Training from the Back of the Room Experience
On October 17-18, 2019, I took the Training from the Back of the Room (TBR) workshop offered by Tricia Broderick of Agile For All. TBR was created by Sharon Bowman, and it’s a popular approach to delivering interactive classes by using exercises that involve the learners. Sharon’s book, Training from the Back of the Room: 65 Ways to Step Aside and Let Them Learn, is included in the workshop. As a college professor and corporate trainer for nearly 30 years, I’m ashamed to admit that I have never taken a training of this importance, one that completely changes how I deliver my classes. I’ve known for years that engaging the classroom is important, and I’ve tried a few exercises here and there, but the activities taught by Tricia take it to a new level.
Why the TBR Training
My mentor, Steve Spearman of Agile For All, recommended that I take the TBR training. He mentioned that it could improve the quality of training that I provide my students. With Steve’s recommendation, I conducted a quick web search and found Tricia’s class. She offers this TBR training just once per year to the open market and limits the class size to 12 participants. I was fortunate that I found the class when space was still available, and quickly signed-up for the 2-day session.
For many years, I’ve heard the value of flipping the classroom, which means that students take a more active role in the learning process. In fact, given that I teach adult students, I have a good understanding of Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogy Theory, which states that adult learners prefer a self-directed approach where they can an integral role in the learning process.
The Value of TBR
Here are some of the top takeaways from the TBR training:
- Apply six learning principles based on current brain research, regardless of the complexity of the topic, size, and level of learners.
- Increase learners’ attention, retention and engagement with learning activities that engage the whole brain.
- Use the “4Cs Map” as a training design and delivery model. The 4Cs include Connections, Concepts, Concrete Practice, and Conclusion.
From the get-go, Tricia demonstrated exercises that improve the engagement process. For example, instead of starting with an orientation about the class and where one can find the bathrooms, it’s best to have the students engaged in an interactive introduction activity. Also, Tricia used the classroom expertly, such as by leaving space in the back of the room where we could conduct exercises.
Humans are Mobile – Naturally
During the class, Tricia quoted the book Brain Rules by John Medina. I downloaded the audiobook on Audible and listened to it. Medina states that human beings evolved faster largely because of our ability to be mobile, walking up to 12 miles a day as hunter-gatherers. As we move more, we get more oxygen to the brain, which enhances the learning process. As instructors, it is essential to create learning activities where the students are doing instead of sitting down listening to lectures.
We learned the following exercises that can be incorporated into the classroom: Quick Start, Blackout Bingo, Standing Survey, Concept Centers, The Gallery Walk, Teach-Backs, Learning Logs, and The Walkabout. On Day 2 of the training, we worked collaboratively to apply these tools by using the 4Cs Map. This exercise allowed us to create interactive lessons based on a framework that is applicable to any learning environment.
Tricia’s Training from the Back of the Room workshop is dynamic, content-filled, and a must for anyone wishing to improve the delivery of the classes they teach. One student who attended stated the following to me: “After this class, I’m going to revamp all my classes … this stuff works!” I feel the same way about how this knowledge will radically alter how I delivery both my university and corporate training courses.