Cafeteria Learning

Can Cafeteria Learning work for Heavy Civil Construction employees?



Allan Myers is the largest heavy civil construction company and materials provider in the Mid-Atlantic with seven regional offices and 15 asphalt and aggregate plants. With a workforce of more than 2,000 hard working men and women.

When Jackie Bonner, an Instructional Designer from Allan Myers, was first introduced to the Cafeteria Learning model, she knew it could work for her organization.


Jillian: We met when you came to my session at the 2017 ATD International Conference in Atlanta. I’m so glad to hear you have been able to apply the model. Tell me about the course you designed.

Jackie: Being in heavy construction, of course safety is one of our biggest priorities. We had a request from our leadership that more people obtain an OSHA 10 Certification.  That means 10 hours of classroom instruction for workers who just aren’t used to sitting all day! Cafeteria Learning seemed like the perfect way to make the content interactive and engaging, and it worked!

We designed an OSHA 10 course that includes aspects of our culture at Allan Myers, one of which is an integrated set of practices for working together and communicating with each other called “The Collaborative Way” by Lloyd Fickett. One of the best ways to ensure safety is through good communication, and this is where we were able to apply Cafeteria Learning. We built three tracks (listening generously, speaking straight, looking for filters) and had three activities in each track. Some of the activities were ideas you gave me in the workshop, some came from the book, and some we figured out together as a team.

Jillian: So, we often get asked if designing Cafeteria Learning takes longer. Did it?

Jackie: Well, yes, but… it was absolutely worth it.

Jillian: How do you know?

Jackie: These are people that work with their hands all day, so they were really excited to get out of their seats. The large group debrief and the rest of the 2-day training really showed us that our learners had grasped the objectives in the Cafeteria Learning section and were able to implement them throughout the course. Post-class surveys also showed the students really appreciated being able to choose and that we played to their strengths, giving them confidence and closer engagement with the subject matter.

Jillian: Thanks so much for sharing this Jackie, it was a pleasure to talk with you!

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