The old saw that 90% of life is just showing up turns out to have some scientific validity.
Researchers in a 2010 study drew up a list of 35 “study behaviors.” They wanted to see how well different behaviors correlated with performance on a final exam.
Not surprisingly, learners who studied harder did better. Specifically, taking practice tests and answering questions in a study guide were two of the top three behaviors correlated with higher grades.
But the third was a bit more surprising: perfect attendance.
It’s an open question whether it was the showing up that led to better grades (e.g., by exposing the student to more of the material), or whether good students are simply less likely to miss class.
Either way, the bottom line is the same. Learners who miss training sessions don’t learn as much.
Here’s how this research applies to trainers in a business environment:
1. It’s actually a big deal to miss a session
It’s easy for people to think, when they are faced with conflicting priorities, that missing one or two sessions is no big deal.
But it is. You might want to share these research findings with learners who are taking training that requires multiple sessions. Yes, people are busy. But when they don’t make attendance a priority, they’re wasting the resources that the organization is investing in their development.
2. If someone misses, you need to find out why
Of course, emergencies happen. But they should be rare and unexpected. Look for patterns that could alert you to a larger problem. For example:
• If lots of people from one department or team are bailing, are they getting a message from the boss that training is a low priority?
• If one person is skipping regularly, is he or she sending you a message that the lessons aren’t relevant?
• If the problem is more widespread, does the training schedule conflict with other scheduled activities?
3. Use peer pressure
Social pressure is probably the best way to incentivize people to attend. Create an expectation that people will attend, and emphasize that their peers won’t get the full benefit of training unless everyone is there.
You might want to devote a few minutes at the beginning of the first training session to have the group create a written set of norms and expectations for the training, including attendance.
Also, don’t be shy about asking people why they missed a class. Sometimes, if people know that they’ll be asked for an explanation, that’s enough for them to make the effort to attend.
4. Avoid using e-training as a ‘make-up’ session
E-training is its own thing and should be used for its own training purposes.
If people think that they can always make up a session online, they’ll be undermining your in-class efforts and the e-learning efforts. It’s too easy an excuse.
Source: Gurung, R.A.R., Weidert, J., & Jeske, A.S. (2010). A closer look at how students study (and if it matters). Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10, 28–33.
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