LearningWare interiews Catherine Mattiske

Catherine Mattiske: Game Show Reviews

An Interview with Catherine Mattiske Managing Director & President of The Performance Company Author of Training for Results: Maximize the Impact of Training Through Review.
LearningWare: Why is review such an important training activity?

Mattiske: Well, I'd like to answer that by asking, "What happens if you don't do reviews?" With the spotlight today on downsizing & given the state of our economy, there's a crisis in training related to measuring retention. If you measure retention after someone leaves the training, it's too late, so review is a vital step. We need to know that our students know. Without review, you're left to hope, to trust that they "get it."

LearningWare: What's the difference between review activities & learning activities?

Mattiske: A review activity looks back into a course to review material already covered. Learning activities happen at the time of learning. Training games can be used for both types. A review activity puts the mind in reverse, so to speak.

LearningWare: Why do you conduct review activities so often?

Mattiske: Because it's a critical ingredient in maximizing learner retention. In a 90 minute session, I might review 6-7 times. It's important to capture or uncover gaps in learning & to address them early. They key is to uncover little gaps, fix them, then repeat the process. Tackling little gaps keeps learners' spirits buoyant. They don't get into a downward spiral. Frequent reviews, if done properly, keep students motivated & confident people learn faster!

LearningWare: Can you give me an example?

Mattiske: It can be as simple as dividing the group into two teams and having each team write 10 questions to try to stump the other team. That's a no prep/no cost review activity that has participants eager to look back through materials and review. Others are high prep/high cost & more elaborate.

LearningWare: But all this review takes additional time. Trainers have little enough time to cover all the material.

Mattiske: This is one of the myths of content review. Adding reviews doesn't take any extra time at all. Review activities are self-accommodating with respect to time. For example, if you are teaching a 1/2 day class with no reviews, I can easily develop 5-6 reviews, insert them into that agenda, and not add any time to the course. On the other hand, what they will add to the students' experience is hightened confidence and energy, all in the same amount of time as before.

LearningWare: Are there any other benefits from conducting review activities?

Mattiske: What I've noticed is that there is also a benefit that has to do with "social proof" involving group dynamics. In an effective review, students see that other people are "getting it," which creates a kind of inertia of pace. Students think, "Hey, I'd better keep up." When you conduct effective reviews, it can actually cause the training to go faster!

LearningWare: OK, but you can't conduct reviews on any kind of training, right? Distance learning, for example, would appear to be an environment in which review activities could be problematic.

Mattiske: First of all, any kind of training can be reviewed. I've done review activities in an class on dust, believe it or not, and nothing's drier than dust! Interactive Distance Learning environments (in which students are in class together but attending from different locations at the same time) is an excellent forum for game board reviews. The instructor can project the game board for all to see, and everyone can play along.

There are some fantastic and easy reviews that fit really well with technical or computer training. Computer training usually requires participants to learn many steps in a process to complete a transaction. An easy review is to write out each step of the process on a card and have the teams work to put the process in order on the floor - or on the wall (to get them away from that monitor and keyboard for a while). You can add another layer of complexity by mixing up steps for 2-3 processes and having them work out putting each together. Again, low prep and low cost yet highly interactive - plus you see if the participants are getting it.

LearningWare: In your 'Training for Results' book you describe a myriad of different types of review activities. How do you decide which one to use?
Mattiske: Here are the steps to follow:

First of all, everything depends on the content. The review activity must maximize the learning objective, so we must know what content is non-negotiable. We need to separate that content from the should-know and the nice-to-know content.

Then we need to select a review style, which is dependent on what's come before and what will come after. Some of the factors to consider are:
  • Do we want people to work alone, in pairs, in small groups, or as an entire class?
  • What time of day are we conducting the review?
  • What is the students' level of energy at this point in the training?
  • What constraints (time, prep, money) do I have to deal with?
  • Then we build the review activity itself. For example, if it's a game show, we assemble the questions. Then we do two things that are critical but that many people leave out: We create instructions on how to do the review activity. We don't assume that people will figure it out on their own. We create a de-brief process, a line of open-ended questions that review the review. Lots of learning happens in this step, even though it appears to be a deceptively simple process.

LearningWare: How do you use games as review activities?

Mattiske: Games can be a fantastic start of day activity because you can play the game to review the previous day's content as well as use it as a springboard for upcoming content. We use game board activities in many ways since they work in all sorts of group sizes. We use hand-created activities as well as process maps (like jigsaw puzzles). We use race games, such as the Race for Cash that I describe in my book, and we use strategy and storyboard games to present groups with more challenging, complex questions.

LearningWare: How do you measure learning?

Mattiske: There are two ways to do that. Informal measurement is accomplished with review activities, while formal measurement involves compliance testing. I'm not a fan of compliance testing, but we have to live with it. I consider it my job to make sure that those students who are subjected to it are insured of gliding through any formal test. So I focus on very engaging informal review activities and take my groups far past what any compliance test will cover.

LearningWare: Is there any other point you would like to make regarding review activities and learning?

Mattiske: Yes. Review activities represent a golden opportunity, an open book for trainers to put into courses everything they know about learning theory. For example, if you are a fan of Multiple Intelligences, you know that it's difficult with some content to tap into musically intelligent students, but review activities can bring them in and engage them. Review activities give trainers the license to use anyone's adult learning theory, and in so doing, make it possible to offer something meaningful to every potential learning style.