Trainers, remember: Context Before Content


Recently, a friend and fellow blogger asked the question, “Is nothing sacred?”

I’ll give you a moment to check out the link…

(insert hold music)

According to this post, the answer was an emphatic no. I would have to agree.

Coincidentally, I was at church this past weekend, when I had my own “Is nothing sacred?” moment. I was sitting in my seat, when I noticed our pastor rolled out a flip chart. Given my fondness for flip charts, I was intrigued. He proceeded to talk – as he started to set up the lesson, he said these three words:

“Context before content.”

Rather than jumping right into the Scripture passage he was referencing, he took a moment to give the congregation the backstory. It set up his sermon in a way that prepared the congregation to absorb and understand the passage and his points.

As an attendee, I appreciated the color. As a facilitator, I was drawn into the setup, his unorthodox use of a flip chart and the subsequent lesson. It was a valuable reminder:

Trainers, we need to set our learners up to be successful. To understand the content, whether it’s in an instructor-led session or through technology. To gain the skills and knowledge they need to be proficient. To improve performance to impact the organization.

We do this by providing context. Before content.

So often, we (including myself) are guilty of providing nothing more than an information dump.

A “text-and-next” eLearning module.

Wordy slides. Death by PowerPoint. Lecture.

Butts in seats. Smile sheets.

You get the idea. The content is the easy part. Context is more challenging. How do we overcome these default training behaviors to get to the sweet spot – the context?

Start by establishing clear learning objectives. A clear learning objective answers 3 questions:

1) What is the action the learner will need to perform?

2) Are there any specific conditions under which the learner will perform the action?

3) How will learning/performance be measured?

We need to meet our learners where they are, then create an environment that is conducive for learning. Keep these 3 simple questions in mind when you’re developing content…and you’ll find that context is easier to communicate.

Your turn: How do you avoid a “content dump” and provide context to your learners? Share your tips in the comments below!

Would your colleagues benefit from the tips in this post? Please share it with your network! 

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3 thoughts on “Trainers, remember: Context Before Content

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