How To Make Training Learner Centered And Performance Based

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I’m on a mission to elevate our profession.

My mission begins with an understanding that learning is an active, engaged process. People need to DO IT in training in order to DO IT on the job. It doesn’t matter what the IT is.

Knowing is great, but doing DOING is where it’s at. We can’t ask our learners to sit listening to us drone on (even if we are energetic and knowledgeable) expecting them to magically return work with the skill and ability to perform in the way we’ve described.

They’ve got to DO IT.

Yes, knowledge is important as a foundation to help people understand why they perform their jobs. But we can’t exist on knowledge alone. Imagine the airline pilot who understands physics but has never landed a plane. Or the phlebotomist who knows everything about veins and arteries but has never drawn blood from a person.

Our challenge as training and development professionals is to find that balance of knowledge and practice to help learners to success.

Here are three design tips to help you train to what people need to DO on the job.

List Tasks Performed on the Job

Begin by listing everything someone needs to do on the job to accomplish your learning objective. At this point, avoid thinking about what they need to know. Focus on what they need TO DO. If a task has multiple steps, list those steps as well.

Select The Difficult Tasks

Look at your complete task listing to decide which are most difficult. This is where you will spend most of your instructional time. Don’t spend precious time on things that are simple for the learner and not used often. Those can be supported with job aids and digital learning.

Identify The Presentation – Application – Feedback Methods You Will Use

Rather than thinking about what YOU, the trainer, will do to show or demonstrate the task, determine what you will have the LEARNER DO to practice the method. Your training then becomes learner focused and performance based.

Begin by thinking about a PRESENTATION METHOD

Presentation methods are those methods for the learner to receive necessary knowledge about how to perform a task. Don’t mistake presentation for lecture or for YOU the trainer doing all of the work.

Presentation methods can include:


Reading (not out loud, please, never out loud)

Activities that require learners to discover the information as they perform a task


Keep the Presentation Method brief, so more time can be given to the APPLICATION METHOD

Once you’ve selected your Presentation Method, then select an application method. This is where learner practice happens. This is where they DO IT. Think about how they will perform a task on the job and mimic that method as closely as possible in the training environment.

If someone is being trained to facilitate a discussion, have them practice facilitating a discussion.

If they are responsible for a calculation on the job, have them perform that calculation in the same way in training. Do they have a program they use? Do they do it on paper? Do they verify it against something? Do they work in teams? Let training match the work environment.

Other Application methods include:

Case studies


Role plays


Once learners have performed, they need to know if they performed to the expected workplace standards. The FEEDBACK method can be easily overlooked. Try not to make that mistake. Feedback can happen in many forms. Our goal is for the LEARNER to know that they DID IT correctly. This is not the same as evaluation at the conclusion of training. This is all about THE LEARNER’s Performance.

Feedback methods might include:

Peer to Peer Feedback

You look at a fellow learners calculation and verify it’s correct. They do the same for you.

Trainer to Learner Feedback

I review your work and provide corrective feedback as needed. This works well in smaller classes and when time allows.

Checklist or Answers

Learners review their performance against a checklist or “the answers” to determine whether they performed correctly.

Natural Consequences

We’ve all experienced them. The cake that doesn’t rise when we forget an ingredient. The car that runs out of gas when we ignore the gauge. The bike that gets stolen when we forget to lock it. Some performance in the training environment will lead to a natural consequence that the learner is aware of. This is sometimes the best learning, but not all tasks end with obvious natural consequences.

What’s In It For You?

When your training becomes learner centered and performance based, your job as a trainer becomes easier and your learners experience improves. No more listening to anyone drone on about slide and slide. People are engaged, doing the work that is expected of them on the job.

If you want to learn more about making learning engaging join me The Fundamentals of Professional Trainers. In this three day program we will explore design, development, and delivery that engages the learner and gets results in the workplace. Details and registration here. 

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