Test for Transfer to Real Life with Demonstration of Learning Tasks


If you've been following along with the last several posts as I've walked through a brain-based curriculum design model with examples, then you've been along for the ride as we've explored Getting Buy In and Inviting Personal Learning Goals, Eliciting Mental Models, Facilitating the Construction of New Knowledge, and Providing Practice with Feedback. Now we are ready for learners to integrate what they’ve learned into a Demonstration of Learning activity.

Students should demonstrate their learning in a real-life task.

Demonstration of Learning is the curriculum design and delivery step in which we ask students/trainees to demonstrate their understanding of the course or training content through a real-life application activity. Ideally, this performance task will require participants to demonstrate critical and integrative thinking in a context the same as, or similar to, the context in which they will need to apply their new learning outside of the classroom or training room. A demonstration of learning task should be constructed in such a way that the successful performance of that task becomes a good indication that the student has successfully mastered the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the outcome in the rest-of-life.

Here are samples of Demonstration of Learning tasks that I've created and delivered.


In a facilitation skills workshop the demonstration of learning task required trainees to synthesize their new learning combining effective listening, strategies for reaching a shared outcome, tips for managing challenging participants, understanding stages of group life, and supporting folks through the stages of change in an assigned role play.

Each participant was assigned a paragraph scenario requiring a combination of three or more of the skill areas. Two other participants were assigned roles within that scenario (resistant to change, or challenging participant, as examples, along with suggestions for things they should do).

Participants worked in teams of three, with each individual having both a starring role as a facilitator in their scene, along with "supporting roles" in the scenarios of their two team members. There was a success checklist listing the criteria of a successful facilitation with descriptions and scores for various levels of proficiency.

There were three rotations, each lasting 45 minutes. In each 45-minute block, the "facilitator" conducted the role-play for 15 minutes with his peers in their roles, according to the scenario. Then the facilitator took a break outside of the room while his peers used the success checklist to score his performance.

The facilitator returned to the room as the team debriefed noting strengths along with 1 or 2 suggestions for improvement. Then they switched roles, with a new facilitator and scenario, while the other two team members played supporting roles and scored the success checklist.

At the end of the 3rd rotation, scored success checklists were returned to each facilitator and I conducted a large group debrief to share highlights, answer questions and provide additional coaching in areas where facilitators did not score as highly as they would have liked.

I used this demonstration of learning task in a training for facilitators, but the structure could be used for any number of topic areas. You could use this exact same activity for demonstrating a variety of skills such as effective speaking or listening, a mock interview, having a challenging conversation, or demonstrating any number of procedural skills related to your topic area.


In a parenting class for incarcerated parents, the final demonstration of learning task was a family event held at the very end of the course. Participants spent some portion of the last few classes, plus extra "call out" times when the teacher was available to assist, preparing for this event. Parents practiced their communication skills by creating and sending personalized invitations to their family members on the outside. Parents planned developmentally appropriate activities to play with their children who would be at the visit, selecting stories to read, games to play, and making the props to accompany these activities. Since it was prison, all items had to be approved so parents went through the proper channels and procedures for gaining permission for activities such as finger painting, water play, or puppet making.

On the day of the event, parents welcomed guests, helped children select snacks, served their adult guests, and ran the activities, taking turns so that they each had time "on duty" as well as time with their families. The parenting instructor was joined by other parenting instructors from other facilities who made themselves available to coach parents who had challenges with children who experienced difficulties as well as to evaluate the demonstration of the parenting skills by the parents in the class.

This performance task required parents to demonstrate skills in emotion regulation, age-appropriate selection of activities for children, nutrition as they developed the menu, advocacy and effective communication as they turned in requests for snacks and activities to the proper authorities, and empathy and appreciation as they interacted with family members and children, much of the content of the previous 12 weeks of class.

Every curriculum or training I write or deliver has some sort of demonstration of learning task. The more I can make this task mimic real life, the greater the likelihood that my students or trainees will feel that they have had a learning experience that adequately prepares them to transfer their learning to their life, and they will have had an opportunity to prove they can do it.

How is your brain-based design progressing?

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