The 7th R

“The principal benefit of retrieval practice is that it encourages an activeexertion of effort rather than the passive seepage of external information”


The 7th R stands for Retrieval and is represented by the Golden Retriever in the illustration below. (I know – this is a stretch but it’s easy to remember and who doesn’t like to look at a Golden Retriever?)

Retrieval practice is key in the learning retention process.  For trainees and for adult learners alike, being able to remember what was learned is the most important thing. The act of retrieving important information is fundamental to training. If it wasn’t, why do we do safety training at all?

7rs retriever

The ways someone practices to remember or retrieve information can make a big difference in how effective learning actually is. It has been found that reading, highlighting and memorizing information does not cause information to stay in your head as well as learning methods that cause you to come up with the answer. What this means is that instead of having and seeing the information in front of you, your brain will learn and remember better if it is forced to pull out the information already in there.  This is a very simplistic way of explaining some very scientific brain research but I am hoping you get the point. An example or two may help to make this clearer.

Example 1: If you provide trainees with a copy of all PowerPoint slides, they will have all of the training content in front of them. If you provide a worksheet based on the PowerPoint slides with key information left out, and space for the trainee to fill it in, you are causing the trainee to pull that information out and the trainee has to work harder at  remembering. This extra work will cause the information to be retained longer.

Example 2. If you provide the trainees with a multiple-choice quiz, all of the relevant information will be in front of them and they simply have to recognize the correct answer. If you provide a fill-in-the-blank quiz, you are again causing them to think more about what they have learned and this itself will help the learning stick.

Finally, an important concept of retrieval practice is that frequency is more important that duration. It is better to review something more often instead of for longer periods of time.  Think about how you can integrate that idea into your safety training classes. When researching the key ideas associated with retrieval practice, I became fascinated with the idea of flashcards as a training activity and I am currently working on a collection of them to share with other safety trainers. If you want to know when it’ ready,  just comment below or sign-up for the SafetyFUNdamentals Newsletter by clicking here.

The 6th R

The 6th R of Making Safety Training Stick is Recycle. When you think of recycling you likely think about putting your paper, plastic, glass and metal items into a special container so they can be re-used again. Recycling training materials is very much the same. You are taking the training content you already have and putting it into a different form to be used again. This provides your trainees with the opportunity to be exposed to the training information again (repetition) and it also provides reinforcement.

7rs recycle

For example, if you have a 10 question quiz for a safety training topic, you could break it down into 10 separate emails, each one asking one of the ten questions. You can also turn these ten questions into a flashcard activity.  You could also recycle the ten questions into images and post them in the work area as a way of reinforcing material already learned.

There are many more possibilities and you are only limited by your imagination.

Have you recycled training materials? What have you come up with?

The 5th R

The 5th R to increase retention of your safety training classes is Re-Evaluation.

7rs re-eval

Re-Evaluation also covers pre-evaluation, mid-evaluation and all other times you test the knowledge of trainees. Studies have shown that the more often you test trainees (and yourself if you are trying to learn something), the better they will remember the training content. Even if the trainees know none of the answers in a pre-evaluation, the mere act of testing them first will help them to remember the training content longer. Most Trainers will do some kind of evaluation at the end of a class, but what about the middle? An evaluation can take the form of a training activity or game during the class. This will allow you as the trainer to know what trainees understand and where you may need to provide additional information. Instant feedback on whether trainees are getting it! How cool is that? After the class has ended, sending additional short evaluations days after the trainees have left the class, will continue to help the trainees remember the information longer.

Test yourself now. What were the first 4Rs talked about in the previous posts?

The 4th R

The 4th R in the 7Rs of Safety Training Retention is Reduction.

7rs reduction

Reduction has other names and forms – chunking, micro-learning, learning bursts, etc.  Reduction means taking your training content and breaking it down into more digestible pieces. Think about it. If you spend two weeks putting together the content for a training class, how can trainees be expected to remember it after a two hour – even 5 hour – class?

Chunking has been a technique to help people remember things for a long time. Phone numbers used to be 7 digits because that was a good sized “chunk” for your memory. A ten digit phone number would have been much harder to remember. Micro-learning has gained in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons. It is pretty well accepted that attention spans have gotten shorter for a variety of reasons so if someone has the choice to focus and pay attention to training material for 10 or 15 minutes instead of an hour, they will choose the shorter time span. Training provided in small bursts can be a great way to get active participation, and a great way not to overload the trainee with too much information.  Technology can really help to deliver smaller chunks of training but not everyone has access to all of the many options that are available. Micro-learning can still be done “old school” without all the bells and whistles. Simple emails with training content broken down into chunks, with links to online evaluations, can be very effective.

Gamification is also increasing in popularity and many of the gamification programs rely on breaking down content into smaller pieces. In games and other online platforms where you can earn badges, each badge generally represents a particular piece of knowledge. (I took a stab at creating a Safety Trainer’s Badge Book a few years ago to help guide self-improvement efforts of any safety trainer looking to do so, including myself. The Safety Trainer’s Badge Book is available as a free download on the SafetyFUNdamentals Bookstore). If you are interested in creating your own badge program, let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

Do you use games or micro-learning in your work place?

The 3rd R

7rs reinforcement

The 3rd R in the 7Rs of Making Your Training Stick is Reinforcement. At a recent presentation I delivered in Philadelphia, someone (Kat D.) suggested I replace the hammer with a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) so I gave it a ty below. It’s a good thing I am a Safety Pro and not a Graphic Artist!

rebar rs

Reinforcement is key to us personally as learners and to our trainees when trying to remember the content that we have read, heard or otherwise learned.  As a Trainer, it is important for you to find ways to reinforce the training information that you share.  If you have safety posters in the workplace, that is (hopefully) a type of reinforcement.  The information on the poster is not providing the training and should not be providing safety information to your employees for the first time but should instead be reinforcing information they already learned.

For example, if you used provide training to employees on how to safely use a fire extinguisher and you use the P.A.S.S. acronym to help them remember what to do if they actually have to use an extinguisher, the following sample poster is an example of Reinforcement.

pass poster-2

What do you do in your workplace to reinforce Safety Training?

The 2nd R

The 2nd R is symbolized by the yo-yo which in this case, is represented by the yo-yo. Repetition is key to learning. Often, people equate successful learning with the duration of the time spent on the material but what is really important is the frequency of the review time.

7rs repetitionInstead of having a training class that lasts for 8 hours, your trainees would be better off hearing and learning the training content over a period of several days instead of all at once. Although flooding trainees with a lot of information can still result in passing test scores if the tests are given immediately after the material is presented, little of the information will be remembered. If the same test was given a few weeks after the class, the test scores would not be as good. The most important thing to remember is that Frequency > Duration. Repetition is sometimes called distributed practice and this will go much further in helping your trainees to remember the training class content after the class is finished.

Do you remember yesterday’s “R”?  Looking at the illustration, it should come right back to you. Repeating in your mind what you learned yesterday, and especially thinking about how you will use that in your training classes, will help you to retain that information.

Check back tomorrow for the 3rd R.

7 Rs of Making Training Stick – The first R

7rsI’ve always been a fan of learning how memory works. I’ve read many books on the topic and have even delivered presentations on how to use memory aids so that trainers and other safety professionals can deliver entire presentations from memory.  I always use these techniques for my own presentations in case something goes wrong with the technology..and I lose my print out of my slides (you can never be too prepared) and I actually had to resort you my memory once.  While these techniques are great for remembering things like this, they do not necessarily help trainees to remember more of what they learn in a training class. One of these techniques in particular, a mnemonic, can be useful but it is not learning by itself – it only provides a way to get previously learned information out of your head.  An example of a mnemonic for the 7rs of making training stick can be send to the left.

So, what does this strange illustration have to do with safety training? I created this illustration to help me remember the 7 rs during arecent presentation on training retention. I didn’t want to have to read a slide with 7 key words. Especially in a class on retention, I should know them by heart right? Easier said then done when you are standing in front of a room full of people. I didn’t trust my memory so I created this illustration. Without even looking at this illustration, I can picture it in my head, and recite the 7rs.  I can be out walking my dogs, picture the illustration, and think about the 7rs and even tell myself (in my head of course) all about each of the Rs.  It’s a great way to practice.

So, what do you see in this illustration that relates to safety training?  Let’s talk about the first thing you probably notice – the globe head.

The globe head represents Real World.  One of the key Rs for safety trainers to consider if they want their training to be remembered is to make it relate to the real world as much as possible. Oe of the first things many safety trainers are told when they are just starting to deliver training, if they are ever told anything, is to answer the trainees’ question of  WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) Real world means that the training is realistic and applies to their actual job and work environment. Real world means they will see how it applies to them. For example, you don’t want to show a training video of a large warehouse operation to a group of trainees who only work on construction sites. If a trainee can see how what you are telling them is directly applicable to them, their brain is not going to make the effort to put the training information into long term memory, and shortly after the training class is over, they will not remember the key information.

Whenever you can use photos or videos of the actual workplace and their co-workers (not actors), you will not only get the trainees’ attention faster and keep it, they will remember it longer because they can see how it directly applies to their job.

When creating or reviewing training you are about to deliver, think about this first R,  Is your training realistic?  Does it reflect the reality that your trainees face everyday? If not, how can you make it more real-world? Even adding this first R into your training materials will make it better. Think about what you can do today.

(Tomorrow, you’ll hear about another R. Can you guess what that might be based on the above image?)