Study Groups. Keep them Awake and Learning!

Spread the Knowledge

At Second Street we are encouraged to give presentations about languages, techniques, or frameworks to the rest of the company.

The Benefits
  1. Encourages technical growth
  2. Knowledge is shared across departments/teams
  3. The presenter gains speaking and communication skills

Old School Way

The normal format for a presentation is for the speaker to have many well thought up slides and then talks for the entire duration. The only time for interaction is at the end during the "Does anyone have any questions?" part. Unless you are an expert speaker with a incredible topic your audience will tune out after ~20 minutes.

The Learning

For some topics you can use a study group format. The idea is to increase engagement by having the audience participate in topic relevant group tasks. In this format you start out with slides but the presentation is less than half the allotted presentation time.

After the presentation you break the audience up into groups of 3-4 people. Hand out or provide a link to a list of tasks designed to drive home the main points of the presentation. Besides the presenter other people with topic/genre knowledge should be called out to help the multiple groups.

We have used the study group format for teaching CSS and Chrome Dev Tools. The hands on format seemed to really help people visualize and remember the key points. I have heard coworkers say "Oh like we learned in your study group".

Warning take extra time preparing your study group tasks. No one likes to take a test with bad questions. Good and relevant questions will keep your audience engaged and learning.

The Science

Engagement is not the only benefit from interactive lessons. The act of having your audience recall the topic will help them remember it. In the book Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning numerous studies were cited that show the importance of retrieving information you want to remember. The book states that we forget up to 70% of a topic unless we do something to strengthen the memory. Practicing retrieving the memory through varied and spaced practice sessions is key to building rich, strong memories.