PTG Instructor Resources

Increase Retention With Micro Learning

By Kathy Maxwell posted 01-21-2016 12:33


I attended a workshop recently that at first glance sounded like it might be a bit boring. The title included "Bloom's Taxonomy" - something near and dear to the hearts of education professionals - and a topic that can be done many ways. In this case, the presenter really practiced what she preached. Her goal was to impress on us the value of breaking training into small segments called micro learning and she did just that during her 45-minute talk.

There is lots of research out there that confirms an important truth for educators. What people remember the most is what they learn through experience. Whether it's on the job, or in a more formal learning experience, the more chances we have to touch and try something for ourselves, the more likely we will remember and internalize new information and skills.

If you are preparing a technical presentation, workshop, or all day seminar, you can incorporate micro learning into your design. Look at your content to see if it can be packaged into smaller segments. Each segment will have a goal and it's own activity - or activities - to present, practice and assess the goal. For example, you might want your students to learn how to use a particular tool. Show the tool or a picture of the tool. Poll the group to see if they know the purpose of the tool. Demonstrate or show ways the tool can be used to solve different problems. Ask the group if they can think of any other ways the tool could be used. Let students touch and try out the tool in a work situation if possible. Transition to other segments or build upon what students just learned.

One of the most interesting classes I've seen at a PTG Technical Institute is the Competency Playground. RPTs Ed Sutton and John Parham developed this a few years ago. It is all about micro and experiential learning. Participants can visit thirteen different stations in any order and spend as much time as they like at any station. There are people on hand to provide guidance, but it is really up to the participants what and how much they learn there. I even tried out one of the stations. Not being a piano technician, I was still able to understand the goal and what I needed to do to accomplish the goal. For the record, I wasn't very successful at accomplishing the task, but with time and motivation I think I could have done a credible job.

Sometimes we work hard to cram as much information as possible into our presentations and classes. Unfortunately, most people can't remember and process everything they hear or see in such a short time, and that makes it even harder for them to sort out what is the most important and useful information. As educators, we can up the retention level by breaking the material down into smaller segments and connecting students to the content through hands-on experiences.