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One Awesome Tool That Lets You See What Your Participants Remember

You've taught your course all day and now you're almost at the end. The only thing left to do is to test your students on what they have know, discover what new neuronal connections have formed in their brains. You've got the standard test that your company requires all trainers to give. Or maybe you've created your own version of a test.

But then you hear that little voice in your head getting unusually loud...the one that says, "NO! Not a test...why!!!???"

WHY indeed. Why do you give your participants a paper test, perhaps followed by a question-by-question review? You know other trainers who simply ask their students to list (out loud) their top two or three takeaways.

Hearing "takeaways" really doesn't help you as a trainer. And tests results usually reflect some degree of guessing.

How about a better way of "testing" for knowledge, but without actually giving a test? In a way that allows for one final opportunity for your participants to collaborate with one another? And in a way that is fun?

The Mind Map

This fun, collaborative, and awesome tool is the Mind Map, and I learned about from one of my favorite facilitators ever: Becky Pike Pluth of The Bob Pike Group.

When I first experienced the Mind Map in Becky's Train-the-Trainer workshop, I remember being blown away by how much I was writing down on the various Post-it sheets around the room. It was almost a weird, out-of-body experience where my hand decided to take over and do its thing, summarizing everything I had learned (and more importantly - remembered) over the past two days of the workshop.

Granted, what I was able to remember was a direct result of Becky's facilitation. But seeing in writing the volume of what I remembered at the end of the two-day workshop was an unforgettable experience.

After that workshop, I knew that the Mind Map would become a standard tool in my facilitator repertoire. And as with other ideas that I "borrow" from others, I was going to make it my own.

"I'm a Mac. And I'm a PC."

Upon returning back to the office, I immediately integrated the Mind Map into my one-day Facilitation Basics Train-the-Trainer workshop.

It became the activity that ended my Train-the-Trainer workshop. Over time, I began experimenting with more extreme variations. For example, when the "I'm a Mac. And I'm a PC" commercials were running on TV, I figured out a way to incorporate that dynamic into my Mind Map activity.

I broke the participants up into teams of two, with one participant taking on the role of Presenter (the "PC") and the other as Facilitator (the "Mac"). They worked together to come up with comparative talking points that would serve as the key takeaways they felt were most important. Then, at the front of the room, each team would take turns delivering point-counterpoint, which would look something like this:

  • "Hi. I'm a presenter, and I love showing you lots and lots of slides filled with bullet points."

  • "Hi. I'm a facilitator, and I'd much rather hear what you have to say."

  • "I'm a presenter, and I know that I'm the expert in the room."

  • "I'm a facilitator, and I want to learn as much from you as you learn from me."

Each team would take turns delivering their Presenter vs. Facilitator recap of the key takeaways from the workshop. As the facilitator, I was able to hear the key takeaways from each team and correct or reinforce as needed. For the rest of the participants, they got to hear a recap of key takeaways from their fellow participants, instead of listening to me do a recap. Brilliant! :)

Taking The Mind Map to the Streets

In my current iteration of the Mind Map, I've taken it to "the streets" - well, as much as a suburban-raised guy from Middle Georgia can know about "the streets."

I break up my participants into groups of 3-4, then ask each group to create their Mind Maps on their designated 2'x3' Post-it sheet, which are stuck to the walls at various points around the room. The catch with this version of the activity, however, is that groups must create their Mind Map in the style of graffiti art, with their Post-it sheet serving as their wall.

So, why graffiti? Why not? I wanted to mix up the activity and see what happened. As with any version of the Mind Map, the participants in each group have to rely on each other, as they are not allowed to use their notes.

Which means they have to discuss and help each other remember as many of the key takeaways as possible. THEN, they have to discuss how to translate that into a graffiti-style visual.

And what's happening in their brains as they engage in this activity? That's right - they're learning, relearning, recalling and teaching each other. A test will not let you do that.

I'll admit, I am pretty loose on the graffiti requirement as some groups just can't draw. But they discuss, they make the effort and they always capture their takeaways on the sheet, which is the entire purpose of the activity. And if they have to work harder to visualize a takeaway, all the better for making that takeaway stick with them.

The groups usually finish the activity in about 20-30 minutes. At that point, I move all of the groups to one sheet and have that group present their "wall." I ask questions, correct and review as needed. Then everyone moves to the next, and we continue until all groups have presented and discussed their graffiti takeaways.

For each group that completes this activity, there are that many opportunities to hear their different perspectives on the key takeaways.

Let me be honest: As the facilitator, this exercise will you make very happy or very sad, depending on the number of takeaways each group captures, and the level of detail in their presentation.

But it is a powerful opportunity for you, as the facilitator, to really see and hear what your participants are leaving your course with. Which gives you create feedback on what aspects of your course are understood and which may need some work. All things a test cannot tell you.

How will you use the Mind Map in your next training?

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