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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

What Predicts a Learners Success?

The other day I read a post by a popular online learning provider about encouraging learner participation. Whilst this article had a few good points, it also had a few points I disagreed with, so much so that it has inspired me to write my next blog!

The article talked about the importance of participation in the training room, and I absolutely agree that the learners who participate will get the most out of the session. This is a standard that I cover in my introductions at the start of any facilitation work I conduct and something that is encouraged throughout the session.

The part that I disagree with is their inference that anyone who has been training for a while can tell which learners are going to do well and which ones are going to struggle based on their participation levels. I don't believe that participation levels can fully predict how likely they are to apply the learning and succeed.

I have facilitated countless sessions over the years and I have found that the learners who participate, volunteer for activities, love getting involved in role-plays and acting out scenarios and control discussions are the ones who tend to sit in the Activist or Pragmatist learning styles by Honey and Mumford. On the other hand, the ones who are more reserved, quieter and don't participate as much tend to sit in the Reflector or Theorist styles.

Reflector & Theorist Learners:

Reflectors and Theorists learn by listening, thinking and reflecting on what they have learnt. It won't be until later in the day or week that they will fully process what they have learnt and then begin applying it. Time and time again I have heard this from my learners. They come back to me a couple of weeks later and tell me how they have applied the learning.

This is not to say that they don't participate at all, or that they won't. It is just that it is not their natural style. They can do it, but they will likely feel put out of their normal comfort zone.

I remember one particular Reflector I had in a Leadership session who I saw a year after the session. She very happily told me that over the previous year she had implemented the time management strategies we had discussed and she ended up saving herself 2 hours of time a day. To me that is the definition of success.

Activist & Pragmatist Learners:

Activists and Pragmatists learn by doing and having a hands on approach. They tend to throw themselves into any practical situation as this is the way that they learn best. This can mean that they are more likely to instantly get a particular point that we may be covering as they are actively involved in the learning.

This can also have a downside being that these learners are easily bored and distracted by the next big shiny idea. Rather than taking the time to think through how they might apply what they have learnt, they are already onto the next idea.


Some of the most engaged learners I have had are Reflectors and Theorists. You can see them nodding, making notes, processing the information and excelling in small group activities.

I think too often we as trainers look at the learners who are participating and judge the success of the training on this.

I believe that we need to look at how we facilitate sessions and conduct assessments to ensure that it caters for all styles. To ensure that learners succeed, we can do the following:

  • Seek feedback from the learners as to their personal objectives for completing the training and what they hope to get out of the session;

  • Ensure that learners know that it is a safe environment;

  • Encourage learning from each other through the use of group activities and discussions that involve all learners;

  • Support learners throughout the learning process;

  • Make the learning process experiential so that learners are actively involved in the learning;

  • Actively promote participation;

  • Give appropriate, encouraging and supportive feedback after activities;

  • Debrief after each activity to tie everything together and draw the links for learners. Some learners may have already worked these out, but others won't understand why they just completed a certain activity. By drawing it all together, recapping the main points and showing the links you are consolidating the learning for them;

  • Make yourself available during breaks and after the session for any questions;

  • Make the training relevant and practical but also fun and engaging; and

  • If all else fails - I've found bribing them with chocolate also works :o)

PDI Solutions offers a range of learning and development solutions which are totally customised for each client. Contact us today for a free consultation at or visit our website at

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