Adults need time for Observation and Reflection

How often do we allow trainees to contemplate what they have just learned and how it will affect them or how they might implement it on the job? Not often. Reflection takes time and these days we aren’t  even offered enough time to do the teaching, much less allow for observation and reflection.  (Our usual requests sound something like this: Can you take this 6 hour class and cut it down to 3 hours? No one ever asks, once the teaching is done – how much additional time would be needed for the learners to reflect on what they’ve learned and how they can best implement it on the job?)
Here is a great case study of one company that “gets it.”

Background: New-hire orientation of a select 300 people per year.

Curriculum design: 12 week program which includes self-study, virtual classes, in-person sessions, group case study and individual assignment.

Time for observation and reflection: The entire final-class-meeting (2 hours) is dedicated to ensuring observation and reflection. The participants are reminded of each phase of the training and the intended learning outcomes. They are then asked reflective questions:

– What did you learn most from this segment of the curriculum?

– What are you already using on-the-job?

– What do you intend to start doing, as a result of your learning?

They are also put in small groups to compare and contrast their responses, which helps to further their awareness of what they have learned (oh yeah! I forgot about that. How are you going to do it on the job?)
Next they are asked “What more would you like to learn?”  Once they have completed the “prescribed curriculum” they are often aware of what they don’t know about the organization or their field.  By giving thought to what more they would like to learn, the organization is able to direct them to further professional development.
Finally, (and our favorite) they are asked: How can you take what you’ve learned and pay it forward? Since they are in a select group of 300 enrolled in the curriculum, they have become privy to information, approaches or perspectives that not everyone in the organization would have.  They are tasked with taking the initiative to coach others in the organization and share what they have learned in constructive ways.

This formal approach to observation and reflection ensures the learners have thought-through what they have learned, identified the value of the learning for themselves and how they will change their behaviors on-the-job as a result of their learning. It also makes them good “corporate citizens” by tasking them with sharing what they’ve learned with the rest of the organization.