Where Are Your Conferees on the Ladder?


The ladder of learning outcomes, that is.

Answering this powerful question will enable you to upgrade the learning of your conferees. They will reflect their satisfaction in higher evaluations -- and by coming back for more!

The six rungs of the ladder are the possible outcomes of any learning experience. Every session you offer can be measured against this ladder, in terms of its goals and outcomes.

The rungs go from simple learning, to the most complex. At the bottom is remembering factual information. Working your way up the rungs, takes you into more complex and "strategic" learning.

As you you move your conferees up the ladder, they will achieve different kinds of learning and growth.

1. Remember the facts (lowest rung)

2. Understand the concept.

3. Choose what's most relevant.

4. Use what you're learning.

5. Plan for action.

6. Evaluate the benefits. (highest rung)

Some sessions are devoted to simply conveying important factual knowledge which attendees need, to improve or maintain their performance. Such learning is essential in every field: it enables a nurse practitioner, for example, to make a correct diagnosis, or a lawyer to cite the latest, most relevant case.

Other sessions aim to improve understanding, strengthen decisions, impel application, or change attitudes.

You can give your attendees a more complete learning experience if you orchestrate these different outcomes. A good way to begin is to identify which rung of the ladder a session is on, and figure out how to move the participants up to the next rung. (The ladder is adapted from Prof. Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Objectives.)

For example, for a "black-letter law" meeting at which attorneys were getting updated on the latest decisions in their area of expertise, we scheduled-in time for three intervals of discussion, to move the attendees up the ladder.

The first 15-minute session invited them to share reactions to the information they had just heard. The objective here was to enhance their understanding, to tease out implications and significance. They were moving from the first rung to the second.

The next interval of discussion focused on choosing what was most relevant, and figuring out how they could use it, in their diverse practices. This gave them a nudge from the second rung to the third.

In a final pause, they worked together on a brief report-out, for which they selected what was of most significance
in what they had learned, for the future of their speciality. Here, we were engaging them in planning and evaluation.

Almost two-thirds of the participants singled out these discussions for special commendation, saying things like "I got several excellent ideas for how I can act on this information, as a result of the discussions."

So, let's see if we've gotten up the ladder in this column.

Do you know what the six rungs are? Do you understand how they can be used to enhance leanring? Can you think of an upcoming meeting at which you can use it? Which parts apply to that situation? How can you use what you've learned to upgrade your results? How will you judge and communicate your success?

Copyright © 1999 Ronald Gross