You can make your training more effective by using less lecture time and more interaction time. Do you know how the Learning Loop, or PDCA for short, helps to increase your training performance?
The learning process is one of the most important processes in process improvement. It is also called the Shewhart or Deming cycle — Shewhart and Deming being two key figures in the development and application of quality concepts and techniques — and is often referred to as the PDCA (for “plan-do-check-act”) cycle or in ISO 9001 it is called the process approach. It is also used in science as the discovery process (hypothesis, experiment, conclusion) and it represents the basic education or learning loop that we go through when we want to raise our awareness.
Plan means think about your training before you start. Making a plan, a checklist, an outline or even sketch of what you are supposed to do will help you to think through the training that must be accomplished. Planning should include your learning objectives for what learning needs to occur and the development of the work that needs to get done. Planning includes designing the PowerPoint slides, exercises, discussion questions, games, and every interaction you think you need to demonstrate the learning objectives.
For example, a good learning objective describes what the learner will be able to do after the learning has occurred. The learning objectives should be expressed in a way that can be tested. Let’s say the subject is statistics, two learning objectives might be: 1) calculate mean, standard deviation, and range for a given set of numbers; 2) explain the characteristics of a normal distribution.
The idea is to plan your work and work your plan. Use your planning document to guide you in your training. Don’t worry if things don’t work out as planned. You are learning how to learn and how to improve. This is the learning process in action. The plan should be a source of inspiration. If your plan does not inspire you to work on the training performance, then update the plan or forget the training. Nobody learns by force.
Now work your plan and make sure you refer back to your plan. DO can also be thought of as DATA. You need to collect data on what transpires. The is where you deliver the training, use the PowerPoint slides, exercises, discussion questions, games, and every interaction you PLANNED. You are executing the plan. If you don’t measure the performance of the learning materials, how will you know what to change or which materials did not accomplish the learning objectives. But, be careful you don’t get so caught up in the “doing” that you forget what you were supposed to do in the first place and why. Doing is not the same as making progress. We need to test or check our work.
The check step is the most important step in the learning process. If you are developing policies and procedures checking is the step when you implement your work. For training it’s the same thing, it’s after we deliver the training, we need to test for the learning objectives of the plan (remember they should be expressed as testable elements).
Perform the checking as soon as there is something to check. Don’t wait. The earlier we test the feedback about the learning process the earlier we can make changes to correct our learning delivery problem before it gets any worse.
In a learning environment with a lot of interaction this should be real easy. Ask questions that test each participant for the learning objective. Note whether the students are learning or not. If not, and their training performance is poor, we need to Act.
Act is not the same as do. Act involves a reevaluation of the whole process and then a change to the process. If there is no change, there is no ACT.
What have you learned or discovered so far? Is the Plan still relevant or should it be redesigned or perhaps be erased and replaced? Finding out something does not work is learning. How do you know if the problem is in the system or the student?
One rule of thumb is:
85% of the time it will be the system (the teacher, materials, or process); 15% of the time it will be the student.
If you are not accomplishing your planned learning objectives, then rethink and rewrite the plan and reevaluate what your are doing. This is more important than the first writing and thinking of your plan.
PDCA Learning Loop
You are now learning and improving using PDCA. The rewrite constitutes what you have learned. Your revisions are the result of your learning. A process that is never revised means there is no learning occurring; therefore, revise. Make sure you are able to carry out as many PDCA learning loops as possible in whatever learning project you carry out. The more PDCA learning loops you execute the more learning performance occurs. With every learning loop you will improve your ability to learn and produce more effective training.