Last week I was reviewing some lesson plans with a colleague. At one point he stopped and asked: “Why do we need all these activities? Is simply doing 15 minutes of didactic learning all that bad?”
I don’t remember exactly what happened next. Some type of argument or a scuffle or maybe a brilliant defense of all that is good and holy about adult learning principles. When cooler heads prevailed, we found ourselves reminiscing of our own training experiences around this particular topic. We’d seen these concepts in training sessions or in practice many times, yet neither of us was a master of this topic. In fact, neither of us really knew much at all about this topic (thank God we have a bunch of really smart SMEs to lean on!).
In the moment, training participants will probably take well-designed, interactive, engaging content over didactic lecture and PowerPoint slides any day. But long term? None of this matters – didactic or interactive – if there is no follow up. Either way, people will forget most of what they’ve “learned” before their heads hit their pillows that same night.
I still say: yes, didactic really is all that bad. Even phenomenal speakers (think TED talks) may put on a good show, but three weeks later what do you still remember? Of course, the same can be said of well-designed, interactive sessions: what do you still remember three weeks later?
In the end, if you want people to be able to do something new or differently or better, and you don’t design follow-up activities to build upon what they’ve learned in the classroom, you’d probably be better off not doing the training in the first place. Chances are, they won’t remember it anyways.