Guest post by Shawn Thomas
With the vast number and variety of employee training options available, many business leaders wonder how they can best choose corporate training programs that will deliver the results their company needs and wants. For those leaders who find themselves asking this question, consider an important but frequently overlooked factor that can make all the difference in whether the learning sticks or is soon forgotten. As you evaluate prospective trainers’ content and experience, you should also consider whether they help learners employ metacognitive strategies to enhance learning and retention.
How Metacognitive Strategies Enhance Training
The ultimate goal of customized corporate training programs is to change participants’ behavior ways that support the achievement of business goals, in the short and long term. The problem is that sustained behavior change is hard. Let’s look at an example that is familiar for many professionals.
Over time, you have probably assembled some collection of strategies for effectively and efficiently managing your work. Some of these might work well for you, while others fall short and limit your performance. One limiting strategy that many people employ is using their email inbox as an information archive. You might have thousands of email messages that probably should be deleted, but are cluttering your inbox as a source of information. And, because your inbox is not designed to be an information archive, you often find yourself taking way too much time to search, or scroll, through those messages in an attempt to find the information you need in a given moment.
You might be completely aware of the fact that its always better to immediately archive that information in something like project documentation, a contact manager, or a task list. But despite that awareness and the many attempts you’ve made to try to change your behavior, you continue to frequently fail to transfer that information from email messages to the appropriate tool.
It’s difficult to make meaningful changes. Even when you know you need to. Even when someone has shown you a much better way.
So how do you succeed at replacing deeply rooted thoughts and actions with new and better ones? This is where corporate training programs that incorporate metacognitive strategies come in. Expert trainers who use these strategies help learners change habits by first getting them to evaluate their current situation and its foundation, then promoting the necessary changes, describing how those changes can be made, and providing guidance needed to make and implement a plan.
How to Incorporate Metacognition into Training Programs
Metacognition is broadly defined as “thinking about thinking.” It is about understanding how we think and why we think that way. It’s a necessary part of any learning process, because in order to get from point A to point B, you have to know exactly where point A is, just how far it is from point B, and why you should put effort into bridging the gap.
To ensure that learners get from point A to point B to realize the results they are looking for, great trainers utilize the power of metacognitive strategies. They will help learners evaluate their current state, then they will promote the development of new knowledge and behaviors, describe how the necessary changes can be made, and provide guidance needed to make and implement a plan. One way they might accomplish this is by prompting participants to, formally or informally, answer questions like these before, during and after the training:
- What do I expect to learn from this program and how can it benefit me and my work?
- What do I currently know that is relevant and might help me further my understanding?
- How is what I’m learning similar to or different from what I’ve thought or done in the past?
- Do I agree or disagree with what I am learning? If I disagree, how might I come to an agreement?
- Did I get what I expected from the program?
- Is there anything I don’t fully understand and should explore further?
When participants take time to think through things like their current state, the attitudes and experiences that led to that state, and how it differs from what is being promoted, will greatly enhance the likelihood that they ultimately make necessary changes. It will help them understand and manage the way they absorb, incorporate and utilize new knowledge.
Metacognitive strategies work because they give us a way to ensure that we are in control of the cognitive processes that allow us to learn new things and change our habits. Studies show that those who employ metacognitive strategies learn more effectively, are better problem solvers and are better at making decisions.
Corporate training programs are a big investment. Employing metacognitive strategies is just one of many ways that Maura focuses on facilitating long term behavior change —and as a result, high ROI—in her Empowered Productivity training courses. For other ways to make any kind of training successful, email her at maura(at)regainyourtime(dot)com for a complementary e-book on training success.
Shawn Thomas is a speaker, social science researcher and data analyst, and a fine art photographer who uses photography as an external representation of self-reflection and personal growth, and as a tool to help others discover their own path to self-mastery.