Thiagi Group

Novice or Expert?

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50 - 6020 - 30 High
Trainers have difficulty imagining how people feel when they are forced to learn through their weak learning styles. This activity enables them to experience the frustrations of working though a weak learning style—and the positive feelings of using their strong learning styles.


To experience the difference in working with one's weak—and strong—learning styles.





    Before a lunch break or at the end of the first day of the training, distribute a copy of the Activity Ranking Sheet to each participant. Ask participants to rank the five activities according to their levels of expertise.

    During the break, organize participants into these two sets of teams based on their rankings:

    Novice teams: Group participants who ranked the same activity at the novice level by giving it a 5. (If necessary, include participants who ranked the same activity with a 4.)

    Expert teams: Group participants who have ranked the same activity at the expert level by giving it a 1. (If necessary, include participants who ranked the same activity with a 2.)

    Example: You organized 2 teams of 5 participants who gave a rank of 5 in music, 1 team in building, 1 team in acting, and 1 team in drawing.


    Explain the activity to the participants. Distribute copies of the handout with the outline of the training topic to all participants. Give the following instructions in your own words:

    • You will create a training product related to the content outlined in your handout. Work with other members of your team to create this product that you can incorporate in your training session.
    • During this phase, you will work on your least-preferred activity (that you rated “5”). You'll work together with the other members of the team that I assigned you to.
    • You will have 20 minutes to prepare the training product. Later, you will present the products to others.
    • You and the other members of your team will be evaluated on the quality of your training product.

    Form novice teams. Based on your preparatory work, assign participants to different novice teams.

    Give instructions to the observers. Identify one member of each team to be an observer. Ask observers not to take part in the production activity. Tell them to observe and record elements of teamwork such as time spent on the task, group dynamics, avoidance behaviours, and levels of enthusiasm.

    Monitor teamwork. Remind the participants of the task: They have 20 minutes to prepare a product that communicates key points related to the training topic, using only their weakest ability: the drawing team will prepare a graphic poster without any numbers or words, the music team will present the key points using only songs and music, the acting team will dramatize the key points, and the building team will construct a model to represent the key points.

    During the first few minutes, check to make sure that the teams are not paralysed with fear and anxiety. Give general ideas to help the teams to get started (for example, for a music team, remind them they could use traditional tunes or write a rap song).

    Share the products. At the end of 20 minutes, ask all teams to stop their activities. Ask each team to present its product to the other participants. Ask everyone to comment on the instructional quality of the product. Lead a round of applause after each presentation.

    Form expert team. Without a break, reorganize participants into expert teams according to the list you prepared earlier. Assign the observers to the same types of teams that they monitored earlier.

    Conduct expert activity. Repeat the procedure as before. Explain to participants that they have 20 minutes to create product related to the same training topic, using their most-preferred ability. At the end of the allotted time, ask teams to demonstrate their products to the other participants who will comment on the instructional quality.


    To maximize the learning from this activity, conduct a debriefing session in which participants share and compare their experiences during both phases of the activity. Ask for spontaneous reactions and reinforce them with comments from the observers. Use the following types of questions to explore the main points:

    • Which one did you enjoy the most: the novice activity or the expert activity?
    • Which phase resulted in more stress among team members: the novice activity or the expert activity?
    • Was the quality of the final product the same in both phases? If it was different, how do you explain the discrepancy?
    • In what phase did you have the opportunity to better demonstrate your abilities?
    • During the novice activity, did team members use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses? How did they do this?
    • What general lessons did we learn from this activity?

    Notes from the Field

    In conducting this activity with different groups, here are some interesting things that we observed:

    • Participants seem to enjoy the novice activity more than the expert activity.
    • The products from the expert activity are mostly superior to those from the novice activity.
    • The level of stress seems to be generally higher during the expert activity than during the novice activity, probably because of the increased level of competition among team members.
    • When participants cannot use their strengths directly, they use them indirectly. For example, they will write words to create a song or they will draw a picture and cut it up to build a model.
    • Participants often ask for more time to complete the expert activity, and frequently finish the novice activity in less than the allocated time.


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