Activity‐Based Training Design: Transforming the Learning of Knowledge

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 18 April 2008



Cattell, A. (2008), "Activity‐Based Training Design: Transforming the Learning of Knowledge", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 162-163.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

John Rodwell is a learning and development and management consultant with 20 years' experience of learning and development design, delivery and evaluation in the Customs and Excise and Cabinet Office. He is the author of Participative Training Skills, published by Gower in 1994. This new text is particularly relevant to trainers and managers involved in the design of knowledge based learning activities.

In his Introduction, the author identifies two problems associated with traditional question and answer type participative training methods:

  1. 1.

    they are not particularly exciting or engaging for the learner; and

  2. 2.

    they do not necessarily enable identified or desired learning outcomes to be achieved.

Rodwell proposes that this book will show the reader how to design new training sessions or transform existing training sessions which:
  • use tools and techniques which will engage learners;

  • promote the effective learning of knowledge; and

  • are fun to work with for learners and trainers.

The philosophy of the book is to provide the reader with a set of methods/activities which focus on design content aligned to the principles of accelerated learning and which are intended to place learning in the hands of the learner.

The text comprises four parts:

  1. 1.

    The Design Process;

  2. 2.

    Active Reading Activities;

  3. 3.

    Card Sort Activities; and

  4. 4.

    Games and Activity Boards.

The first part outlines design process considerations such as learning styles, outcome‐based training and objectives statements, choosing methods and materials, equipment, materials and resources. The other three parts provide the reader with a set of activities under each heading which explain:
  • how each activity works, why it works and purpose and principles;

  • preparation, running the activity (briefing, monitoring and reviewing);

  • examples based on the author's experience of using each approach; and

  • summary of key points.

This is entirely a practical text which contains no attribution of models or support bibliography. As such it is simple and no‐nonsense in its approach. Reference to learning styles is based solely on visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning modalities. One page is devoted to the areas that the activity‐based methods described in the book align with. The text is set out with tables and graphics which both add interest and punctuate the narrative in a reader‐friendly manner.

The benefit of the book is contained in the fact that the author has obviously designed, delivered, evaluated, thought about and revised the activities himself and is sharing this experience with the reader. “Transforming” the learning of knowledge as claimed in the sub‐title of the book may potentially be too strong a claim, and “revitalising” might be more appropriate. In his conclusion the author states:

I can only reiterate what I said at the beginning of the book, that the use of these methods has in my experience made the learning process quicker and more effective than the traditional ways of disseminating knowledge. The activity‐based methods are simply just more fun for not only learners but trainers too.

As a resource the book contains a total of 17 activities which can be run as suggested or adapted to meet the needs of a variety of audiences. The hardback version of the book is relatively expensive. However, for those with little experience of training/learning design or those wishing to consider new approaches/methods, there is the potential of accessing a range of useful activities which have already been applied successfully.

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