October begins the countdown to the 2016 Lamaze International Annual Conference and I am going to highlight the rest of our plenary/keynote speakers from the conference program. These plenary sessions are sure to be the highlight of the conference as we gather to hear the wisdom and knowledge on topics relevant to all birth professionals. Today, we meet Beverly Woolery, MS, who will be speaking about effective teaching techniques and how educators can apply these principles to our childbirth classes. Read all the plenary speaker interviews here.
Sharon Muza: What should childbirth educators know about teaching to the Millennial Generation?
Beverly Woolery: Surveys have shown that Millennials want more variety in learning and a more informal learning environment. They like movement and want to keep the time spent learning short and to the point. They also like to have learning connect to real life situations. They prefer to work in groups rather than approaching tasks independently. They are inundated with technology, multimedia tools, and gaming. They multitask fluidly, so sitting and listening to a simple lecture may not provide the best environment for retention.
SM: If the research supports more student-centered, active-learning approaches, why do many educators and trainers still rely on the traditional approach of PowerPoint lecture for instructional delivery?
BW: Often educators use this method because it is tradition, and traditions are hard to change. Lecture-based format continues to be the most prevalent model of teaching, but it often produces low levels of retention.
SM: What strategies can an educator can use to introduce active learning principles in the classroom and have confidence that these principles will bear fruit in terms of learning and retention?
BW: With all change, it is best to take one step at a time. In attempting a new learning strategy to increase engagement, the educator should select one activity and use the positive results to build confidence and increase buy-in from others. Success breeds success.
SM: Does it cost more and take more time to produce engaging student-centered activities rather than traditional presentations?
BW: It can take more time, particularly in the beginning as the individual is experimenting with new strategies. After the trainer has established a rhythm and the resources for engaging activities, it is easier and less time consuming to design lessons and presentations that utilize these tools. It is important to remember that whoever does the talking also does the learning, so the “audience” should do some of the work through participation. In terms of expense, simple devices such as a deck of cards, poker chips, squish balls, beach balls, dice, and clappers can all be obtained at a dollar store and are generally long-lived, reusable tools.
SM: Can interactive learning occur in large groups of several hundred, such as at a conference?
BW: Interactive learning can occur in groups of any size, a trainer or educator must simply plan delivery differently for large-sized audiences. It is important to arrive early to place handouts on tables, get technology set up, and make sure learning tools are properly placed. Additionally, movement activities adapted to small spaces can be incorporated, such as “pop-ups” or “stand-up-sit-downs.” As long as there is movement of any kind, oxygen and glucose get to the brain to keep learners alert. With a presentation that is 100% lecture, individuals only retain about 22% of the information; conversely, if lecture is decreased to 80% and there are brain breaks of movement and discussion, individuals retain 70-80% of the information. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
SM: How did you become involved in this area of research and work?
BW: As a former classroom teacher and college professor of Education courses, I learned the importance of engagement for student retention by attending professional development opportunities, traveling to national conferences, and observing my own students as they learned. I have read many books on how the brain learns from such authors as Sharon Bowman, Eric Jensen, John Medina, Spencer Kagan, and David Sousa. I collaborated with Sharon Bowman, professional speaker, author, and trainer, in writing the “Six Drumpfs Workshop Script” that appears in her newest book: Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick. In recent years I have fostered a professional emphasis on connecting brain research and learning. It is essential to understand how individuals learn if one plans to teach.
SM: What does research say on adding humor in presentations?
BW: Research indicates that humor is an effective tool in engagement and retention. Humor reduces stress, sets the tone of a presentation and keeps the audience’s attention. Author David Sousa, Ed.D., an international consultant in educational neuroscience, states that brain cells require oxygen and glucose to provide energy; when individuals laugh, it increases blood supply to the brain so it is better fueled. Even if a person is not a natural comedian, he or she can keep a lookout for comics, jokes, video clips, and entertaining stories that might be relevant to particular training topics and incorporated within presentations.
I hope that you will join me in West Palm Beach, FL, October 20-23 to hear Beverly Woolery present at the upcoming Lamaze International Conference. Please reach out and connect with me while we are there. -SM