Here are some simple methods to put adult education and popular education techniques to work in order to build skills and increase retention.
The first thing to know is this: Adults retain only 20% of new information they hear. Adults retain 10% of new information they see. Adults retain 30% if they see and hear new information. However, if adults hear and see new information as well as discuss it and practice using it, retention goes all the way up to 90%.
Use your time well.
Plan on presenting for absolutely no more than half the time of the workshop. Reserve at least half the workshop time for participant discussion and activities. This may sound frustrating, but think of it this way: there’s no point to lecturing on 100 pieces of new information if only 10 of them will be retained. It’s a better use of your time to present 10 points and provide activities to help participants retain 9 of them.
Provide bullet-pointed handouts with key information. Handouts equalize access to information, account for differences in note-taking skills, and make it easy for participants to refer to information after the workshop. The most useful handouts look more like leaflets than like academic articles.
Plan small group activities. Discussions and exercises in small groups allow participants to process information, provide a safe place to practice articulating new concepts, and encourage as many people to speak as possible. This increases retention because people remember more of what they themselves say. Small group activities could include these techniques:
* A simple multiple-choice or true-false quiz that 3 participants do together, which is then reviewed with the whole workshop group. This can be a good way to begin a workshop, so that you can assess general familiarity with the topics of your workshop.
* After you present new information, ask people to answer discussion questions in small groups and then share one response with the whole workshop group.
Provide opportunities for practice how to apply new skills. Role-plays are the single best way for participants to practice using new skills, so they can prepare to use those skills outside the workshop. Think about what skills you want people to use outside the workshop. Talk about campaign finance reform? Gather signatures? Invite their friends to events with them? Ask participants to work in trios: one person observes, one person is the practicer, and the third is the askee or friend. After the practicer practices the conversation, all three give feedback, then the roles rotate so that the next person can be the practicer.
If you try these tips, please let me know what results you see or what challenges you run into!