Tag Archives: learning styles

Six Trends in Experiential Learning

The National Conference Center – one of the nation’s largest conference centers and the largest on the East Coast – with its partner The Browne Center, has observed Six Trends in Experiential Learning for 2017.

Experiential learning presents a highly unique growth opportunity for participants, and a tool that planners can use to achieve a specific outcome.  Differentiated from the more traditional teambuilding, experiential learning uses a blended approach to learning, integrating activities, exercises, adventure elements, quiet time and ongoing post-event coaching to create powerful programs of leadership development, strategic planning, mentoring and coaching, communication, feedback & observation and enhancement of behavior styles.

Six Trends Observed in Experiential Learning:

  1. Barrier Free Learning … Take away the white classroom tables. Barrier free learning is hands-on training in a lab-like setting verses the traditional meeting room or classroom. For example, The National has created an entire workroom and lab for simulation or scenario training for a top major client to deliver new skills, taking away the barrier of the ‘white table’ with attendees learning in a lab or open space area.
  1. Learning By Choice … Mixing classroom training with outdoor activities. The Challenge Course at The National has high and low rope elements, and increasingly facilitators are using a Challenge-By-Choice approach. Learning Programs are designed to meet the variety of goals unique to each client, whether conferees make use of the elements of the high or low course, or none at all. There is a role for everyone in the training, even if individuals choose not to physically participate.
  2. Learning By Shared Experiences … Creating ‘shared experiences’, such as a building project, where everyone is involved collectively – from C-level executives to assistant managers – taking each participant out of their comfort zone and into a creative problem-solving task to construct the future.
  3. Learning By Silence … Groups are increasingly exploring the power of silence in a high-speed, technically dependent world. Facilitators are allowing more time for conferees’ solo quests, reflection, meditation time, and movements like yoga that can provide powerful reconnection with the natural world, and the true inner self, opening new channels of connection and learning.
  1. Learning By Doing… Learners participate in carefully chosen experiences that are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis. It engages the learners to be in direct experience, to be doing something that connects to an area they hope to improve or develop. The learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
  1. Learning Through Application … Historically, debriefing was a structured process facilitated by a skilled professional throughout the process and at the conclusion of a program. This still occurs, but today a post-program debriefing application assists participants over time with how learning translates back at the office. There are a number of strategies that can be arranged to help facilitate this continued learning process. These include, self-directed debrief meetings, professional coaching sessions by phone or in person, or follow up, mini sessions at the one, two or three month intervals. These sessions can be highly productive and fun, assisting the participants in real time learning application issues. They can be on the participants’ work site or scheduled as an offsite.

The National Conference Center installed a state-of-the-art challenge course last year to provide additional training and learning opportunities for their clients. The National Challenge Course consists of five low elements plus many portable options, which are weight bearing problem solving activities that can accommodate 15 or more people at any one time. Also six high elements can be done with two or more solo, or with many other climbers simultaneously. All high elements are dynamic relays where participants hold the rope for one another.

For more information on the Six Trends in Experiential Learning for 2017, contact Denise Benoit at 703-919-1589.  For information on meetings at The National Conference Center, call Sales at 800-640-2684.

About The National Conference Center

Located in Northern Virginia 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 35 miles from Washington, D.C., The National Conference Center is one of the largest and most comprehensive conference centers in the nation. With 917 guest rooms and over 265,000 square feet of meeting and group function space, including the West Belmont Place catering complex with its 16,552 square foot ballroom, The National has become the nation’s headquarters for productive meetings and West Belmont Place the hub for Loudoun County and surrounding area social functions.

West Belmont Place was named 2013 Best Venue by the International Special Events Society. The National Conference Center is also on the GSA schedule. The National is owned by NCC PS Enterprises LLC, a venture between PCCP, LLC and Stoneleigh Capital, LLC., which retained LaKota Hotels & Resorts to oversee all aspects of the day-to-day operations. For information call 800-640-2684 or visit www.conferencecenter.com and www.westbelmontplace.com.

Barnyard to Boardroom

Open the barn door for an effective and different kind of meeting

By Deanna Zagin

Meeting professionals are continually challenged to deliver unique and meaningful experiences that benefit attendees’ lives both professionally and personally while also enhancing their workplace performance.

To solve this challenge, planners can incorporate a leadership and team building element into the meeting itinerary.  And here’s the inside scoop to turn this challenge into an opportunity to provide an innovative, fun and effective experience for the attendees:  HORSES.

What can horses, yes…real horses, teach humans about effective leadership and better team dynamics?

There is something profound and magical about a horse.  After all, horses have survived and adapted on this earth for more than 50 million years. They share in leadership, work in partnership, are emotionally flexible and live in a non-judgmental, caring and supporting environment.  In short, horses can serve as ideal role models for individual growth and superb team functionality.

Called Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), a small group of participants partner with horses in a series of well-planned activities to gain and practice real-world skills to cultivate and enhance their leadership, communication and interpersonal skills and create collaborative team environments. Because individuals and groups often behave the same way whether in the barnyard, the boardroom, or in the office, the EAL experience becomes a metaphor for organizational behavior. Even better, there is no riding involved or horse experience required, so everyone can enjoy participating and learning from the horses.

Horses are extraordinary animals to be around and interact with because, like humans, they are social animals with their own characteristics and moods. soccer horse

Horses are prey animals. A prey animal is hunted by another for food. Survival is programmed in their DNA. They are constantly aware of everything that is going on around them, continually evaluating and interpreting their environment. They can very accurately sense a person’s level of trust, confidence, awareness and authenticity.  As a result, they are experts at mirroring back human emotions and behaviors. They do so unconditionally, without judgment or biases. Horses don’t care about a person’s status or title, race or creed. The horses’ immediate and honest feedback enhances one’s ability to lead with authenticity, consistency, focus, intention and direction – honing one’s emotional and sensitivity skills.

Why are horses so helpful? They are herd animals who seek safety in numbers by banding together for their survival. Their herd mentality is based on the need for cooperation, teamwork, trust and loyalty. The herd consists of well-structured groups of horses of distinct leaders and followers with each of the members having their own role. The herd must work together for its well-being and survival. By partnering with horses and learning from their herd dynamics, teams establish a relationship based on mutual trust and respect, and are reminded that everyone matters.  This reminds all of the need to communicate clearly a shared vision and purpose, resulting in better team dynamics – honing their social intelligence skills.

The EAL experience provides attendees with a unique, fun and educational opportunity as well as memories that can last a life time.  Participants arrive curious, interact with the horses, have a blast and walk away with life skills that support and strengthen their own herd – whether in or outside the boardroom.

Meeting professionals, meanwhile, find a great solution to their challenge to provide a unique and meaningful experience.

Just 18 miles south of Washington, DC on beautiful pastures in Northern Virginia, Unbridled Learning Solutions, LLC offers Equine Assisted Leadership and Team Development programs where groups and/or individuals partner with horses.  These highly interactive sessions with the horses provide a rewarding and powerful transforming experience.

Open the barn door and learn more at www.unbridledlearningsolutions.com.

Deanna Zagin has over 30 years of corporate experience and is a certified Equine Assisted Training Specialist.  An accomplished executive with experience in the Fortune 500 and leading association markets, she understands and faced the challenges of organizations and their leaders.  Reach her at deanna@unbridledlearningsolutions.com.

New “Wow” Learning Formats for Your Next Meeting

By Al Rickard, CAE

When is the last time you introduced new learning styles at your major meetings?

Megan Denhardt, CAE, Senior Learning Consultant at ASAE and President of The Denhardt Group, believes the meetings industry is undergoing a paradigm shift in how it defines, plans and executes learning programs.

She talked about this in a session at the ASAE Springtime Expo called “Alternative Learning Formats That Wake and Wow Meeting Attendees.”

“People learn in different ways,” Denhardt declared, “and no one has a better learning style than anyone else. Some experts say there are as many as seven different learning styles; but it’s easier to narrow it down to three types of learning.”

She cited the example of one of life’s earliest lessons to illustrate learning styles, called “The Stove Can Burn You.”

  • Listening learners heard their mother, believed the information, and never touched a stove.
  • Seeing learners watched their brother touch the stove, and never touched it.
  • Experience learners touched the stove, but only once!

These styles suggest the types of programs you may consider for your meetings, and Denhardt offered these examples of alternative learning formats:

Point-Counterpoint Session – A technique used to present two different sides of an issue. It takes the form of a structured argument, with two people presenting their viewpoint in opposition to the other, hoping to persuade the audience to adopt one of them.

Design Thinking – In this format, a problem is presented to the audience, which breaks into small groups and answers specific questions designed to solve or address the challenge or problem.

Informal Chat – Leverage the meeting venue for unique settings that support learning and stimulate conversation. Consider chats by the fire, in cabanas at the pool, during spin classes, in early-morning exercise sessions, or in late-night dessert and coffee get-togethers.

Discussion Den – To fill in short windows of time such as during a break, set up a 20-minute themed conversation with a facilitator on a specific topic. It can be done in a meeting lounge set up near a high traffic area to attract people or in a separate room.

Snap Learning Spot – This can be a 30-minute session with just 1-2 speakers and a small group of under 30 people. Speakers can guide discussions centered on a particular theme such as personal development, ideas that worked, lessons from failure, etc.

Ignite Session – The “Ignite” name is trademarked so any session using this moniker needs to match the established format, which includes a series of speakers presenting for five minutes using 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. Topics can run the gamut but are usually connected to the life experience of the presenter.

Speed Solo – Designed to deliver content in a high-energy format with audience engagement, this session features a moderator plus four speakers who each give an 8-minute talk followed by a 4-minute discussion at tables. The moderator ties the pieces together and facilitates audience questions.

Micro-Coaching – One-on-one or very small group targeted learning or troubleshooting sessions that are ideal for people who want private help in a comfortable and safe setting. For example, these sessions could be used to assess marketing materials, get social media coaching, personal technology coaching, or career coaching.

Conversation Café – An informal bar-table setting for intimate peer-to-peer open learning involving 2-3 people at each table. Set up an area with several tables and a topic card on each one to start conversations. Include a few blank signs so people can choose their own topics.

Content-Sharing Marketplace – Set up similar to a poster session often used in exhibit halls, this is like a “reverse expo” where members showcase their work, learnings, successes, and award-winning campaigns. They can be set up during a reception or other casual gathering.

Reflection Zone/Un-Engagement Lounge – Sometimes attendees become over-programmed and need time to process content they have absorbed from your meeting. This lounge features comfortable furniture, softer lighting, and perhaps background classical music to help people relax and have a mini-retreat in the midst of a busy conference.

“Not all of these work for every audience or attendee,” Denhardt explained. “That said, a good balance and mix is important to support different types of learners and to help people create a customized experience for themselves. By providing a mix of offerings you help serve your audience and meet them where they are.”

Al Rickard, CAE is President of Association Vision, a communications company based in the Washington, DC area, and Director of Communications for ConventionPlanit.com.