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As experiential learning designers, we are asked this question almost every day. It seems a simple request, clearly important to trainers because it is asked so often, but my heart sinks a little each time I hear it. Why? Perhaps because we have seen many examples of ill-thought out, irrelevant and potentially embarrassing ice-breakers having a negative effect on learner motivation and diminishing trust in the trainer. Good icebreakers can be fun and generate energy but do they really add value to the learning process?
We believe we should move away from ‘icebreakers’, focusing instead on creating powerful and memorable ‘openings’ that address genuine adult learning needs and enhance understanding and retention of subject matter.
Why should we open with a practical, interactive activity?
There are three particularly important reasons why an early, experiential activity makes sense.