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Nick Hindley

Norfolk County Council

Global Learning and Development Manager

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Are there any areas / subjects that cannot be trained interactively?


I have had many discussions about various technical and administrative training topics which were deemed

to be too boring or difficult to design training that was high in attendee interactivity. These have included compliance, finance, filling

and procedural training.

I am curious to find out if there is any subject which cannot be covered in an interactive way?

If TZers send in any possible subjects we can see if there are some interactive ideas. If you are stuck this may be of 

some help as often designing without the in depth technical knowledge helps produce the kernal of a good idea.



34 Responses

  1. Interactive

    Hi Nick

    Sorry for replying with a question but I would ask if all courses "need" to be interactive?

    I don’t even like the word "interactive" any more as it seems a little tired and "old hat"

    The important thing is to use the appropriate method for the particular learning you want to take place for a particular person or group at a particular time and this isn’t always "learning by doing"

    "I need an exercise for" is a sentence that never should be seen on a message board!

    Looking forward to the ideas…



  2. Interactive training?

    Good point Steve, maybe I  should have defined interactivity as training where the attendees actively contribute to the course

    at all stages and at some point practice what has been learned? 

    A thought on your thought. I always design and deliver training that asks the attendees to practice what they have covered. 

    This seems to follow the many learning style models which state that a person needs to "have a go" at something and then carry on to 

    repeat this many times in order to acheieve the necessary level of confidence and competence.

    It is in this context that I cannot ever envisage a training session without interactivity which I mean to be a time during the course when 

    the attendees practice in some way (scenarios, role plays, report analysis, exercises etc) what has been delivered. From the  

    feedback received and results reported, on the successful application of new skills by attendees, this seems to be an effective approach.

    When training new business trainers (part time trainers) they sometimes think that their subjects cannot be delivered with a practical

    element. I have not found any subject yet that cannot include a level of practice hence my curiosity and the question.




  3. Practice


    I like the word "practice" much more than "interaction"

    So often "interaction" is used because the precedding bit was boring or the trainer wants to have some "fun"

    Delegate participation and practice should be factored in to the "preparation" rather than the "planning" of the course. If they don’t need it why waste time in including it just because the session plan says so.

    80% Preparation and 20% Planning allows for whatever needs to happen to happen…

    Todays learners are very sophisticated and will "cherry pick" what they want when they want it so who are we to decide how they should learn?





    The process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.
    Heutagogy is not for the feint of heart or lazy of mind.  Instructors must be facilitators who have the confidence to be able to let go of the ownership of learning.  Rigidly structured environments are not conducive to heutagogy.  Heutagogy does allow instructors and students alike to be creative and to enjoy a mutual respect of ideas. 
    A higher order of learning is when the individual questions the goal structures and rules upon detecting an error.  This is more like “colouring outside the lines” to solve the problem or error.  This is referred to as “double-loop learning.”  This is more creative and may lead to alterations in the rules, plans, strategies, or consequences initially related to the problem at hand.  Double-loop learning involves critical reflection upon goals, beliefs, values, conceptual frameworks, and strategies.
    Knowles (1970, P7)
  4. Interactive learning


    You asked if there are any topics that cannot be delivered in an interactive way. My answer, in short, is no. All that varies is the nature of the interaction that is most suitable. An obvious follow on questions is around whether interaction is always necessary. Again, my answer is no. You can learn in a passive state. But in most training contexts you probably cannot sustain effective learning without some interaction. So is interaction always a good thing? No. It depends on the quality, quantity, the type of interaction, the nature of the group, the learning and the context. Generally, though, well managed interaction can certainly enrich the learning.

    On the issue of interaction and practice. All practice is interactive but not all interaction is practice. I’m not sure that any particular form on interaction is inherently better than any other. Each approach has its place.

    As to boring topics, personally I don’t believe any topic has to be boring. Though I’m sure some topics are easier to make boring if you don’t have your wits, and training skills, about you. What I have noticed is that some less experienced trainers attempt to ‘liven up’ supposedly dull sessions by shoe-horning in totally unsuitable ‘interactivity’. I hate this and I’m sure lots of learners do too. Even if they enjoy it, I do wonder whether fun is being used as a substitute to learning rather than an enhancement to it. I have been privileged to see some great trainers in action. They can make potentially dull topics come to life through a mix of clever design, imaginative approaches to the topic and how to communicate it, a degree of personal pizzaz and, often, really useful forms of interaction.

    Just a final thought. I sometimes think we forget about the idea mental engagement. It is fine to introduce activities so that people are physically involved. But at the heart of much learning is the degree of mental engagement. Someone sitting apparently passive can be highly particapative in their inner world of thought – reflecting on past experiences, making connections, puzzling things out, challenging what might work in practice, planning to try something out…and much more. Given a choice, I’d rather get learners fully engaged in their heads and sitting still than I would have them running around or chatting with no real purpose. Mind you, if you can get them thinking first and then get them practicing, that may be best of all.

    A longer answer than I’d anticipated. I’d welcome others’ views on this.

    Graham O’Connell

  5. Stakeholders

    Thanks for the paper Garry…makes interesting reading.

    I think the moral of the story is that there is no "one method fits all" Even in the context of a 2hr course I would swing between

    all 3 methodologies depending on how I percieved the learners needs.

    Accredited education doesn’t give the educator much freedom as they are constrained by the sylabus and must "cover" (hate that word) a certain amount of material in a certain amount of time which doesn’t lead itself to a very student centred approach.


  6. Directed, co-directed, self-directed


    Thanks for this. I hadn’t come across this particular article.

    Just an observation on how we view theories and philosophies. They are often positioned as alternatives, even opposites. I prefer to think of them as potentially complementary concepts. Disaggregating these ideas is of great value academically but from a practitioner point of view I am interested how you can integrate them into something more rounded and useful.

    In this instance choosing between these theories is like choosing between driving the car, taking the train and walking. You could do just one, depending on the journey you need to take. But most mornings I drive to the station, take the train into town and then walk to the office. Similarly, when I’m learning I often welcome some external stimulus or direction, especially from those more experienced than me. Mostly I like to engage with others as an equal and contextualise my learning into real life situations that I have or might encounter. But I also like to do a bit of my own research and puzzle out what is right for me. I like to try things out on my terms and reflect on what has worked well and less well.

    If done well, being taught by a master (even if for a wee while that means I have a child-like dependancy) is wonderous. If done well, being facilitated, coached and involved in practical learning with my peers is invaluable. If done well, taking charge of my own learning, discovering things for myself, pulling information from the internet, tackling things the way I know works well for me, all this makes the learning mine and is very potent. The key here is not the principle or the method but that simple phrase "if done well".

    In the context of the first question, all these approaches involve a degree of ‘interactivity’ and a degree of (physical) passivity.

    I must go now. I have a train to catch.


  7. learnt at my mothers knee….

    I’m not sure if this is appropriate, and it certainly isn’t as intellectually impressive as previous answers from my learned colleagues, but my late mother had a theory that you could learn in your sleep via heard repetition….as a child I was made to drift off to tape recordings of recitations of times tables.

    Certainly we seem to learn without effort if exposed to constant repetition (think song lyrics or annoying TV adverts for bl***y Go Compare)…this is the nearest I can think of where you can "learn" without any conscious interaction on your part.

    By the way….I never did learn my times tables so maybe that aspect doesn’t work!


  8. Repetition

    You make a good point Russ but "repetition" is the lowest form of learning…

    Or to put it another way Monkey Say Monkey Do…you can teach monkeys to do that!

    Shouting also helps…CILLIT BANG!


  9. “repetition” is the lowest form of learning

    "You make a good point Russ but "repetition" is the lowest form of learning… Or to put it another way Monkey Say Monkey Do…you can teach monkeys to do that!"


    Can you define ‘lowest’ in this context?

  10. Lowest form of Learning


    I usually work on 3 levels when designing a course and all are as important as each other…the levels determine the process I use to teach them in…

    Do I want the delegeates to…

    1) Comply

    2) Interpret

    3) Challenge

    For each topic there will be an element of all 3 levels and this makes it easier to design more effective courses by using the right process in the right place.


    To comply is to repeat therefore in my world is the lowest level…

    PS: Also important to state that by lowest I didn’t mean less important!

  11. Compliance = Repetition

    I see these things as two separate elements:

    First, the requirement to comply repeatedly with a rule, regulation in the workplace.


    Second, the learning process to achieve that.

    I don’t necessarily see repetition in the learning process as necessary to achieve repeated compliance in the workplace.

  12. Compliance

    If you were driving and had to stop quickly you would press the break – Comply

    If you were driving and pressed the break and it didn’t work you would go for the handbreak – Interpret

    If you were driving and pressed the break and it didn’t work you would go for the handbreak and then that was also broke you would turn off the engine, head for a soft verge etc etc etc  – Challenge


    Not the best example but important to learn all 3 and all 3 are taught in very different ways…



  13. Compliance = Repetition

    I understand the definitions you are giving here; I don’t see that there is necessarily any correlation with the learning process i.e. compliance requires repetition in the learning process, or as you state: ‘the levels determine the process I use to teach them in’.

  14. Levels

    Teaching methods…


    Interpret – Andragogy

    Challenge – Heutagogy

    If you were teaching someone the evacuation procedure from an Oil Platform you probably couldn’t do it effectively by just telling them.

    If you were teaching someone what regulation number referred to evacuation procedure from Oil Platforms you probably could do it by

    just telling them.


    Obviously more too it than that but thats it in a nutshell!

  15. Compliance = Repetition

    ‘Comply…Pedagogy – Interpret – Andragogy – Challenge – Heutagogy’

    No, that’s not what those terms mean.

    I understand the definitions you previously gave; I don’t see that there is necessarily any correlation with the learning process i.e. compliance requires repetition in the learning process or as you state: ‘the levels determine the process I use to teach them in’.

  16. Levels

    I wasn’t referring to what the terms mean I was referring to the methodology I use to teach them?

    If regulation 2.3 states that you must do A, B and C then you are teaching someone to repeat what you just said and comply with what you just said.

    To get people to comply you would use a Pedagicial approach…ie Do this, don’t question why, just do it

    To get people to Challenge you would use a Heutagogical (is that a word) approach – Go away and find out the how’s and whys and what ifs and come back next week and we will discuss your findings.


  17. Compliance = Repetition

    Thanks Steve, as you can imagine by my questions, I fundamentally disagree, Carl Roger’s book ‘Freedom to Learn’ delivered the coup de grâce to this rationale for me and reflected my own personal experience in this area.

    Rogers, Carl. (1969). Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become. (1st ed.) Columbus, Ohio: Charles Merill.

  18. Agree to Disagree

    No problem Garry

    Disagreeing is allowed and my methods work extremely well so whether you agree or disagree it doesn’t really matter.


    Enjoy your weekend.




    PS I’ll leave you with one final thought…


    When you learned the alphabet did you Comply, Interpret or Challenge


    If you Complied did you Repeat?

  19. Compliance = Repetition

    "PS I’ll leave you with one final thought… 

    When you learned the alphabet did you Comply, Interpret or Challenge
    If you Complied did you Repeat?"

    P.P.S. Let me reciprocate: When you learned to wear a hard hat in a hard hat area did you Comply, Interpret or Challenge?

    If you complied Steve, did you learn it by putting and taking the hard hat on and off repeatedly?

  20. Hard Hats

    Garry…I was told to put the hat on…saw the sign and put it on….I complied no practice needed…putting a hat on is very easy.

    If someone asked me why I was wearing it I would have repeated what I was told…

    "You must wear your hard hat because you might get something land on your head"

    By repeating what I was told and complying with the rules I reasured the safety person that I knew what I was doing.

    If I forgot my hat I would have had to interpret what to do next…inform the right people, go home or do office work etc

    If I thought wearing hats was silly I would have challeneged the rules and looked through my employment contract and the H&S at work act to see if I had grounds gor a grievance.

  21. Compliance = Repetition

    So the long and the short of it is that compliance does not necessarily require repetition.

    As I said Steve, thanks for the input – as you said, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  22. Repetition

    If you didn’t repeat what you were told to do how would I know you were complying?


    In terms of my argument that complying/repetition is the lowest level…

    Q) Why are you wearing a hard hat

    A) Because something might land on my head

    Q Then what would you do?

    A) Dunno




  23. Compliance = Repetition

    Q: Does compliance require repetition to be used in the learning process?

    A: No.

  24. Congratulations

    What a wonderful example of grown-up, professional debate! I may cite this as an example of when members behave appropriately toward each other, even when they disagree.

    Thank you both for keeping your cool and expressing professional respect for each other. I, and the rest of the community, appreciate this.

  25. Repeat

    "Q: Does compliance require repetition to be used in the learning process?

    A: No"

    Garry, I think you are confusing my definition of "repeat’

    By "repeat" I mean "to copy" Trainer says do this and I repeat or copy what they say.

    ie if you are told you must follow regulation 2.3 to the letter you are merely following orders and doing what you are told without question.

    This is a very low level of learning and requires no input from the trainee unless you want them to use other regulations (interpret) or maybe devise new regulations (challenge)

  26. Compliance = Repetition

    Hello Steve – I don’t think I am confused;

    The dictionary definition of repeat:
    1. To say again: repeat a question.
    2. To utter in duplication of another’s utterance.
    3. To recite from memory.
    4. To tell to another.
    5. To do, experience, or produce again: repeat past successes.
    6. To express (oneself) in the same way or words: repeats himself constantly.

    The dictionary definition of copy:
    1. An imitation or reproduction of an original; a duplicate: a copy of a painting; made two copies of the letter.
    2. One specimen or example of a printed text or picture: an autographed copy of a novel.
    3. Material, such as a manuscript, that is to be set in type.
    4. The words to be printed or spoken in an advertisement.
    5. Suitable source material for journalism: Celebrities make good copy.

    Regardless, where compliance is required I do not find or experience that copying or repeating (as defined above) is always necessary during the learning process in order to subsequently achieve compliance in the workplace. As I wrote before: I see these things as two separate elements which do not predetermine a developmental startegy or training method.

    And as I also wrote before; thanks for the input Steve – as you said, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  27. Copy and Repeat

    Ok lets agree to disagree (again)


    To repeat something is the lowest form of learning (for the purposes of learning copy and repeat are the same)

    To copy something is the lowest for of learning for the (purposes of learning copy and repeat are the same)

    To interpret something is level 2 learning

    To challenge something is level 3 learning

    If you or anyone else can offer a different explanation without quoting book titles I would be very interested.

  28. Compliance = Repetition

    For clarity, this is not my position Steve, I have no issues with the levels; the framework is a variant and contraction of Bloom’s Taxonomy:

    A number of problems however exist around this framework:

    But that is not the issue here, the issue is the proposed correlation of training method to the respective domain of learning or as you wrote ‘the levels determine the process I use to teach them in’. I don’t think this is necessary or reflective of my experience. I completely respect that it maybe yours.

  29. Ask the audience

    I think we should ask the audiience…

    Lets use Bloom as its probably more familliar than my interpretation…(I realise some of your Bloggers have gone beyond Bloom and are off in to the stratosphere of academia but as a Trainer I like to keep it as simple as possible…in 20 years time the very same acaedemics will be suggesting using a blackboard and chalk as they will have exhausted all the crazy ideas and have a back to basics strategy TEFL academics are a good example of this! )

    Would you use the same training method for the top and bottom of the pyramid?

    If so and you were designing a training course how would you know what to do and when if you didn’t differentiate??? More importantly, how would the learners know what was most important?

    The chasm between academic research in education and what actually happens on "the shop floor" is huge. I work for a very high end organisation and also attend lectures, seminars and training outside of my organisation at both public and private institutions to keep up to date.

    I can honestly say that in the 20 years I have been doing this all over the world I could count on one hand those Trainers that I would consider excellent. The worst practice usually comes from those organisations that are doing the research! I recently attended an event at a leading University by a "world leading educational expert" and it was diabolical (this particular expert has the ear of the UK and US governments!)

    To argue over whether there is a better way than using Bloom is probably number 100 of the top 100 problems that exist in Training.

  30. Repetition…again

    Interesting. At a fundemental level I sense more agreement than disagreement, but the value is in the debate.

    I’d just like to go back to repetition (pun intended). When I was an actor I used to repeat my lines to ‘learn’ them. Or, more correctly, to memorise them. This was not pedagogic, other than the Director telling me to get my act together. As to learning my character, this was less about repetition and more about drawing upon my inner resources to get my (cognitive) understanding of part aligned with the feeling I could personally bring to it.

    It seems to me that memorising – conciously or unconsciously – is often necessary but sufficient. A manager can remember proceedures, they can even cite management theories and models, but that is not enough. To learn to be a great manager requires much more, including synthesing what you learn from role models, pushing yourself to try out new behaviours and drawing on that well-spring within.

    On that basis, perhaps the best training is that which blends different forms of learning into an effective recipe. Some repetition, or at least trying things out more than once, some congitive understanding of what good (and bad) looks like, and some humanistic development to grow individuals skills and potential. Maybe less Bloom and more blossom.

    Graham O’Connell

  31. Repeat

    Some good points Graham

    Sorry for repeating myself part 1…

    By "repeating" I was refering to the types of knowledge we aquire and only have to copy or repeat ie When was the Battle of Hastings?

    No further knowledge necessary to answer most pub quiz questions. Very low level and requires no more than telling someone.

    As you go up the scale *Bloom" or "beyond Bloom" or whatever method you buy in to you need to use better methodologies becuase telling someone why there was a Battle and how it could have been prevented isn’t really going to be enough for them to have a debate about the subject.

    An example of level 1 learning…

    Teacher: What do you know about The battle of Hastings?

    Student: 1066

    Teacher: Was The Battle of Hastings Morally right?

    Student: Dunno


    Sorry for repeating myself part 2…

    There are many academics typing away in their oak panelled offices devising theories about how we learn and how we should be taught.  Unfortunately, diseminating these theories in to actual methodoligies we can all use is another story. The last one I came across in my TEFL course was "The Silent way" where the teacher walks in to the room, doeesn’t speak and faces away from the students. The rest of the lesson doesn’t chjange much. If I was paying 30 quid an hour for an English lesson I would expect a little more!

  32. Academics and Business

    There can be issues with academic research and its practical application, that’s for certain, but it is also true that business frequently ignores the academic’s findings because it just doesn’t fit with their blinkered thinking, prior assumptions, prior learning or simple prejudice.

    This video is a classic example of that.

    The academics are not always the lunatic fringe they are being painted as here, business and business people have their failings as well.

  33. Business Academics

    I have no problem with the Business Academics and Gurus as they usually speak a lot of sense. (apart from Alan Sugar)

    Sir Ken Robinson is quite an interesting chap I think…quite like his thoughts and ideas about education…Russell Stannard is one of the most inspirational educators around in my opinion…

    The Educational theories are always interesting…the application is the problem when you have budgetary, time, curriculum, company policy, language and resource constraints…not excuses, just real issues…

    Much more useful would be the actual "do this" we could then try it and know if it works. Otherwise its just a paper on an internet that Bloggers can argue over…

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Nick Hindley

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