How Instrumented Learning Increases Engagement, Buy-In, and Positive Outcomes

Something Tom Hopkins said to me has stuck for decades. Hopkins, once dubbed “The Greatest Salesperson in America,” was discussing how a person could convince someone else that something is true. “If I say it, they’ll doubt me. But if they say it, it must be true.” What he said applies to sales, education, coaching, parenting, and just about every facet of life where knowledge transfer is the objective.

Learning Filters. Those charged with educating students and adult workers know this all too well when facing a group of skeptics who each bring a set of filters to class:

  • “I don’t need the information because it isn’t relevant or applicable to me.”
  • “I already know this so it is a waste of my time.”
  • “This is general stuff that doesn’t apply to my unique and specific situation.”

Enter Instrumented Learning. Instrumented learning is the name given to the learning that follows – and includes – some form of assessment which each class participant has completed. The participant supplies the information, based on what he or she knows, prefers, or believes. Since it is his or her own data, it must be true for that person.

Instrumented Learning Case Study 1: Team Dysfunction. A group of professionals work in a department that is characterized by low levels of cooperation, poor communications, and an ‘us versus them’ mentality. The supervisor believes the dysfunction is caused or exacerbated by behavioral conflict. If the supervisor gathers the staff together and says, “We have a problem – let me tell you what it is and how we are going to fix it,” likely a general session of grievances will follow with solutions that feel like they are being forced on people. As a result, there is limited engagement, little buy-in, and little positive outcome, although most staff members agree that there is ongoing conflict that negatively impacts the group.

An instrumented learning approach to solving this problem was to administer an assessment such as DiSC® to all participants, and then come together as a group to learn about DiSC® and what their own DiSC profiles said about them. The information provided by each participant taking the assessment is their own and therefore believed as true and uniquely relevant to the participant. Engagement was high because people are eager to learn about themselves. Once the concept of behavioral styles was understood, participants were exposed to the profiles of their coworkers and could see specific areas in which two people’s behavioral approach was either complementary or in conflict. Once participants recognized there were many behavioral styles at work in the department causing the dysfunction, the stage was set for some “Aha! moments” and changes to the workplace dynamics:

  • Because people are behaviorally different from one another, so in order to be a better teammate, each person needs to respect those differences.
  • Respect equates to your understanding the other person’s behavioral worldview, and adapting your approach in order to work more effectively with a fellow staffer.
  • Wrong motives are no longer assigned to explain how people act; instead, people are more comfortable with the behavioral diversity of fellow staffers and now begin to function more cohesively.

Instrumented Learning Case Study 2: Career Search. Today’s college and university students are greatly concerned about employment following graduation. Yet each year, the survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that college students believe they already know and possess effective job search skills, leading them to the mistaken belief they are more prepared than they actually are to conduct a successful career search. Thus few sign up for elective activities, such as taking a seminar on job search or visiting the campus career services office. Career search only becomes a focus once the student nears graduation and employment must be found. By then they are under the pressure to land a job…any job. As a result, graduate unemployment and underemployment may be as high as 50%, according to a 2012 story from the AP.

An instrumented learning approach to solving this challenge and getting students to buy in to career search education is for each to complete an assessment like GEPA℠, the Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment℠. GEPA℠ measures what someone does and does not know about conducting an effective career search. It is the individual’s data, so it must be true.

Last year, several thousand college students at a southeastern US school completed a GEPA℠ Assessment as part of a university initiative to teach career search to students 9 months from graduation. Faced with the reality of their scores compared to benchmark scores for other students and experienced workers, they quickly bought into the career search curriculum offered. One group of 44 first-generation college students in Biloxi, Mississippi scored 15% under the national average for college students in their initial GEPA℠ Assessment. After completing the 44 classroom hour course offered by their school, they were retested and improved their scores by more than 73%. Upon completion they knew significantly more about conducting a successful career search than even the seasoned professionals in their field. That translated to a more positive learning outcomes of:

  • Successful job searches taking less time to complete.
  • Finding jobs of choice that provided greater opportunity for the graduate.
  • The increased income resulting from earlier and better employment.

Key Conclusions. Learning is of little value if it is not retained and utilized to effect change.

Whenever someone is presented with a learning opportunity, the natural response is to engage the “learning filters” previously discussed. Instrumented learning is a way to remove someone’s learning filters so that:

  • Learning engagement is dramatically increased.
  • Participant buy-in is raised for what is being taught.
  • Learning outcomes are improved as participant now confidently apply what they have learned.

Consider how you could affect positive change with your learning opportunities by taking an instrumented learning approach to dealing with people’s natural learning filters.

Boyer Management Group works with employers and job seekers alike to help both become more successful. The case studies referred to in this article are actual and typical of the results of client projects we have undertaken. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools, training and programs, including management/leadership development training, as well as programs for new managers and supervisors. For job seekers, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at,
or call us at 215-942-0982.


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