Training Tweak’d: Session Summary Time

As trainers we know that at the end of a session their should be time allocated for summing things up. This usually involves:

  • Restating learning outcomes
  • Providing (and hopefully also asking for) feedback
  • Linking to what happens next

Depending on how strapped for time you end up being this may be 5-15 minutes of the session (although I have seen this done in under 60 seconds when time has escaped some trainers!)

When we invest so much time and effort into creating an engaging and effective session at the introduction and the middle, why don’t we invest just as much at the end? Is there no further learning gain to be had here???

How about tweaking the summary of learning at the end, based on the following Information Processing Approach to thinking and learning:

The ability for a learner to share what the session has covered (as opposed to the trainer reading off a list of outcomes) shows how learners have understood information. You can help this happen at 3 levels:


“We covered basic anatomy of the respiratory system”

Recall is pre-requisite to understanding, but it doesn’t really demonstrate it. It is just a memory. If you ask learners to share what you have covered in the session, it is likely you will get a list of topics or outcomes. Not high order thinking, but at least if they share it instead of you it’s making them think back and strengthen links to what was covered.

Verdict: Better than nothing, good option for when you left just 60 seconds to sum things up.


“The airway includes the nose, mouth, trachea, lungs and some muscles. It all works together to take in oxygen and get rid of CO2”

Asking learners to summarise activities in their own words moves beyond recall and demonstrates comprehension. This is great for you as a trainer – you can check and make sure everyone is on the right page. There are a bunch of different yet quick activities you can use to end a session that will achieve this and all of them can guarantee participation of every learner. Tweak your session and try including something like:

  • Pass the ball – Have everyone stand up and throw a ball (or whatever) around the group. Each person summarises one thing learnt during the session. If done successfully they can sit down. No repeating ideas! Increase challenge level by asking them to share things it in order from the start of the session.
  • Rally robin – in small groups everyone takes turns to verbally summarise what was learnt during the session. Alternatively take the team rally robin approach – ask each group to take turns summarise something learnt in order. They can talk among themselves to come up with the answer.
  • Writing relay race – have teams line up with one pen and piece of paper. Each person runs to the paper, adds their summary point before racing back to hand the pen over to the next person. No repeats count. Compare summary lists of teams at end to see who has summarised points from session – either most number or most accurately

Verdict: Takes more time but worth it as uses higher level thinking skills. Good way to end session with high energy. Can include writing or be just verbal depending on group and available time.



Symbolising  is to represent experience usually in non verbal ways. It requires learners to really think about and interpret what was covered. Activities that you can tweak your session to include as a summary includes:

  • Team mind map – Have everyone work in groups. Grab a texta and help summarise all the big ideas covered during the session using just pictures. People can add to other people’s drawings to show more detail as they recall it. If you want to break it down a bit more, pair it up with a recall summary – once the key parts of the session have been stated, divide up the topics so each group focuses on a different part.
  • Hashtag generator– admittedly it uses words not pictures, but having to come up with a word or phrase that shares the concept is still symbolisation in a more modern social media form… and results can be quite hilarious! Depending on your organization’s social media set up and policies, groups can always take a photo and caption it to visually represent a key concept covered at training. You can then also add a common tag for the group/course.

Verdict: Definitely not a 60 second strategy. It does produce some hard copy results you can review and evaluate later. High engagement, potential for some laughs and fun. Plan your session timing accordingly and check out any policies that may effect what you can/can’t do.





Training Tweak: Demonstrations

A word I love finding in training sessions is “demonstrate” or “show”. This is quite a traditional training strategy which works from the understanding that you can learn by doing, and that skills can be developed by imitation.

A great thing about demonstration is that visual learners will get the idea much better when they can see it with their own eyes, rather than try to understand a verbal explanation.

There is however a particular method of demonstrating a skill that is (in my opinion) superior to many others. It will support visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners, while also reducing the need to retrain the brain after a skill has been imitated and learnt incorrectly (It takes about 40 instances of conscious effort to retrain the brain to do something the right way automatically, so let’s just get it right the first time!)

While many trainers may know know this demonstration method, I am spreading the message to anyone who can benefit from this tweak.

So let’s start by learning a little rhyme. Whenever you see the word “demonstrate” in a training session plan, you should be saying this in your head:

I show you once,

I show you slow,

We do it together,

Off you go!

These are the four steps to ensure a great demonstration. Let’s break it down a bit more.

1. I show you once

Emphasis on show. Close your mouth. This step is not an explanation – it is a full speed demonstration, providing an excellent example of what the skill should look like when done by a competent person.

2. I show you slow

Now you can talk while you show. This is your step by step explanation of what you just showed – sharing those tips and checks that a competent person knows, so learners will know when they have done it the right way. Learners can ask questions and clarify their understanding.

3. We do it together

Now its time for you to be quiet again. You are a puppet – the learners will tell you what to do, and you will do the skill. This helps them to clarify their understanding and show you that they have remembered all the key things. You can pick up mistakes before things are cemented into brains the wrong way. You can prompt with questions or ask for further direction if you need to. Using this format, everyone’s attention is still on the same person and same conversation. (Alternatively, if you can manage to keep everyone together, then each learner can do it at the same time while talking through the steps).

Note: This step is crucial, but it is often the one trainers forget or skip. If you want to make sure learners are confident and have a clear, correct idea of what to do take the time to do this step right.

4. Off you go!

As a trainer you can now be confident that the learners have the right idea as to what needs to be done. They can go and practice independently… but don’t get complacent – your job is not quite done! You now need to observe and check every learner – to make sure that they are doing it the right way, and to give tips and tricks to make the skill easier based on what they are doing. Encourage learners to verbalise the steps to help reinforce it in their brains.

Another hint: For large, long, or complex skills, don’t forget to chunk it into smaller pieces for demonstration, before putting it all together.

Now let’s break this down to see how this supports different learners:

  1. I show you once: Visual
  2. I show you slow: Visual, auditory
  3. We do it together: Visual, auditory, sometimes kinaesthetic
  4. Off you go: Kinaesthetic, auditory

Does this way take more time… yes it can do. But consider it a saving of time you won’t need to spend providing a ton of feedback, corrections and further explanations.


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 – 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 – flip chart, social media, video, handouts – 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 “input”(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 – 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 – Come up with creative ways for learners to demonstrate and review their learning
  • Include opportunities for learners to demonstrate what they have learnt – 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.