The Learning Sparks – Adding Reflections To Your Learning Programs – Workshop Tip #254

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Whenever I design and deliver learning programs for webinars, eLearning, or workflow learning, I always get curious and excited to witness the sparks of learning. I eagerly anticipate the moment when learners can finally connect the dots and leap up to excitedly declare  “Now, I figured this out!” When this happens, I feel like a kid eagerly waiting for my first bicycle ride. 

Successful learning consists of these sparks that occur in lightbulb moments. They are like flashes and glows of brilliance as we see our learners and workers finally making sense of all the information presented to them.

But in order to arrive at this situation, some conditions should be present. How do we design and deliver learning programs so learners can speed up experiencing those sparks? 

Unfortunately, many of our investments in time, energy, and money go into improving the delivery of the content and not in creating the learning sparks. We get so exhausted in implementing this process, that we often neglect to ask if our programs create those learning sparks to bring a deeper meaning to the learning process.

Here is what I suggest we can do. 

Constantly keep a “Triple Loop Experience Learning” framework in our minds,  a concept by Russel Ackoff.

When people want to solve a problem, they are constantly learning along the way. They are also eager to take action. When they fail to get the desired results, they change their assumptions and take another action. If they continually fail, they change their context and repeat the process until they achieve the desired results. Ackoff calls this the continuous reflection process.

The learning sparks happen when people “change”, including their actions, assumptions, and context. The framework is like a built-in learning mechanism in learners and workers. The reflection process impacts performance. 

We already have some of these models in our designs and delivery, but we are often busy and preoccupied with making sure that learners and workers are “consuming enough” content. As a result, we try to attempt to add exercises, knowledge checks, practice, and interactions. 

I think the missing key ingredient is that we don’t allow sufficient opportunities to allow learners and workers to repeat the loop of reflection .  Thus, learners won’t have sufficient loops to connect the dots. Furthermore, the eLearning technologies do not allow them to journal or to take notes of their thinking and decisions. 

Try this approach in your design and delivery. 

Use the social and collaboration tools in your LMS, Sharepoint, Slack, or Facebook to repeat the loop. Allow learners to ask the “Triple Loop Experience Learning ” questions. Let them record and journal them. Allow others to make comments.
In an in-person or webinar, use the technique I coined as “Cascading Facilitation.” Use questions and reflections from participants to sufficiently allow them to reflect.
Add application exercises in eLearning or mentoring and coaching to allow learners to apply the ideas in a “real-world” context. Deep reflection is likely to occur when they think of real issues, not made-up scenarios. Check the 25 Thinking Tools by Situation Expert.

One of the biggest thrills in what I do is witnessing learners arriving at learning sparks. At this precise moment, I know I have added valuable learning. This is where it matters the most.


The Art of Problem Solving
Russel Ackoff
Reflections Impact Performance
Conversation Loop
Cascading Facilitation
Are We Training Too Fast That We Don’t Allow Learners to Reflect? Workshop Tip
25 Thinking Tools by Situation Expert

Vignettes Learning Workshops
1. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
2. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
3. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
4. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
5. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
6. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
7. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
8. Advanced Skills in Webinars

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”