Safety is notoriously boring. Nobody is excited to attend safety meetings; most barely pay attention, and very little learning takes place. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
While we don’t have a ton of control over the content of safety, we can fix how we teach it.
When teaching any subject, it’s important to remember that students have different learning styles.
In order to provide the best learning opportunity and achieve the most engagement from each student, you must consider each style in your lessons. Before we delve into how each type of learner excels, take a minute to fill out this online questionnaire and discover your own learning style.
The styles are divided into four types of learners using the acronym VARK:
- diagrams, graphs, flow charts
- listening, group discussions, parroting info back
- Reading / Writing
- text-based, manuals, instructions, words words words
- Kinesthetic or Physical
- simulated or real experience and practice
- Learn through touch and texture, by actually moving and doing something
- Active rather than passive learners
- A grasp of the physical world comes intuitively for them
I expanded on the kinesthetic learner because, as you may have guessed, these learners excel in hands-on careers such as artists, mechanics and construction workers.
Therefore, it is very likely that the majority of your safety meeting attendees learn best by trying it themselves.
If you have been expecting them to listen to one person read out loud about safety, it’s no surprise they aren’t engaged; and if they aren’t engaged, they won’t learn.
Many people actually excel at more than one learning style and some even three or four, so the best delivery of a construction safety program is a mixture of all four styles, with an added focus on kinesthetic.
5 Ways to Incorporate Multiple Learning Styles Into Your Safety Training
1. Fix Your Delivery
There will be times that the traditional ‘lecture style’ training is unavoidable. We also know that some people learn best from this style, so it’s not a terrible thing to include it.
What is terrible is reading the content word for word from your notes or a PowerPoint presentation. Even auditory learners will zone out if this is your delivery style for very long.
Instead, have point form notes, or on PowerPoint, just an image, to use as a cue to yourself of what you want to discuss. Then just talk.
You know the content better than you think. Pretend you are standing at a bar and someone has just asked you what you know about the topic. Speak candidly about it and use anecdotes from your own life.
You can even include questions in this conversational approach. Try and refrain from content questions that put people on the spot, and aim to continue the conversation like you would at the bar.
For example, don’t ask someone to list the components of a fall protection system, instead, ask them about a close call when they were really happy they had it on.
The engagement you seek doesn’t have to be high-level learning, it just has to keep your students focused so they listen at the high-level learning times. Use the stories they tell you to bridge into teaching the components that make up a complete system.
Finally, don’t use this style for long periods, really no more than 10-12 minutes is best. Break it up by throwing in some time for discussion. Ask a question and then break into groups for five minutes of sharing before returning to the larger group.
I guarantee you will get more responses from the larger group if you have first allowed time for them to test out their answer and receive validation from three or four peers.
2. Invite Guest Speakers
Providing a variety of speakers is always a welcome change to your audience. Inviting someone new into the experience brings with it new stories and perspectives.
You could have an emergency room doctor come in and talk about head trauma or a police officer to go over distracted driving.
You could ask someone who has experienced a workplace accident to come and tell their story or someone who has lost a loved one to workplace injury.
Be creative and involve your community. The guests don’t have to provide the actual safety content, they are simply a jumping off place for the conversation you will lead afterwards.
That means you could even use your in-house knowledge base of experience. You can have any staff member, admin, management or field staff open the meeting with a personal anecdote.
3. Gamify It
Many of us grew up playing video games. Remember that feeling you had when you beat the boss of a level, achieved the high score, or unlocked a new power or weapon for your character? That’s what gamification is all about—creating that feeling within non-gaming situations.
You can create a point system that hands out points based on proper safety behavior or completing safety tasks and then reward a weekly or monthly winner.
Some of our clients use live leaderboards in their sharp to spark a little healthy competition among co-workers. There is so much possibility here we actually wrote an entire article on How To Gamify Safety.
4. Add Teaching Aids
Adding images, videos and graphs to your training is going to really aid the visual learners in your group. Try putting some focus on these aspects by displaying them on a screen or providing them as a hand out and having your participants break into discussion groups to evaluate it and generate questions or comments of their own.
If possible, send some written content to your participants in advance of your session; not everyone will read it, so don’t expect them to, but the ones who learn best by reading will appreciate the opportunity and may become more confident and vocal during the actual session.
If a pre-session email isn’t possible, then definitely try at the end of your session to include a hard copy takeaway for those who prefer to read the information themselves.
5. Make It Hands-On
The goal of this section is to get your participants physically up and moving, ideally trying out what you are teaching. Try and avoid long lines of people waiting as this simply allows time for everyone to disengage.
If you can, set up multiple stations, either of the same activity—or even better—have multiple activities that the participants rotate through in small groups.
If your activity can’t accommodate a large number of people, you can still get one or two to volunteer. For example, there may not be time to have every single participant complete a proper set up of scaffolding, but you could have one or two do it as a demonstration. Anything that brings your lesson to life is going to be beneficial to the majority of your group.
Finally, if you can’t get a physical way for them to apply the knowledge they have attained, the last thing you can do is a quick quiz. Asking them a few questions and letting them self-assess the answers at least gets their brain actively engaged.
Next: Get Creative
Once you get started thinking about how you can change the way you teach in order to effectively engage all your participants via all the different learning styles, I really hope you will run with it.
You can get quite creative in the number of ways you can deliver the same content. One of my favourite parts of my job is taking standard training modules from our clients and transforming them into interactive and engaging lessons.
Our Training Module then takes those courses and makes them deliverable to your workers anytime, anywhere and on any device. We even automatically create a training certificate once your participant has successfully completed each course.
To find out more about our Training Module, book a demo by clicking the button below.