Road Test: Bringing Learning Alive

by 08 Jul 2008

Early on the first day of this two-day public course, Allan Parker tells us he keeps up his skills by observing the world’s best speakers a few times each year. In the early 1980’s, Parker went to the US to watch Elizabeth Kubler-Ross speak.

He was surprised to see an unassuming older woman with not a great deal of fashion sense walk on stage to thunderous applause and a lengthy standing ovation. In a seated position and with a soft voice, she captivated her audience for the duration of her presentation.

Parker didn’t use the word “authentic” to describe what Kubler-Ross’s audience found so compelling – but he should have. He may not have learned to be an engaging, authentic, authoritative presenter from Kubler-Ross – but he is one. Parker’s style is all his own.

Allan Parker, director of Peak Performance Development, is a well-respected Australian and international consultant in the areas of organisational change facilitation, training and dispute management. He’s the trainer’s trainer. He has fans among L&D professionals who used this Bringing Learning Alive workshop as a refresher course.

Refreshing it was too. With neither a timetable nor agenda in sight, the first day seemed quite unstructured. However, upon reflection, it was an opportunity for people to explore the principles of self-directed learning and for us all to test the reality of the theory, which did not sit well with quite a few of us.

In order to keep the full spectrum of participants engaged during this first day, Parker also injected discussion around prominent educational, philosophical and psychological theorists to give the cognitive theoretic minds in the room something to work with. Using an open learning style – of course – he left the theory as an open loop.

On the second day many of the participants felt far more comfortable with Parker’s blended process that included traditional structure and didactic educational processes woven in with both the self-directed and active learning principles of adult education. There was a comfortable blend, for many of us, of both directed and random discovery.

One participant responded to all Parker’s first-day open loops by taking the floor early on day two and closing them.

Parker allows participants to experience a range of learning methodologies and to leave with a toolkit that will help them make learning in the workplace more fun, dynamic and interactive.

Keen observers will have picked up more than 20 specific skills for energising a group, five multi-sensory ways to deliver the same information, about ten methods for teaching a new skill or behaviour and at least five techniques for getting engagement and holding attention.

The workshop attracted a spectrum of participants from many areas of government, business and even the arts. Parker’s ability to fully engage such a wide range of people and to accommodate their learning styles is nothing short of masterful.

He deserves his strong following among L&D professionals. It’s a pleasure – and almost a privilege – to watch him work.

For more information, call Peak Performance Development on 02-9328.9777 or email or visit