Training with SPACER and Maintaining Engagement | Paradigm Learning

Training with SPACER and Maintaining Engagement

Posted by Paradigm Learning on May 29, 2019

Have you ever used a SPACER to kick off a meeting? A SPACER is widely considered a great opener to ensure you have a good meeting or training class. It stands for:


Example: tell everyone where the exits are in case of a fire drill.


Example: go over the learning objectives for a training session.


Example: explain what you’ll be covering each day of a multi-day meeting.


Example: allow the class to come up with their own rules, like timeliness.


Example: have the participants explain what they think they’re going to walk away with.


Example: assign someone from each group to be a timekeeper.

A quick online search tells me that SPACER is commonly used in lean environments, although it can certainly be applied in other areas.

In May one of our facilitators and I attended Day 1 of a 2.5-day change management workshop at a client’s offices. They had chosen one of our discovery learning solutions, Right Turns: Change in Action®, as part of the first day so we got to sit in from the beginning, including SPACER. We sat through the brief but thorough safety briefing. The purpose slide and agenda slide we had seen before, in preparation for this session. Things got interesting for me when we continued to the code of conduct.

The client facilitators (who are also high-level leaders in the organization) had the participants pick their own rules for the code of conduct: be on time, be present, have fun, etc. As we drilled down into “be present,” the group added that cell phones and laptops would be prohibited. They even came up with punishments, i.e. if you’re late you must sing to the group or if you have your cell phone out, it can be confiscated.

In my 6 years at Paradigm Learning, I’ve attended dozens of sessions. Our clients have been in almost any industry you can imagine. The participants have been individual contributors to VP’s. The class sizes have ranged from a handful to hundreds. I’ve been to a small town in Arkansas and I’ve been to Chicago.

This particular group of 17 leaders from a manufacturing organization in upstate New York was the most engaged group I’ve ever seen.

Why? Cell phones and laptops were nowhere to be seen, except on breaks. Even I shut my laptop and took notes in a notebook.

Most of us would have no trouble admitting we couldn’t live without our phones. We may even admit to being addicted. But did you know some say the average person spends more than 4 hours a day on their phone? What about that the average person checks their phone 110 times per day?

According to Psychology Today, “smartphones distract us from achieving a state of flow, defined as ‘a state in which we are fully absorbed by an activity, forgetting about space and time, whilst being very productive.’”

It was difficult for me, even as I’m researching this topic, not to check my phone and to focus on this piece. The participants in the change management workshop probably felt similarly, and they were able to refrain (although one phone was confiscated!).

Here are some of the impacts we observed as a result of participants putting their electronics away:

  • Increased detail-orientation: The learners did not skip questions in their books. They didn’t blow past stop signs. Our facilitator did not have to repeat instructions multiple times.

  • Better discussions: The participants became highly engaged in the discussions, both at their tables and for full room debriefs.

  • Decreased interruptions: No one was popping in and out of the room to take calls, handle “emergencies,” etc. The groups did not have to spend time catching team members up.

  • Stuck to the agenda: Without disruptions, the group was able to stay on schedule, even with the deep, long discussions they were having about the new strategy, process, and culture of their company.

According to ATD’s 2018 State of the Industry report, instructor-led training (ILT) accounts for 67% of all training hours used. More than half of all training hours available were delivered in a classroom in 2017 (53.2%), after dipping below 50% in 2015. Over a quarter (26%) of training expenditures are made on external resources, like consultants.

The point here is that if your learners are sitting in a classroom being trained with their colleagues, your organization has made a significant investment. Get the most bang for their training dollars by putting phones and computers away to ensure everyone is present. The “conduct portion” of SPACER is a great way to get the group’s buy-in.

See how we use experiential learning to keep people engaged and make learning stick in our eGuide.  

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