Seven principles to reinforce learner engagement

Behavioural science has inspired new ideas to increase the stickiness of your content and promote learner engagement. It doesn’t matter if you are a chief learning officer, trainer, or instructional designer, creating engaging content can be a moving target.

Applying principles of reinforcement can be a way to improve engagement rates as long as you go beyond retraining and sending reminder messages. A successful reinforcement program applies a behavioural methodology that motivates learners, increases retention rates, and ultimately creates lasting change.

learner engagement

Seven Principles of Reinforcement

These principles use proven, science-based theories to keep learners engaged and encourage them to apply the new skills that they have learned.

1. Close the five reinforcement gaps

There are five key reinforcement gaps that hinder learners’ ability to learn and apply new concepts: knowledge, skills, motivation, environment, and communication. Successful programmes must teach the knowledge needed to succeed and skills necessary to put what they’ve learned into action. This must also be taught in the right environment for participants to learn and communicate new information in an understandable way.

2. Master the three key behavioural phases

To change their behaviour, learners must go through three phases: Gain awareness that a change is necessary; acquire the knowledge and skills to change the behaviour; and apply the new behaviour change to create a positive impact.

3. Create push and pull to encourage learner engagement

Push factors cause learners to take action so they can avoid potential pain. This could stem from minor actions, such as an email reminding them that they must complete a mandatory module as a condition of their employment. In contrast, pull factors reward learners with a sense of achievement, which motivates them to take more of such action.

4. Encourage social friction and provide direction

Show learners how to apply the concepts they are learning in their daily work. Integrating real-world scenarios leverages social friction, which will reinforce the learnings from the program.

5. Find a balance between challenge and satisfaction

Creating a balanced reinforcement flow helps learners stay engaged. Challenge your participants with relevant short-term goals. Build in feedback points to encourage learners by highlighting their progress. Remember the importance of breaks, which allow learners to recharge and refocus.

6. Set measurable behaviour change targets

Before implementing a new program, consider your reinforcement objectives. What behaviours should successful learners demonstrate? Use your unique goals to develop learning analytics to track and quantify your results. Engagement analytics can help organisations develop a comprehensive view of their training programmes by measuring learners’ reactions, knowledge, behaviour and outcomes.

7. Place learners at the centre of your programmes

To maximise learner engagement with the learning platform, each module should deliver value to learners. User-focused programmes consider the different needs, preferences, and learning styles of participants at every stage in the process.

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