Retention Lost in Lectures

Ever wonder why boredom strikes when people talk at you?  Wasting time at meetings or lectures? You’ll be interested in research from the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine – and quoted in Geoff Petty’s Teaching Today shows that people retain far more when they when actively involved.

Ask the lecturer in this video and he will say he engages listeners.  He might even go on to suggest today’s audiences expect too much and give too little. Ask listeners and they may support these 100 reasons to run hard from lectures!

Have you considered lately how …

Lectures are the best way to get information from a teacher’s notebook to a student’s notebook without touching the student’s mind, according to G. Leonard. Has it happened to you?

MITA tactics engage participants for higher motivation and achievement in 5 basic ways?

1. Ask 2-footed questions so that one foot steps into people’s interests and one stirs curiosity for new topics. For example when I teach brain facts I ask participants – How could you prosper more with the brain in mind?

2. Target outcomes such as ethical conduct – that you expect participants to achieve. When you have a clear target in mind, others will be more willing to engage new ideas to reach it.

3. Expect quality responses by  specifying criteria that adds quality to people’s takeaways. For instance I often show how tone allows for different ideas to emerge and illuminate new angles of a topic.

4. Move people’s talents into action as multiple intelligence tools for lasting changes from newly applied facts or practices. For instance, demonstrate how different approaches often offer superior solutions.

5. Reflect for shared ways to mobilize rejuvenation. Without ongoing reflection the human brain defaults back to ruts. Can you see why we leave so many meetings and rarely change what we do following that session?

Using brain based tactics – how can you engage others with added zip for change today?


  1. Yes we did! It’s great how multi-faceted our topics are.

    I completely agree with the Nat’l Training Lab’s research. I always provide toys like playdoh and hand clappers to participants and my sessions because 85% of the nerves in your hands go directly to your brain. Activate your hands and you activate your brain!

    Kathie Thomass last blog post..Engage Your Employees Today for Success Tomorrow

  2. Ellen,

    As a long-time NTLer, I’m pleased to see the model trotted out again and used with specific brain-based suggestions.

    My fave: #3. High quality expectations that are bounded by specific criteria. It’s one thing to learn; it’s another to bump up the level of learning by using high standards.

    Your tone has set the tone for some good learning here…

    Steve Roeslers last blog post..Innovation Reigns in the Concert Hall Workplace

  3. Wally Bock says:

    I’ve found that there are two kinds of training programs. There are the ones where I bring the apples and fill their barrels. And there are the ones where we share apples from our barrels with each other. I’m usually doing something on leadership, management or supervision where apple sharing programs are both easy to do and effective.

    Wally Bocks last blog post..How executives botch layoffs

  4. eweber says:

    Hi Kathie, it’s an interesting era of the brain – where people seem more willing to look to alternatives to the sheer lecture, in order to engage others meaningfully. Thanks for your insights in that regard!

  5. eweber says:

    Steve, good to see you. Just again facilitated a very dynamic session of leaders from many careers and saw that people have wonderful ideas about topics – when spaces are created to contain those ideas. The next 10 years will continue to add many wonderful changes – such as those you suggest to engage other minds.

  6. […] fields yet some faculty cling to sage-on-the-stage mentality. Poor faculty see their role to lecture and test for facts that stick through rote. Are learners quiet? Did they arrive on time? Did they […]

  7. […] many still lecture and demand rote responses in paper-pencil-tests, faculty who know research on retention , tend to facilitate brainpower from wider circles for broader solutions. Have you seen […]

  8. […] no surprise to most people that multi-tasking fails to get results, for instance, or that lectures work against the human brain, yet people do it daily.  Have you noticed that few people target specific goals so that synergy […]

  9. […] 3. Start with small roundtables rather than faculty talks.  Expect a few dedicated parents, and build enthusiasm to spread this new-found wealth with others. Rather than expect large groups – in the beginning expect fewer and invite their help to build parental support at school functions. […]

  10. […] No Brain Left Behind: sidesteps lectures or mere taking that works against listeners’ brains and engages multiple intelligences from divergent […]

  11. […] 2. Two-footed questions, open pathways to curiosity and attract more high performance minds into the brainpower and learning mix. Have you heard however, that lectures work against the human brain? […]

  12. […] Retention Lost in Lectures 18. Engage Voices on the Other […]

  13. […] Retention Lost in Lectures 18. Engage Voices on the Other […]

  14. This article completely squares with the success of “unconferences” which have no pre-determined agenda but where everyone has to come prepared to both teach and learn. Makes them very effective.

  15. […] Retention Lost in Lectures 18. Engage Voices on the Other […]

  16. […] others, fears arise that research about the human brain should not touch popular practices such as lectures,  that have been with us without much alteration from the earliest philosophers. What do you […]

  17. […] Talk and deliver without questioning & wondering. Check out research from the National Training Labortories to see how lectures and talks hurl facts from a lecturer’s  notes to a listener’s […]

  18. i have to agree with your statements, but the one i dissagree with, is the most recent, could you update yoyur post, letting myself and others know exactly what ur opinions are?

  19. eweber says:

    Good point Rahama, the McKinsey Research found that little change takes place in organizations after workshops where people hear ideas yet do not engage in the activity involved in applying changes and the hard work of learning how to do improved practices. See further details at

  20. […] 1. Skilled facilitators actively lead across diversity from behind. Did you know that to teach others at the same time you learn, is to retain 90% more? […]

  21. […] as a staple tool in our education system. Don’t believe me when I say lecturing doesnt work? The research is there to back me up. Bahaha research – this quote isn’t even from Ronal Reagan. But seriously – […]

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