Tell, Show, Do, Review: An Essential Learning Blueprint

At Maestro, we know that learning is a process—a one-and-done approach simply doesn’t work for most learners and most content. In fact, we’re so certain that learning is a process that we’ve made it a foundational Maestro Learning Principle (LP.02). We also know that designing learning as a process can be daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. Using the Tell, Show, Do, Review framework provides a convenient blueprint to architect effective learning experiences that are modeled after the way learners actually learn.

What is Tell, Show, Do, Review?

Tell, Show, Do, Review is a method that incorporates a variety of modalities to create effective, engaging learning experiences that mirrors the way learners learn. As a learning professional, this structure can be a helpful tool in your toolbox. But before you can use this framework, you need to understand it. Here are the four phases.

Tell

The first step is to tell learners what they need to know and why it’s important. As a learning professional, “telling” manifests as instructing, lecturing, or otherwise explaining a lesson for learners.

Examples of Tell learning experiences:

  • Book
  • Article
  • Job aid
  • Lecture
  • Basic eLearning course

While these experiences all provide value and can be useful instructional tools, on their own, they are unlikely to create the meaningful change that learning as a process can create.

Show

The second step is to show learners how to practically apply their learning. This provides an opportunity for you as a learning professional to demonstrate and model behaviors so learners can see the learning in action.

Examples of Show learning experiences:

  • Demonstration
  • Instructional how-to video
  • Job shadowing activity

Showing a learner how a task is done can be tremendously helpful, but learners typically need to practice the skills themselves as well.

Do

The third step is to have learners do the task or apply their learning themselves. This grants learners the opportunity to practice what they learned in a safe, controlled environment where they can fail with little to no repercussions. Consider this the rehearsal stage before they take their new skills and apply them in the real world.

Examples of Do learning experiences:

  • Simulation
  • Role play exercise
  • Scenario

And while it’s critical that learners have an opportunity to test their new skills, it’s equally important that there’s a review of their abilities, so they can make necessary adjustments and continue to improve.

Review

The fourth step is to provide feedback to learners about their performance so they can continue to hone their skills—moving from occasionally getting it right to always getting it right. As a learning professional, this is where you would help your learners assess their progress and explore ways in which they can continue to improve.

Examples of Review learning experiences:

  • Coaching
  • Providing feedback (written or oral)

This step helps learners get better, so they can more competently and confidently apply their learning in the real world.

Can you skip the do or review stage?

Many basic learning formats utilize tell and/or show without incorporating Do or Review. Tell and Show learning experiences allow the learner to be a passive observer (often with little to no interaction between the learner and the instructor) and are popular among eLearning courses and how-to videos, like YouTube tutorials.

So do you really need the Do and Review stages? While there can be some powerful Tell and/or Show learning experiences, research demonstrates that having a Do and Review stage is really important. In fact, failure to include these final stages into your learning likely won’t create the meaningful change you’re aiming for—even if learners think it did. Without a Do or Review stage, learners might think they’ve grasped the content when they actually haven’t. This is called the illusion of explanatory depth, which occurs when people feel that they understand a complex topic or concept better than they actually do. It’s only when learners put their learning into practice that they realize they know less than they thought they did.

Because each step of Tell, Show, Do, Review works in tandem with the other steps, they function best when used together. In many cases, the Tell, Show, Do, Review method may work as a repeating cycle, as learners continue building on their learning and practicing new skills—restarting from the top and repeating the process more than once until they’ve successfully mastered the content. Without the Do and Review stages, learners may think they’ve successfully mastered the content when they really haven’t. And as learning professionals, the last thing we want to do is waste the learner’s time or our time by creating learning experiences that fail to create the meaningful change we’re after.

How learners learn

Using the Tell, Show, Do, Review method works because that’s how learners learn. Rarely, if ever, can someone master something through a one-and-done learning approach. By crafting your learning to match the way people actually learn, you’re much more likely to create an effective, successful learning experience.

For example, consider the process you might undergo to learn to be a better singer. First, you might seek out a vocal instructor, someone who tells you what to do and demonstrates it for you. From here, you’d try it for yourself, referring to your instructor for further guidance as you continue to hone your skills. To truly learn to become a better singer, it will take time and practice. This example isn’t the exception, it’s the rule—learning a new skill is a multi-step process, and the Tell, Show, Do, Review method facilitates that process.

Designing effective learning

Tell, Show, Do, Review isn’t just helpful for learners, this method is also a useful tool for learning and development professionals. When planning a new course or designing a learning experience, it can be difficult to know where to start, how to structure your content, or what modalities will work best. This is where Tell, Show, Do, Review can give you a headstart.

Tell, Show, Do, Review can adeptly move learners from basic to advanced, building on their skill level and knowledge to set them up for long-term success and meaningful behavior change. Because this framework utilizes tight loops of learning that reinforce key concepts, layers and scaffolds content in different formats, and incorporates opportunities for application and reflection, the Tell, Show, Do, Review method provides a convenient, ready-made structure for learning that’s designed to be effective.

Think of Tell, Show, Do, Review as a shortcut—by laying out this blueprint and using it to guide you in your design, you can stop stressing about the framework and start focusing on creating innovative, intentional learning experiences that really work.

Interested in another powerful learning framework?

Before you can create effective content, you need to understand your learners. Our Learning Environment Analysis guide can help.

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