Whether it’s teaching Ohm’s law to electrical students or conducting a high-level staff training program, being an instructor can be stressful. There are so many instructional strategies, lesson plan designs and scheduling ideas from which to choose. Aside from all the theories on academic outcomes, the secret to success can be fairly simple: Help students remember what they were taught. 

As such, instructors should plan every course or training session around the single goal of information retention. The “Learning Process” module of the NCCER’s Instructor Certification Training Program states people retain:
  • 10 percent of what is read;
  • 20 percent of what is heard;
  • 30 percent of what is viewed;
  • 50 percent of what they say and hear;
  • 70 percent of what they say as they talk; and
  • 90 percent of what they say as they do a task.
Based on this information, instructors should plan activities that allow students to not only listen to information, but also repeat it while they perform a task. 

A 50/50/50 approach to training is one way to achieve information retention goals. During each 50-minute session—whether corporate or in the classroom—an instructor should use the following instructional strategies: lecture, visual and hands-on. A consistent routine may include a course introduction followed by a lecture, visual stimulation, hands-on activity and closing remarks. 

Each time an instructor uses a different instructional strategy, it helps the brain categorize and retain information. Visual stimulation can be something as simple as a safety clip from the Internet, a classroom demonstration, or information presented via PowerPoint or on a white board. A hands-on activity can include shop time, a small group discussion or even something as fun as a topical crossword puzzle. 

This strategy also is amenable to block-class scheduling. If the class is four hours long, start with the 50/50/50 strategy for the first 50 minutes, then have the class take a 10-minute break. Then start the second, third and fourth hour of the class using the exact same routine. Not only will the instructor be more organized throughout the lesson, but students will retain more of the information provided.  


Jeffrey S. Hooper is director of safety and education for the San Diego Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Poway, Calif. For more information, email jeff@abcsd.org.