Learning from Dire Ear and the Mad Hatter

Here at Spectrain we receive requests for a variety of customised materials, related to training, development. We also produce presentations for corporate events, and individuals who are pitching for sales. Recently we were recommended to an individual who had reached the final stage of a recruitment process for the role of learning and development manager. He was required to deliver an interactive presentation, the brief:

What can we learn from the story of Alice in Wonderland that is applicable to Learning & Development

Very much like Alice I went off on a journey of research and discovery and learnt some interesting lessons to fulfil the requirements of the brief and produce the presentation.

Alice & the Mad Hatter

Learning & Constructing Meaning

“Grown-ups tell us to find out what we did wrong, and never do it again”

If, during our training courses learners simply remembered and acted upon what they were told, they would not make mistakes, they would either remember or not but would they understand? To develop understanding trainers encourage learners to experiment, explore and make mistakes and during this process learners form their own meaning, interpretation linked to what they already know. They construct or make meaning and because it is constructed by them it is likely to be owned and retained. It is their way of making sense of the material!

However the process of making meaning can go horribly wrong and it is the trainer’s job to detect misconceptions and errors in learning and correct these. Clearly this did not happen for the learners who wrote the following in exam papers:

  • Diarrhoea is ear ache “dire ear”.
  • History calls them Roamans because they never stayed in one place for very long
  • Name a food suitable for pickling: a branston
  • Large animals are found in the sea because there is no-where else to put them
  • Beethoven expired in 1827, and died later

Finding out and correcting what went wrong is a valuable part of the learning process!

Nothing Succeeds Like Failure:

Mad Hatter: We only go around in circles in Wonderland, but we always end up where we started. Would you mind explaining yourself? Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again?

There are many trainers that produce mad hatters, they fail to incorporate training and learning strategies that require students to apply, use, or process information and therefore create meaning.  Use questions that require learners to construct their own meaning of the content including:

  •  Analysis: questions: ‘why’
  • Synthesis questions: ‘how’ what if….
  • Evaluation questions: judgement

Simply presenting information is not enough, checking understanding activity is essential to prevent learners going round in circles and ending up where they started.

Mad Hatter: Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again?

Good trainers aim to develop specific competencies and through practice, application and feedback during the training we generate the confidence to go and apply those skills or use that knowledge back at work, where, if learning transfer isn’t encouraged then the learning disappears into a black hole, along with the budget that funded the learning.

You’re quite right, Mr. Hatter – Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again?

Because then we would all be as mad as a hatter

Interested in training that delivers specific competencies? Visit our site at Http://www.spectrain.co.uk or call us, we are designing new materials constantly and will probably have just what you need!


One response to “Learning from Dire Ear and the Mad Hatter

  1. I love this. So true about understanding. A girl in my class at school answered the following in a science test:

    Q.What is a vacuum?
    A: Euwbank.

    In her frame of reference, she was right really wasn’t she? Teacher still felt the need to humiliate her in front of the class. So who was at fault? Did Jayne not pay enough attention, did she not construct the correct meaning because the teacher didn’t make it clear enough, or did she just guess….

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