Pre- Course PrimingRecently I received a book in the post from an old and learned friend. It came with a note which said “read this prior to our next meeting and we will discuss”!  I studied the front and the back cover and felt confused – how did book relate to me?  Have I read the book – No, I have found no reason to!

Reasons for Learning  

Think about how we embrace opportunities to learn and develop, it’s a little like choosing a self-help book.

First we need a reason for reading, perhaps we are looking for some very specific information, or perhaps we already know about the topic and simply wish like to confirm or update that knowledge. Maybe the cover, the title or the synopsis aroused curiosity and we feel the need to satisfy that curiosity.

Secondly, we need to be provided with a context we rarely set out to buy or read a book without knowing anything about the topic; we generally have some expectations about what we are going to read.

The same behaviours can be applied to accelerate learning & retention before attending a training or learning and development event.    

Before we attend an training event that claims to develop our skills, and knowledge we need to know what to expect from it.

Accelerate Learning & Retention With Pre- Course Priming

Advanced Organisation of Learning Concepts

The term “advanced organiser” was coined by Ausubel to describe the process of providing learners with a framework of ideas prior to the actual presentation of the material.  This approach is based on the premise that the most important factor influencing the learning of any new idea is the state of the individuals existing cognitive structure or their ability to organise, store and then find relationships between information, linking new to old knowledge, schema and scripts.

Advanced organisers are different from overviews, outlines or summaries in that the intention is to provide learners with a framework for facilitating learning and retention of the new material by making available old or familiar ideas against which new concepts can be anchored or put simply:

A device or a learning aid to help us ‘get a grip’ on the new information.

How can we use Advanced Organisers to Accelerate Learning & Development

Advanced organisers can be used to make new material more plausible or comprehensible by relating it to existing knowledge, and the method is equally effective when the material is not completely new, for example learners have explored one theory of motivation and will now encounter another theory of motivation. In this case the comparative advanced organiser would make explicit the similarities and differences between the two theories.

Methods – Advanced Organisers in Action

Let’s explore how we might use the concept to accelerate learning and retention during our training events:

A Reading Activity

We plan to deliver a session on motivation, included in our pre reading is the following question:

People are inherently lazy! Which of the motivational theories could best answer this question?

The fact that we start with a question is interesting in itself. It provides one reason for reading to find an answer to the question; it may be that some of our learners know the answer already and are able to confirm existing knowledge from their reading.

Quizzes and Questionnaires

Provide learners with 8-10 questions on the topic of motivation. Questions types can include:

  1. True or False
  2. Inquiry based questions that pose problems for the learner to solve
  3. Devils advocate approach in which statements are posed that go against a learner’s past experiences

Questions should encourage learners to engage, challenge or confirm existing knowledge and they will have a clear idea of the new learning that is available to address the gaps.


accelerate learning - predictionsWe can ask learners to predict the content of the next session: In our next lesson you are going to explore motivation. Read section on Wikipedia:

Write down five questions about motivation which you think will be answered during the session. How many of the questions can you already answer? Then you can ask them to read out their questions at the beginning of the next lesson, and lead a class discussion speculating on the answers

Ordered Jigsaw

Ordered jigsaws are effective when there are specific steps to follow in a process. The example below describes steps to be taken following a motor vehicle accident:

Provide learners with phrases relating to actions they should take in the event of a motor vehicle accident on plain jigsaw pieces or randomly presented on flip chart, working in groups ask them to organise and connect the pieces and marking the pieces with the steps in the process. Jigsaw pieces can be sent out prior to the event clearly indicating a step in the process; this provides learners with an opportunity to connect the pieces as an icebreaker.

Example of the text:

Exchange InformationTalk to WitnessesCall the Police Inform Insurance CompanyStay at the SceneGet medical attention Note the Police Report Number

Remember: learning and development occurs when we pull learning from learners  – force feeding learners will simply choke them!

Spectrain’s Managing Training and Development Courses are packed with techniques to accelerate learning and retention of learning

Reference: School Learning: An Introduction to Educational Psychology by David P. Ausubel, Floyd G. Robinson

MindMap Image: Paul Forman: