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by William Denney, Ph.D. | March 10, 2009

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"Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification."
- Martin H. Fischer

A Training Problem
I've noticed a disturbing trend lately in internal training programs. There is a perceived need to cram in as much information as possible, and as a result students are leaving courses like zombies. Sometimes it's two or three hours between breaks, just so the instructor can drone on and finish that important train of thought.

Students often feel like a 32 oz. pitcher was poured into their 16-ounce brain. More and more feedback forms comment that the information was overwhelming.

We rationalize that it's imperative to transfer important concepts and large amounts of information. Besides, there's a lot to know and sharing it makes for a valuable course. They have to feel like they got their money's worth. At any rate, it's up to the students to follow-up later and sort things out.

But of what value is it if critical ideas aren't understood, retained, and digested for future use.

What To Do
Professional trainers know that the human attention span for information intake is limited to 45 minutes. Anything over that is money down the drain - eyes glaze over and instruction just becomes a droning sound in the back of the mind.

The best way to communicate valuable information is to reject the idea that you have to tell them everything you know. That simply dilutes the learning process.

Students learn in different ways. Allow time for hands on practice and student interaction.

Break up classes into smaller manageable pieces.

Plan for breaks of 10 to 15 minutes every hour.

Ask the students to time you and make sure you stick by it.

These simple things will help students focus for a comfortable period with the knowledge that they will have time to get away to relax and digest what was said.

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