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Optimum training session length


Our organisation is constantly wanting us to increase session lengths to get delegates trained in a shorter period of time. We argue that delegates reach saturation point after about 5 hours.

Is there anything to back this up other than our gut feeling and experience?

Angela Marincowitz

4 Responses

  1. Depends
    An interesting question and it appears that there is no straight answer…as you would no doubt expect! It would appear to depend on how the training is conducted. There is some research (Bligh 2002) showed that if the training is more traditional (death by power point and didactic and the participants are novice learners (new to the subject) they tend to loose it after only 20 minutes! Experts in such a situation can keep going as long as the information is interesting and extends their knowledge. There is no evidence about how long they can keep going as it depends on many factors (Tiredness, interest, relevence etc.).
    If the session is facilitative and student driven / centred AND relevant / of interest AND at the level of the participants (complexity) then there is some evidence that participants can keep going for about 12 hours + with some breaks and assuming fluid and some food is provided. This can be kept going for many weeks.
    Hope that this helps.


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  2. How long??
    This is like the proverbial, “how long is a piece of string? to some the answer is twice the length from the middle to the end for others ???”

    It has been my belief that if you break the training down into 45 minutes sessions the provided that it is interactive and participative etc et al you can go for as long as it takes, 5 hours may seem like a long time but breaking it down into sessions helps.
    I hope this helps from the Land Down Under.

    Keith Cheetham

  3. Length of training sessions.
    I believe in the adage that, “The brain will only accept what the bum will endure.” We learn incrementally so we should train the same way. Our attention span varies with the level of mental engagement. However, it is shorter than we think. Reducing training time has to be veiwed in the context of desired results. Peter Mitchell NZ

  4. Time pressure in a different way
    We come under increasing pressure to reduce the total time spent on training, cramming high volumes of information in an extremely short length of time.
    It’s not so much ‘how long the bum will endure’ rather than ‘will it get to touch the chair in the first place’!


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