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The Need to Process: What L&D Pros can Learn from AMC’s The Talking Dead

Learning doesn't end after an activity has been completed. Giving learners an opportunity to reflect and hear others' perspectives is essential.


A little while back, my family tried “cutting the (cable) cord” and we moved exclusively to local channels plus streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

After about a year and a half, we returned to cable and we enjoyed the ability to watch a brand new episode of The Walking Dead on the same night that the rest of America was watching it.

One night, after an episode had ended, we kept the tv on. We found a show called The Talking Dead aired immediately after The Walking Dead. In The Talking Dead, a panel of people (sometimes actors who had just been killed off on the most recent episode of The Walking Dead) would discuss the episode that just aired. It helped me process what had just happened in the show… and in the panel discussions, I found new ways of looking at events that had taken place.

Giving learners a similar opportunity following a training exercise is something facilitators and instructional designers should be building into their lesson plans. Here are five strategies for L&D professionals to help their learners process what’s taken place:

  1. Individual journaling. This is something that can be built into both classroom and elearning experiences. In the classroom, distribute worksheets specifically designed for journaling or build worksheets into the participant manual that is part of the classroom materials. In elearning modules, insert a text box for people to capture their thoughts after an activity. You may also want to have past participants’ thoughts and opinions pop up on the screen after a learner has finished writing down his or her own reflections in order to expose the learners to others’ perspectives.
  2. Discussion in pairs. One of my favorite ways to do this is to have all participants form parallel lines and face one another. Ask one debrief question and allow partners to share. After a minute or two, have one person move to the end of his or her line and now participants should have a new partner to speak with. Ask a different question and repeat the process.
  3. Large group discussion. Large group discussions after an exercise or activity simply help expose everyone in the room to various perspectives. This is an opportunity for people to listen to others’ thoughts, opinions and reactions, all of which could be very different from their own observations and could lead to a new way of viewing the content.
  4. Post-session, small group gatherings. Encouraging learners to take their discussions back to their desks with them can help to reinforce the content long after a session has concluded. Recently I was assigned to work in a small group during a session, and the three of us who made up that small group got so much out of our conversations during the training session that we continue to meet on a monthly basis to work on peer coaching and feedback.
  5. Discussion boards. I’ve seen some conferences and training events move the discussion from their classroom to a blog site or to a LinkedIn group following the conclusion of the live session. Similar to #4 above, moving the group’s conversation to an online forum following an event helps to keep the content in front of the learner long after an event has wrapped up. It’s also an opportunity for people to try new skills in a real life context and share what’s worked and what hasn’t.

What are some strategies you’ve used to help learners process information and keep the learning going?

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