Reporting on ΓÇ£Training from the BACK of the Room!ΓÇ¥

2010 Scrum Alliance Gathering Post-Conference Event

29 December 2010

Imagine you are a reporter who has been invited to report on the two-day event that follows the 2010 Scrum Alliance Gathering in Amsterdam (which occurred last month). The event has a strange title – “Training from the BACK of the Room” (you are curious as to how someone can do that) – from a book by the same name. The book has made the rounds of Scrum and Agile trainers from all over the world. In fact, at the event you will be reporting on, there will be thirty-one participants from fifteen countries and five continents – a cultural mix of diversity that will make for an interesting and intellectually-rich, post-Gathering experience.

So you go. From the moment you step into the room, you see many of the elements and principles of Scrum and Agile being put into practice. On one wall are chart pages with the “product backlog,” also called learning outcomes, for the two days. On another wall are the “What’s In It For Me?” post-it notes, as well as “Wows and How Abouts?” – much like the Scrum/Agile timeboxed tasks. Each day is organized around a day-long sprint with its own backlog and four learning process steps: connections, concepts, concrete practice, conclusions. There are the daily scrums or “stand-ups” (openings, standing pair-shares, standing surveys, take-a-stand, stand-up/sit-down activities), sprint reviews (closings), and a retrospective (conclusion and celebration circle at the end of the final day).

Even better, you notice that the values that are most important to Scrum and Agile practitioners are embedded in the training program:

• Individuals and interactions are emphasized over processes and tools.

• Functionality of the training strategies (can the participants DO the training activities, lead them, and teach them to others?) is more important than comprehensive documentation.

• Participant collaboration is emphasized more than the daily lesson plan.

• Responding to change makes the hour-by-hour iterations feel fluid and flexible – a natural flow instead of a rigid agenda.

You watch the action around you. Participants engage in short, structured activities, then discuss what they learned and how they could use the interactive strategies with their Scrum and Agile content and audiences. The activities build on each other, with easier, low-risk ones followed by more complex, higher-risk ones. Participants collect the ideas and activities they can use and put them in a “trainer’s toolbag” – a workbook full of “graphic organizers” (note-taking pages) that they quickly fill with concepts, ideas, activities, resources, and so on.

The most intense part of the first day comes when participant teams work together to create and demonstrate tools from their toolbags using Scrum/Agile content. They engage the whole class in the high-energy, active demonstrations. The second day, they create their own training “maps” using their content combined with the 4 Cs training design model: connections, concepts, concrete practice, conclusions. They show and explain how they would enhance their own Scrum and Agile instruction with lots of interaction, even during the content-delivery segments.

You are amazed at the amount of participant energy, activity, collaboration, and enthusiasm you see during the two-day event. Furthermore, you have learned a lot about how the human brain really learns, instead of traditional assumptions about learning. You’ve observed six learning principles based on brain science in action:

To make the learning work better for learners –

1. Movement trumps sitting.
2. Talking trumps listening.
3. Images trump words.
4. Writing trumps reading.
5. Shorter segments of instruction trump longer ones.
6. Different ways of learning trump the same, repetitive ones.

And you’ve seen these six learning principles demonstrated throughout the entire two days. Participants are doing the moving, talking, imagining, writing, working with short segments of content, and learning in a variety of different ways.

The “Training from the BACK of the Room” facilitator Sharon Bowman (and coincidentally the author of the book by the same name) has, indeed, stepped aside and allowed the participants to teach each other and learn from one another throughout the two days. You are now an eye-witness as to how it can be done. Instead of the trainer being the “sage-on-the-stage,” he/she is now the “guide-on-the-side.”

Well, you have a lot to write about as you report on the two-day, train-the-trainer event. And the participants have a huge amount of practical, useful, and brain-based content to apply the next time they train. You walk away smiling. It has been a unique, dynamic, informative, and memorable two days.

About the author and training facilitator: Sharon Bowman has been an international speaker, corporate trainer, and classroom teacher for about forty years. She is also the author of seven popular training books, including The Ten-Minute Trainer, Training from the BACK of the Room, and her newest book Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick. Log onto her website at for free training articles and book excerpts. You can also find her books on


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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