Theory or Revision – When do people learn?

People are not equal! It may seem incorrect to say but we’re not. Adding to that all clients are also … not equal! Clients learn in different ways, and also have different motivations which have drastic impacts on their individual outcomes.

However in this case—client equality and their motivations really don’t matter, because in this post we’re really looking at when most learning occurs, not how!

If you’re looking at instructing as part of your business or start-up, being an effective instructor is a must. No entrepreneur or start-up business owner wants to instruct a lesson or hold a course where the clients come away with very little knowledge at the end.

Not only do you want to deliver an excellent teaching product, you want your clients to recommend you to others. Makes sense right?

So When do people learn?

So having pointed out the obvious, let’s go a little deeper, because one thing that we need to be aware of here is that teaching and learning are two very different things.

“Teaching” is done by an “Instructor”. “Learning” is done by the “Client!”

So as an Instructor how are you going to achieve the most potent learning experience for your client?

Is your client going to learn during the ‘teaching’ or are they going to learn later when they ‘revise’ previously delivered material? Wherever they will learn is going to dictate how you create your lesson or course!

Revision is Student Driven to re-enforce earlier learning

I’ll give you the answer at the end of this post and the truth is shocking!

On many courses that I have attended throughout my working life, I have been taught one subject, revised and then assessed the next day to prove competence. As an instructor you’re going to face the same challenge. You will need to teach and have a client either prove competence with little to no application or be able to apply those skills later.

Time is the biggest restriction you can have.

The situation reverses as a manager or an educator within an organization. You can spend far more time teaching and seemingly not see competence in the person being taught.

So … what is more effective? Teaching lessons? Revision lessons? When do clients finally learn?

Unfortunately the answer isn’t within either of the major lesson types above. Simply speaking teaching lessons have to be delivered so that new skills can be taught. Revision lessons are there to re-enforce prior learning.

Between the two however, revision is more often than not more effective at developing the skill level of a trainee or a client.

How much we remember

Why? Depending on how material is delivered the audience will forget up to 95% of taught content. (Makes you wonder how we learn anything) However revision lessons not only re-engage with the remembered material but also trigger the activation of ‘forgotten’ material from previously.

Especially if the revision is practical the information retention can be as high as 75% . . . a far cry from 5%.

So using the logic and the stats from above, revision lessons are the way to go! Absolutely however you cannot revise a subject that has not been taught!


Experience through application is where your client will learn the most.

So our answer now looks pretty clear. Quickly teach a subject with high audience engagement and get straight into revising the subject material. This is how we attain maximum learning . . . right?

The Shocking Truth.

When it comes to designing a course there really isn’t a specific formula that you can use to achieve a maximum outcome. All subjects are different and need a differing approach.

But the real shock here is that your audience will not learn the most from you during either teaching or revision. Your client will learn the most about a subject on their own long after the teaching has been done.

When a client enters or is forced to enter a period of application without support, they will learn the most at the fastest rate. It’s during the time of application that a client will learn >100% of what you would have been capable of teaching. They will learn things through experience that you may not have had as part of your training itself.

An unfortunate truth to being an instructor is that you cannot achieve proficiency in your client. You can only give the knowledge for a client to become competent in a skill but you cannot give them experience. Experience through application is where your client will learn the most. Our job as instructors is to prepare them to be independent.

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