Thoughts from the Dentist’s Chair: Interactive versus Lecture-based Training

As I sat in the dentist chair, turning up the volume on my ipod to mask the drills and trying to focus my attention on the lyrics of carefully-selected sunny-day songs, I found my head filled with questions about dental training. When did this surgeon extract his first wisdom tooth? And how did he learn to do so? Did he learn by doing? (“Oh, so that’s how a jaw breaks, better not do that again”).

A couple of weeks ago, Gillian and I attended a three-day workshop: Performance Beyond Borders – Interactive Training Strategies. An interesting discussion arose around the pros and cons of interactive versus more traditional, lecture-based approaches to training, including:

  • Improved ability to recall information is not always correlated with improved ability to apply and transfer learning;
  • Interactive approaches usually result in a better ability to apply and transfer learning than traditional, lecture-based approaches. However;
  • Improved ability to apply and transfer learning is not always correlated with increased confidence;
  • Confidence in learning approaches depends largely on a learner’s self image, as well as their experience and perceptions about learning (most people think that you need to listen to a lecture from an expert, or read a book with the definitive theory, in order to learn something – that builds confidence, but it still might mean that you are not able to apply the knowledge as effectively);
  • A well-balanced, blended approach (both lecture and interactive) is best.

How had my dentist developed the knowledge, skills, ability and confidence to pull my wisdom teeth? From where did he pull his wisdom and how? Unfortunately when I left the surgery my mouth was all mush and I was unable to ask. On second thought, if he did learn by doing, I might be better off not-knowing.

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