How to Engage Learners

How to engage learners

Do you need to improve the effectiveness of your instructor’s ability to transfer skill and knowledge in the physical, virtual, or on-the-job learning environments?  Does the delivery of your training programs lack engagement and motivation? Do your learners get tired of the same presentation or application methods?

If the answer is yes, here are 10 simple and effective ways to improve learner engagement without having to redesign your total program:

1. 2 Minute Conversations2-minute conversation: Ask pairs or triads to discuss a focused question, problem or exercise for several minutes and then field comments or highlights from various groups.

2. Evening Delight: assign a brief out-of-class assignment which could include responses to a question or problem, a short quiz or short reading assignment to reinforce the key concepts from the day or for preparation for the next day’s topic(s). Give an estimated completion time that should not exceed 15-20 minutes. Reinforce the next day with a small group discussion that focuses on: a) most important thing you got out of the assignment, b) most important questions the assignment failed to answer.

3. Mini Group Presentation: 3-5-minute summary of an assignment; in groups of 4-6, participants discuss the assignment; call on 2-3 groups to present; reward points for the group that utilizes the most participants during the presentation.

4. PolPoll Questions/Raise your Hand with Agree/Disagreel Questions/Raise your Hand with Agree/Disagree: Ask the group “How many of you have had this experience”? “Does this happen daily, weekly, monthly”? The poll can be oral or written;

5. Discussion Board: Use a virtual or physical discussion board to capture a daily topic or theme; i.e.” What’s it like to be an e-learner”? Learners contribute to the discussion board throughout the program.

6. Active Lot: i.e. Could be used to a) post your biggest challenge b) post your key take-away from the session or topic; Use multiple “Lots” around the physical classroom (blank flip-charts taped to walls with “Lot” titles or use index cards); Use a virtual “Parking Lot” to identify challenges and take-aways.

7. Daily Parking Lot: Have learners write questions they want addressed for later in the session or after the session; Remind the learners on a regular basis of this Parking Lot.

8. Minute Paper: taking no more than one-minute, summarize or defend a position citing at least two sources. The source could be: a web-site, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), an organization’s policy or documentation review. An example would be to ask the group to summarize or defend that “There are 6 levels of the cognitive domain of learning”; The source could be web search on Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning or FKA’s workshop on Developing Effective Assessment; this “field research could be assigned to a group or to an individual.

9. Koosh Ball Review: Koosh Ball ReviewIn small groups of 3-4, have each group create four questions from the previous days content using the participant manuals and handouts. Begin by tossing the Koosh ball to a group and have them ask one of their questions. After asking their question, they then toss the Koosh ball to one of the other groups for a response. If that group answers the question correctly, that group gets to ask one of their questions to another group and so on until all groups have asked/answered all the questions. The responses are group responses and not individual responses and groups responding to questions can use their manuals.

10. Peer Tutor: Peer TutorLearners in small groups (2-3) review material from their participant manuals that either has already been presented or has not, nor may not be presented; Each learner will take a concept for a “deeper dive” and attempt to explain what the concept means in their own words. Other members can share their experience concerning the concept along with a brief discussion on how that concept can apply to their jobs. This technique can be used to test for understanding of guidelines, checklists, processes etc. The learners can focus on any of the material from the manual, of their choice. The facilitator is available for clarification questions during the peer tutor sessions.

There are many ways to spice up your programs and engage your learners. In earlier blogs, we discussed the three pillars of solid instructional design and deliver:

The ten techniques we have identified in this blog supports the three pillars, and can be adapted to any learning program, regardless of the content. The outcome is a learning environment that is richer, more engaging and much more motivating to the learner.

For more information and additional techniques on learner engagement, please visit us at  or email Just a reminder, our award-winning Instructional Techniques programs models many of the techniques described in this blog.


FKA President
Michael Nolan