Adult Learning Theories: The Test & Tell Method

The next time you’re developing compliance training, think about how you’re increasing motivations to learn.
August 27, 2019

How do we motivate users to continue to learn the same content?


Providing adequate justification and reasoning for adults to learn content is one of the biggest factors to increase motivation. In compliance training, learners will come across a lot of the same content year after year, so how do we keep motivating them to learn?

Think about this scenario; you’ve just sat down to do an online course about appropriate workplace behaviours. You’ve done this course three years in a row. You know the content. You start the course and skim the titles and content; you’ve seen it all before. You come to the test at the end of the course and fail.


This is the tell and test method. As seen above, the limitation of this method stems from inadequate motivation and reasoning at the start of the course to push learners to pay attention. If learners don't see the point in learning a topic, they’re not going to.


The test and tell method attempts to rectify this issue. Using a test at the start of the course gives the learner useful information about what they know, and what they don't. Given that feedback, they can read information and pay closer attention to areas they have been shown they are unaware of.


Compliance training can be difficult as the majority is not focused on delivering new information but keeping a common baseline of knowledge across employees. Motivating users to actively learn and develop usable skills is the desirable outcome, but can be hard when content repeats year after year.

It is more interesting for learners to encounter and overcome difficulty through a test and tell method. It challenges the learner before they can judge and dismiss content. Overall, the test and tell method will increase motivations to learn, even if it's content they've seen before.



“Learning experiences must be meaningful, memorable, and motivational.”


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