions are a major part of this. Ideas include:

  • Using of bite size learning videos demonstrating different skills and knowledge
  • Using of skill and drill cards for practice activities
  • Incorporating a flipped classroom approach
  • Learning in reverse by using reflection and debriefing after practical scenarios, not just front loading ¬†the session with talking followed by practicing (presenting information through both whole-to-part and part-to-whole)
  • Including cooperative and inquiry style activities into the standard session plans when theory must be covered this way, such as “think, pair share” strategy and traffic light reflections
  • Documenting/clearly incorporating/guiding on the job training and assessment opportunities
  • Offering links/opportunities for deeper or further learning, such as links to the next level up of training or via Wikipedia type information
  • Including re-training opportunities in the training calendar for learners needing support

Now for one last suggestion that we are not seeing much of in this sector…¬†Let’s try training less.

This suggestion is currently impacted heavily by the need to cover requirements (oh so many requirements) that form the units of competency… The process undertaken to generify units of competency because “one hat must fit all” in the sector means many things are skimmed over or branded by trainers and assessors as “just something we have to do for the competency but it really isn’t that important or relevant”. So do units cover more than the real essentials and the minimum requirements? Let’s take a really hard look at ourselves and our roles the next time the Public Safety Training Package is up for review. Maybe then we can focus on training less but doing it in a way that meets the different needs of members.

Whoa! Our brains are more different than we thought.

I came across references to this research project from UCLA Brain Research Institute. While American and not Australian data, and dated in 2013, the idea it put forward was interesting!

ULCA Student Advertisement for Healthy Brains

Of those who responded to the UCLA ‚Äúhealthy brain‚ÄĚ student advertisement and considered themselves to be normal, only 32% passed the initial telephone screening process. Of those who qualified for the in-person health history and physical examinations, only 52% passed these screening procedures.

Now we can do the math: only 11% of those individuals who believed they were healthy/normal even qualified for brain imaging. Of the original 2000 students, just over 200 ended up meeting the criteria. The actual study concludes by saying, ‚ÄúThe majority of individuals who consider themselves normal by self-report are found not to be so.‚ÄĚ

So… Almost 90% of human brains are atypical, damaged or in some way not healthy. That does NOT mean that many students have not compensated; they have.

Historically, it has been promoted that the majority of learners (80-95%) have “typical” brains, with the remainder being learners requiring extra support, such as gifted and talented programs, special needs programs, or behavioural issues requiring management.

Research has started to show exactly how atypical our brains are. Instead of there being mostly ‘typical’ learners and some learners with ‘differences’, the brain research tells us the opposite. Flip the statistics! There is variations between the majority of learners brains (80-95%) ¬†with their learning abilities affected by multiple things including genetics and life experiences. The remainder of learners have what is scientifically considered a healthy or ‘typical’ brain.

blog_differentiated_instructionThe message seems clear: Make differences the expected, not the exception. Expect all learners to be at different points and at different times. We are not training topics and content, we are training people.

It seems the next question is then – how do we best differentiate the way we train in our organisations, with consideration for time, location, group size, requirements, and without everything feeling like we are herding cats?


Would a “flipped classroom” approach work for you?

The idea of the ‚Äúflipped‚ÄĚ classroom is that main content can be viewed and digested outside of the classroom. Training time (or webinar time, teleconference time, Skype time etc) can then focus on scenario based learning, team activities and further/deeper discussion and questions about the content.

While the concept so far is most talked about in the schools and higher education sector, there are clearly opportunities for adult education and agencies in our Public Safety Sector – both in the normal course of training and for professional development events.

Let’s consider some benefits and challenges.


  • With the promotion of flexible learning for members, having access to content to review at times and locations that suit individuals is a plus. Learners have time to reflect on what they are learning and to record any questions they have.
  • Material can include video, audio and interactive games to support individual preferences. Material can be reviewed as many times as needed to understand the content. Ideally this allows everyone to be at a similar place of understanding¬†for when the training group gets together.
  • This is a way to encourage continued learning and professional learning after basic training is completed. Updates to protocols, new techniques and new programs can be shared in this way and even discussed on social media, before people attend PD workshops to practice and further discuss the content. It may even allow for refinement of materials and content before the day.


  • If learners for whatever reason haven’t done the prep before the group training time (think hectic work weeks, illnesses, lack of motivation or organisation) then time cannot be effectively spent building on the common knowledge. Very frustrating for any learners who did do the work and for trainers who have to change planned scenarios! This strategy requires strong commitment from the learners and setting of clear expectations by the trainer.
  • Trainers must resist the urge to “just quickly go over” all the content that should have been covered elsewhere, otherwise benefits are reduced and learners are less motivated. Why would they bother preparing beforehand if they know they are going to have to listen to it all again anyway?
  • Trainers must have the subject matter expertise and confidence to move flippedpyramidbeyond the basic level information. With time to reflect and engage, you extend past the standard basics of knowledge and comprehension questions of Blooms Taxonomy (click here for a free chart to help prompt higher questions) and start considering things like applying, demonstrating, predicting, judging. An area for professional development.
  • Trainers and organisers of PD events need to monitor time requirements. The flipped classroom idea is not a sneaky way to increase training time requirements. If learners have committed time outside of the shared session, then training session or PD session times maybe should be reduced to reflect this.
  • Setting up information for learners to access takes time and effort. For many agencies in our sector, this could be done at an organisational level using the intranet or Learning Management System (LMS), saving local trainers time and effort.

So what do you think? Is it already happening in your organisation? Is this something you could do? Would it work for you?


Training Tweaks From Neuroscience Geeks

brainNeuroscientists study the brain and its impact on behaviour and thinking functions, including how we learn. This is an area of constant development, and what we do know is much less than what we are still finding out! While this is a huge area of science, there are some helpful tips that we can apply as trainers to help make sure learning is meaningful and ‘sticks’ in learner’s brains.

Meet the needs of the brain

The brain is an organ. It needs to be looked after. The brain won’t learn best unless you are hydrated, rested, fed, getting a good blood supply, and not too stressed.¬†Learning and creating memories consumes physical resources such as glucose, with our brains using this quickly with more intense learning.

  • Encourage learners to stay hydrated
  • Use the natural environment ‚Äď fresh air is great for enhancing learning
  • Encourage learners to get enough sleep
  • Have brain friendly snacks (great news: Dark Chocolate is good!)
  • Take a moment for learners to consciously let go of other life stressors and to focus on the training session
  • Include physical movement and activity. It raises the brain chemicals needed for thinking, focus and memory

Make meaning and connections

The brain is a network. The more connections made to existing understandings and meanings, the stronger the link to new learning created.

  • Help make it clear how learning links to the learner personally
  • Always link what learners already know to what you are covering

Manage and encourage emotion

The mood and emotions brought to a training session impacts motivation and learning. When learners are faced with something they don’t want to do, pain centers in their brain will light up. Many learners initial reaction from this is to avoid the feeling by putting things off.  Heightened emotions during an experience also increases (positive and negative) memories.

  • Set the tone from the start – ensure joining instructions are positive and relevant
  • Choose your language carefully – positively frame training activities and content
  • Make training memorable or exciting – this arouses curiosity but also raises emotions and therefore enhances memory
  • If there is something learners are avoiding or don’t want to do (and you can’t help make it more enjoyable for them!) set a timer to focus and complete the activity and then take a 5-minute break. It’s a lot easier to start something when it is only for a short, fixed duration

Provide variety

Not a new concept to most trainers, but it also fits with neuroscience! Increasing the variety of inputs makes learning richer, stronger and more interesting. It also supports different preferences of learners.

  • Experiment presenting information with a variety of different media ‚Äď flip chart, social media, video, handouts ‚Äď and keep it simple!
  • Use colours, drawings (you don’t need to be great at it) and frames to create visual references of content learned. Refer back to it during training
  • Use props. Find ways for learners to interact with things – touch, feel and be active in activities
  • While many of us have the Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic down pat, what about considering the effects of Olfactory and Gustatory (smell and taste)¬†on learning and memory
  • Look at models, like Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences or De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats. See if this would suit your style and could be included in activities
  • Consider the role of video in learning. Highlighted in 2017 as a learning trend, video can support pre-course learning, post course information and revision, and allow feedback on learner performance during training activities

Take brain breaks

New evidence suggests the value of teaching content in even smaller chunk sizes. Learners can only hold two to four chunks in their working memory. If you try to cram in too much in a training session, learners simply wont remember most of it.

  • As a guide,¬†the less background the learner has and the greater the complexity of the content, make the time chunk of content shorter (4-8 minutes). The greater the background knowledge, the less the complexity, then the longer you can make the ‚Äúinput‚ÄĚ(8-15 min)
  • Buy a timer, or use your phone. Get into a habit of always using it with the timer set to 15 minutes. When your time is up, you need to let learners stop for a brain break or change activities
  • Build in Breaks ‚Äď they are as important as the activities to help consolidate learning
  • Stock up on “brain break” activities – check out Brain Gym¬†and do a little research
  • Include state changers that allow a quick movement or focus change to give brains a chance to rest and re-energise

Revise learning to make it stick

Effective reviewing of content is how to make learning stick. In fact, to really help learners review it seven times to truly embed the learning! While a lot of learning doesn’t consist of memorising facts, it is still a part of it. Spaced repetition is the best help we can give for this.

  • Questionnaires & Quizzes ‚Äď Come up with creative ways for learners to demonstrate and review their learning
  • Include opportunities for learners to demonstrate what they have learnt ‚Äď it will help them embed their learning
  • Use spaced repetition during training – as a rule of thumb, revise the concept at the following time points after first learning: 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months

Remember the brain needs a social life

Research shows that social conditions influence our brain in multiple ways we never knew before. Learning in many settings is often a highly social experience, with learning being affected by our sense of reward, acceptance, pleasure, coherence and stress. Learning in isolation or poor social conditions can actually result in fewer brain connections being made.

  • Ensure chances to discuss ideas with others, and for personal reflection time
  • Use planned groupings – consider buddy systems, mixed skill sets. Don’t rely on random or purely social groupings for more than 20% of the training time
  • Work to create good social conditions in the training group – build relationships between you and the learners, and between the learner

If you are already applying strategies to improve your training, you may be implementing many of these ideas already! If you aren’t there yet, ¬†remember – even if you only have time and energy to tweak just one thing about the way you train, it can make a difference and help get brains into states which will support learning.

Get the Lingo Right! Gamification or Game Based Learning?

Gamification is definitely a buzzword in training at the moment, especially as we continue to roll out e-learning across our organisations . ¬†The terms ‘gamification’ and ‘game based learning’ seem to be getting used interchangeably, however there are distinct differences between these two.


Gamification is the idea of adding game elements to a non-game situation. They reward users for certain behaviors to motivate and engage learners so that they can become (and stay) active participants in their learning.

What might this look like?

If your online learning system includes anything like achievement badges, leader boards, point systems for completing tasks, level/access progressions or any types of “quests”, then your organisation has included some elements of gamification in their learning approach.

Games Based Learning

Unlike gamification, game-based learning is about integrating games into the learning tasks to enhance the learning experience – helping to practice specific skills or achieve specific learning objectives while making learning fun and more engaging. Usually elearning games have rules, specific objectives and a risk of losing the game.

This has been a huge growth area in recent years and there are lots of examples currently in use by emergency services as part of training.

What might this look like?

Branching scenarios where learners choose what to do next is a good example that is increasingly included in e-learning. Simulation activities, such as Ambulance Victoria’s Mass Casualty Triage module or NSW RFS firefighting scenarios (both created with XVR) are other examples. Skill and drill games included in modules to learn information and revise content ¬†are also generic examples.

Note: industry further defines some activities as “serious games” – where the learning is closely related to real world tasks and situations, and “entertainment” or “fun” games where the games structure is used to cover content.

This infographic summarises things well:


Image by Steven Isaacs Р ASCD Inservice

Using Gamification and Games Based Learning

Both gamification and game-based learning can offer training a variety of benefits for training and learning, a main benefit being increased motivation.

If you want to give it a try, here are some ideas:

  • Consider what games are “ready made” or easily editable. Building quality game based learning is an undertaking. If it’s bigger than a single scenario, consider available budgets and timelines.
  • Existing e-courses could be gamified by including points for quizzes, incentives for completing a topic in a course, or by scoring highest (such as access to an extra special topic). This requires small modifications in existing content.
  • Look at what your organisation’s Learning Management System has built in – it may be possible that the more learning content the learner accesses, the more points he/she accumulates or is promoted to the higher level of access. It might be built in that top users can be highlighted for everyone (like a leader board). Some Learning Management¬†Systems even allow for personalisation options like avatars.
  • Consider use of existing social media groups within your organisation to create gamification features – like “superuser” badges that can be added to user details, or posting specific challenges/quests that link back to e-learning modules.

Key things to remember if you do use gamification or games based learning (funnily enough, they are just good principles for training in general!):

  • Use gamification/games based learning for the right reasons – remember that the learning outcomes are what really matters.
  • If you choose to develop scenarios, make it realistic.
  • High levels of interactivity are vital! Think point and click actions, branching scenarios, non-linear text presentation.
  • Choose the right balance of support and challenging (Goldilocks Principle – not too hard, not too easy) so that learners are not bored or too frustrated. You can always repeat activities gradually increasing difficulty.


Extra note: If you take the ‘e’ out of e-learning, the above information about gamification and games based learning still applies in the physical world! Teachers and trainers have been applying the principles for years!

Passionate Learning

Passionate: having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs.

passionDo you remember when you first joined your organisation and started training?
Do you remember the first time you moved from being the learner to the trainer?

I remember feeling excitement, anticipation, sometimes even wonder at everything there was to learn about. I remember enthusiasm for helping others to learn and at finding great ways to help them do it. I recall many bubbling fast paced conversations sharing experiences and strategies with other trainers.

Conversations were passionate, and the person’s passion showed through in the way they trained – you could literally see it infect a group of learners. To quote one of the most passionate trainers I have ever known, “Great trainers inspire”.

I have to wonder though… are we training the passion out of our trainers and learners?¬†Does paperwork, assessment requirements and repeat sessions of standard skills and content kill the enthusiasm and passion? Is this why many experienced and long term members lose engagement with their ongoing training and development? Is it a contributing factor in the burn out of trainers and assessors?

In the Public Safety Sector, many things that we do are governed by nationally recognised training requirements and other organisational needs and restrictions. Limited time and availability for training means that often it’s hard to even meet the minimum time we need to be compliant.¬†Much of what we ask learners to remember¬Ě has little emotional charge to it, even though we know from research that emotions significantly affect the creation and recall of memories. We know that what our members remember best is experiences on the job and information or learning that has been emotionally charged, we just often can’t seem to provide it in this format.

Yet passion based learning is so powerful!

  • Passion motivates learner’s during a training session, but also leads to self-directed inquiry and further learning into topics that have caught their curiosity.
  • Passion helps ensure learner’s brains make long lasting connections and memory slides that simply would not occur otherwise.
  • Passion finds a way forward when there wasn’t an obvious path – finding time to learn, discovering methods that otherwise learners might not bother with, or even developing new tools and ways of doing things. Requests for access to equipment or extra training sessions and presentations of ideas that can improve our processes are all examples of this.
  • Passionate engagement can empower a learner to feel in control of their own learning, which is something research tells us is important in adult education.
  • Passion leads to the development of communities of practice where the passionate share their enthusiasm and encourage each other to keep going – often independently of organisations and higher management.

For example, without this passion-based learning it is unlikely our own Public Safety Sector would have:

  • The Holten Foot – a stablisation device used to stabilise a vehicle that has rolled onto its side and is in danger of rolling further. Invented by a FRNSW Rescue Firefighter and now carried on all FRNSW Rescue Units.
  • NSW SES Large Animal Rescue Capability – Developed by local volunteers due to needs identified in the Hawkesbury area and rolled out across SES units and other community interested parties.

For many of us trainers, passion is still the underlying theme of many different approaches we try. Consider some of the strategies we use:

  • Hooking a learner’s attention by getting them involved in the task (using inquiry based learning, practical training, scenario based training).
  • Having learner’s work and interact with each other to learn knowledge and skills (problem based learning, cooperative learning and active learning).

Passion for learning is the key pedagogy to prepare for 21st century challenges. Credit: Ainissa Ramirez

The research community is increasingly clear that passion and a love of learning is a key skill for the 21st Century, so what can we be do to keep the passion for learning alive within the boundaries of nationally recognised training requirements and other organisational needs?

1. Don’t stop the feeling

Firstly, there are some people that will be passionate despite anything we say or do. Let the enthusiasm top up yours, and yes – sometimes this passion can be a bit exuberant, but try not to shut them down completely.

2. Set the example and don’t forget to feed your own passion

Continue to put the passion into the training you are delivering and encouraging others around you to do the same. If you feel the passion is waning, try to work out why and find some ways to top it back up. Sometimes a chance to talk and share, or to learn something new and challenging themselves is enough to do this. Disinterest, comfort and apathy are the antonym of passion.

3. Create connections

If a learner’s passion doesn’t align with your own, help them to access more about it somewhere else. Offer suggestions on who else they could talk to about it who is also passionate, or suggest a Facebook community etc that they can join.

4. Redirect when needed

People certainly get distracted and carried away by their passions, and at times it is entirely appropriate to redirect them to the focus of training at hand. If you are feeling particularly skillful, consider the idea that ¬†‚Äúwhen students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done‚ÄĚ and create a scenario or phrase a topic question in such a way that it links them back to their passion.¬†Show how learning about seemingly unrelated topics can help them learn more about their passion.

5. When possible, let the passionate take control… and take advantage of it

You may not have the time to develop a scenario or run a session for experienced members, but someone with passion for a topic might jump at the chance!