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Cafe Management Series - Trainers and Training Programs

“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”

Confucius



by Renee Espinoza | Cafe Management Series


This Cafe Management Series will be on training.  This subject is near and dear to my heart as this is an area I have gravitated to my whole career and I still do this today for my clients.


This series will be broken down into three parts:

  1. Adult Learner - Internalizing Information

  2. Training Programs

  3. Tests and Exams


This is old news for many of you; for some, it will be a refresher. Hopefully, it will prompt you to pause and re-think some things.  I’ve always taken a commonsense approach to training and have made my share of mistakes through my many years doing this.   Hopefully, what I can share, can be a take-away for someone.


That said, let’s begin with Part 1 of 3 - Adult Learners - Internalizing Information


Adult learning principles are not a new concept.  Most Trainers know how adults learn and can design their instruction accordingly.  I want to dive deeper into this subject and discuss how adult learners internalize information.  There is a ton of brain science research to support different adult learning methods, but I will provide only the information that can help you.  Google can be your friend if you need all the science.


Change and Adapt

What is learning?  Learning is “a process that leads to change and increases the potential for improved performance and future learning.” A simplified version of this definition could be  “change and adapt”: I keep these two words at the forefront of my thoughts when preparing to teach a class or train a staff.  Under normal circumstances, people have a great learning capacity; we do it from birth!  But as physical characteristics vary from individual to individual, so does learning. It’s our job as teachers and trainers to consider our students' unique learning abilities and remember their understanding is changing and adapting to what information we share with them.


So, how do we learn?  With senses and perceptions!  We learn by taking in information using all five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.  Depending on what’s being taught, some senses will play a more significant role than others, but they all do play a role.  The more senses are engaged (in an organized and significant way), the easier learning becomes. 


Think about it this way: Tell. Show. Do. Imagine you are teaching a barista to pull balanced, well-extracted shots on an espresso machine. How are you going to maximize their learning with their sense?

  • Tell.  Explain the process of making a good shot of espresso and why an under-extracted or over-extracted shot doesn’t taste so great.  

  • Show.  You will take the Barista to the espresso machine and pull under-extracted, over-extracted, and perfect shots.  While tasting, you will discuss what is great and what is not.

  • Do.  Now it’s time for the Barista.  You’ll have the Barista step up to the machine, pull shots, and taste them, trying to avoid the under or overextraction.  


Be careful not to overwhelm learners with too many stimuli! Senses can easily become overloaded with new information. Our brains automatically filter out perceptions we deem unnecessary or irrelevant.  We often don’t realize when it is happening!  The goal is not to land in one of those filters by providing too much stimulus. Why do we need to know about our body's automatic filters?  If our learner unconsciously feels that the information we deliver is unimportant, the automatic filters kick in, and the learner does not retain the information.  In short, there is no perception and no learning.


Short-term memory vs. Long-term memory

When first exposed to information, it goes straight to our short-term memory.  Once there, our brains make the judgment call to pass it to our long-term memory or let it disappear.  Sadly, Trainers will have no more than 15 seconds to make an impression with the information so that it gets passed along.  The pressure is on!


What else do we know about short-term memory?  Well, it fills up quickly and empties just as fast.  Research does tell us that the human brain can hold between five and nine blocks of information.  The information size depends on the learner and their prior knowledge of the subject.  For example, let's look at the number 312.  If we want the learner to remember those three numbers, they are separate and will occupy three blocks in our short-term memory.  If we want the learner to remember this as an area code for Chicago, then it’s one block.  Tricky, right?  


As trainers, creating meaningful blocks that condense several pieces of information into one is essential.  We need to get the biggest short-term memory bang for our buck.  For example, look at North, South, East, and West directions.  We can get our learners to commit to memorizing these four individual blocks of information, or we can try to relay this information using only one.  How?  Let’s look at the acronym NEWS.  This is one block of information and lets us help our learners retain the information we need: North, East, West, and South.  I do love a good acronym.  


The main goal is to avoid putting our learners into information overload.  If this happens, you can don a pink tutu and dance, but they will no longer be able to learn or retain information efficiently.


So, how do we make it to the happy place called the long-term memory?  Very carefully since it is usually an unconscious decision; that’s the challenging part.  You have a good chance if your learner finds the material interesting and relevant!


What else does research tell us about long-term memory?  The human brain has the potential to store large amounts of information.  Most find that the issue is not with filling up long-term memory but rather trying to recall the memories themselves.


What does this all mean?

As Trainers, our primary goal is to have our Learners retain information.  They’ve paid us the big bucks, and now we must assemble a program that delivers.  


To recap:  

  • We know that learning is change and adaptation.  This change begins when your learner receives the information from as many senses as possible in a unified and reinforcing style.

  • If you deliver the information in a meaningful, organized, and relevant way, it will pass through our learners' filters and enter the short-term memory.  

  • Information delivered in blocks and organized appropriately to the learner’s ability and experience level is absorbed better into the long-term memory and, most importantly, is easier to retrieve.


Learning is a transformative change in mental structures and a change in behaviors.  The learner’s mind ceases to be the same after receiving instruction.  


I do hope that you found this information helpful.  For part 2, I’ll talk about the training program itself.  


Until then, I wish you all the happiest of days and sipping on a great cup of coffee.

Renee 

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