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Mixing It Up: 15 Activities to Prevent Stale Training

Learning activities that I thought were engaging and interesting five years ago can become stale if I use them too often. Here's a list of training activities to help stave off stale instructional design.

About a week and a half ago I began going to a fitness bootcamp at a neighborhood gym. I figured it was time to start mixing up my routine from solely distance running. I was getting bored with my exercise routine, which was incredibly de-motivating.

As I was in the middle of a set of burpees, it dawned on me just how important it really is to mix things up in a professional development and training setting, too.


I’ve found that even though I pride myself on designing engaging, interactive, creative training programs, I will often go to the same activities time and time again. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here is a list of 15 activities that can help stave off routine, boring, stale training programs:

Want to get people to brainstorm ideas?

Mix some of the following into your session:

  1. The Messy Start
  2. Jot down thoughts on sticky notes and post them on a board at the front of the room
  3. Use PollEverywhere (especially helpful for a larger group)
  4. Turn to a partner and generate as many ideas as possible in a minute
  5. Challenge small groups to come up with as many metaphors as possible for the issue or situation you’re brainstorming about

Want to get people to discuss a concept?

  1. Turn to a partner or talk with people at the same table about the concept
  2. Play a game of “How I See It
  3. Ask everyone to form two parallel lines and face a partner. Discuss one question for several minutes, then ask everyone in one line to move one spot (one person will need to move from the end of the line to the front of the line) in order to get a new partner. Ask a new question.
  4. Have everyone at one table write down a question about the concept, stick it in an envelope and pass it to another table. Have everyone open the envelope they received from another table and come up with an answer to the question.
  5. Role play the concept in action and have targeted de-briefing questions for the group.

Want to get people to explore new information, a policy or data?

  1. Send it out in advance and request people come with a question, comment or brilliant observation.
  2. Use Kahoot! to see what people know, think they know or remember (especially if you’ve sent information in advance). Pause between each question in order to share relevant points or engage in discussion.
  3. Challenge people to identify how this information, policy or data will impact their specific role (see brainstorming activities if you want to really get them going on this).
  4. Ask people to imagine a world in which the new information or policy didn’t exist and compare/contrast that world to the world in which it does exist.
  5. Create a flipchart with a heading for each piece of new information, policy or data point on it. Ask people to take a marker and write individual thoughts or reflections for each piece of new information, policy or data point.

What did I miss? Have any ideas you’d like to add to ways to keep people engaged in brainstorming, discussion or exploration on concepts and data? Add it to the Comment section.

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