Category Archives: Near and Far Training

What makes up a Dynamic Learning Activity?

students_laptop_teacher_customA concept John (my Human Performance buddy from a nuclear plant in California) and I spoke about in the first Human Performance Tools Podcast is called “Near” or “Far” Training, which means how closely related the training method is to the actual task the worker will be performing. Sometimes practitioners train in concept alone, and sometimes they have the workers do what they normally do, but using Human Performance Tools, also. Concept training would be Far and job application of Human Performance Tools would be Near in these cases. Why does this matter at all? A couple of years ago, I asked an Instrument and Controls Technician at a nuclear plant what the best kind of training they’ve ever received was. His response was awesome: Any training where someone shows me exactly how I’m supposed to do something I will be tasked to do. Basically, echoing your thoughts on where this is heading: If it is possible to use it, Near training champions anything conceptual, or even theoretical.

Dynamic Learning Activities

The purpose of a Dynamic Learning Activity (DLA) is to provide an opportunity for workers to use their skills and knowledge while performing tasks/activities in a simulated environment. Additionally, a DLA can be used to detect latent organizational weaknesses and improve work processes and procedures.

A Dynamic Learning Activity has four parts:

  1. Facilitator introduction
  2. Pre-activity briefing with the participants
  3. Activity
  4. Post-activity critique

During the post-activity critique, the strengths and areas for improvement are discussed. The emphasis is on critical self-evaluation in a non-threatening environment. The learning comes from the interaction and collaboration during the activity, and also from the discussion of strengths and areas to improve after the activity.

DLAs are all the same in that you can get out of it, what you decide to put into it. Students should be graded by participation, not by test scores.

The commercial nuclear power industry has really latched on to DLA-style training, finding a lot of practical near and far simulations of work environments to train workers. Think of the best training you’ve ever had in your life…. was it more hands on? Probably not in a lecture hall. Some people are still confused by the difference between educating someone and training them. How would you describe the difference? Would you want to pay money to get fit by going to a weight education class, or a weight training class? There are many other comparisons, but as you can see, the education side leans toward the Knowledge (Cognitive) taxonomy, and the training side leans toward the Skill (Psycho-motor) taxonomy. Both are important, but what is the goal of the class in the first place – to learn concepts or teach application?

Now that the difference has been cleared up, training is the goal of a DLA, and doesn’t always get into the theory behind why things are the way they are, but is that such a bad thing?

Why use theory in a classroom?

A few years ago I was tasked with developing Leadership Observation training as a nuclear industry response to INPO’s call for SOER 10-02 engaged worker effort. I started pulling in all industry training ever given on the subject that INPO recognized as the best practice for this training. I developed 9 hardcore objectives and sliced, diced, and supported all of these objectives with practical activities, as well as theory to support them. The theory was really about what was happening, but not being said, and the practical was visual or audible and easily apparent to the learner during the activities. This really made sense to me – show them how to get the outcome they desire, and also talk about the foundation for why it works that way. A VP of Engineering totally through me for a loop as I was delivering the pilot program to upper management. He said to ditch the theory and just stick with the practical. Obviously, I was surprised that this type of criticism would come from an Engineer whom for years has thrived on theory and why things work the way they do, so I did not take it lightly and in the end, revamped the whole program to three easy-to-apply in a classroom environment objectives for the entire 4-hour long class. I have since made a concerted effort to keep too much theory out of the classroom and give learners the practical what they’re looking for approach: Training.

The next level: Have you ever heard of a “Reverse or Flipped Classroom?”

I love love love this idea. All the theory and studying happens outside of the class, but when class starts, it’s all about applying what you’ve learned in simulated situations. The instructor is looked at more as a facilitator by setting the testing trials and practical games up, and helping the students work through using what they learned prior to class. This also helps an instructor who may only be given an hour to teach a two hour class. Pre-work has to be interesting and somewhat fun to expect adult students to actually do what they need to prep for class, so be careful on that. Reading something short, watching a video, doing some research, are all things students can do OUTSIDE of the classroom. Professional adult classroom time is valuable and should be used wisely. Companies are always seeking to cut training, and with the reverse classroom, you have a new tool to help with training Return-On-Investment (ROI).

Follow up video links:

The Flipped Class: Rethinking Space and Time

The Flipped Class: Overcoming Common Hurdles

I Flip, You Flip, We All Flip: Setting up a flipped classroom

Use Jolts by Thiagi: 123 Clap

Pretty dynamic teaching