Driving Care Excellence: Group Discussion Hits the Mark in Dementia Training


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Discussion or Group Discussion is also referred to as Cooperative Learning. This active study method can lead to higher retention rates and greater skill-building outcomes when applied to dementia training. 

Studies show that varying study methods and materials will improve information retention and recall, enhancing the learning experience. The "learning pyramid," sometimes called the "cone of learning," developed by the National Training Laboratory (NTL), suggests that most students only remember about 10% of what they read from textbooks or lectures but retain nearly 90% of what they learn through teaching others. The Learning Pyramid model suggests that some study methods are more effective than others and that varying study methods will lead to deeper learning and longer-term retention.

Let's look at three "traditional modes of teaching and their efficacy: 


According to the NTL research, "Lecture" is one of the most ineffective methods for learning and retaining information. A lecture is a passive form of learning where you sit back and listen to a presenter spoon-fed information to a student or participant. Attempting to acquire information and gain understanding only through lectures is not the most effective way of learning. However, auditory learners tend to find lectures more stimulating and educational than students who have non-auditory learning styles.


NTL research further supports that while more effective than Lecture, Reading is still one of the least effective methods for acquiring and retaining information, according to the Learning Pyramid. However, if you are a visual learner, reading textbooks will likely be a more effective learning method than for students with non-visual learning styles. 


The NTL Learning Pyramid suggests that Audio-visual learning methods only lead to a 20% retention of information learned. The audio-visual learning method may incorporate various audio-visual learning/teaching tools, including videos, sound, pictures, and graphs. However, as media and computer technology continue to evolve, new forms of audio-visual instruction are leading to more effective learning and retention of material. The effectiveness of audio-visual learning and study methods are enhanced when combined with other, more active forms of study.

Now, let's transition to the engaged, experiential learning modalities that drive up retention rates.  


Demonstration usually involves students (or participants ) with a learning task they can engage with and observe. Within the structure of the Learning Pyramid, Demonstration is the first of the seven study methods that involves active learning. NTL research findings support that Demonstration offers students less ambiguity than passive study methods, leading to fewer misconceptions and greater understanding. 

Dementia training is most effective when learning tasks are included in the framework model.  A key takeaway with demonstration is Understanding.  When a learner is able to deepen their understanding of what it might be like to live with dementia, they gain a strong foundational base of empathy.  Walking in another person's shoes enlightens caregivers and builds on those deep-seated emotions that accompany persons living with dementia.  


Discussion, or "Group Discussion," is a form of Cooperative Learning. It is also an active study method that can lead to greater retention of information and material studied and higher academic achievement. Unlike competitive and individualistic approaches to learning and studying, Discussion is a cooperative learning method that relies on students interacting and studying material with other students and instructors. Discussion Groups are intended to stimulate student or participant thinking and increase participation and engagement. Discussion can occur within a classroom setting or through group discussion. 

We call group discussion as it relates to AGE-u-cate's Dementia Live® training, as an Empowerment Session.  This small group, one-on-one, or larger group activity is a gateway to impactful conversation, allowing the participant to share the "aha" moments that they learned in their dementia simulation (Dementia Live) experience room.  Having an opportunity to verbalize and share feelings is enormously effective in dementia training.  In order to gain and utilize new skills, such as practical communication skills, caregivers first need the unique perspective of activity engaging in what their care partner's life might be like.  Gateway conversations are the pinnacle of cooperative learning in dementia training. 

Empowered discussions lead to higher retention and applicable takeaways to apply practical skills immediately.

Practice by Doing

Practice by doing, a form of "Discover Learning", is one of the most effective methods of learning and study. This method of study encourages students to take what they learn and put it into practice – thereby promoting deeper understanding and moving information from short-term to long-term memory. Practice by doing makes the material more personal, and thus more meaningful to students. Practice by doing also leads to a more in-depth understanding of the material, greater retention, and better recall.

Effective dementia training must include practical skills. The complexities of caring for someone with cognitive decline are vast and ever-changing.  Without the trigger points of understanding and empathy, the participant misses out on the game-changing moments to learn and grow through their experience.  Building on simple, yet powerful tools must begin soon after they have experienced and then engaged in empowered discussion.  

Teaching Others

The key to subject mastery is teaching it to others. If you can accurately and correctly teach a subject to others, you'll have an outstanding ability of the concepts and superior retention and recall. According to the Learning Pyramid model, students are able to retain about 90% of what they're able to teach to others. The most common form of teaching others is Peer Tutoring. However, the best place to teach others is in a study group. One of the main activities that should occur in an effective study group is peer-to-peer teaching, where each group member can teach the other group members the course material being studied.

When engaging in a dementia training option, the framework to train others should not be overlooked. Those who engage at the highest levels are your champions and teachers. Building mentor groups for ongoing discussion, reflection, and learning is key to driving care and quality-of-life outcomes.  

From this research, we can easily apply the importance of quality dementia training with the highest potential for improved outcomes of care and thus improved quality of life for those living with dementia. Clearly, an experiential model with group discussion has outstanding potential for success and sustainable best-care practices.  

The demand for effective dementia training for professional and family caregivers is growing exponentially. For aging service providers seeking dementia training options, seeking programs that include experiential components, group discussion, and application, followed by a "teaching others" framework is critical to a sustainable model of improved care outcomes for staff and families.  

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