In a discussion I had with Thomas Moore, a top-tier developer, consultant, trainer and author, I asked him to share his 10 tips for trainers and for training. In part 1 of this two-part series, Thomas describes those attributes that have made him a well-respected trainer.
Here are Thomas's top 10 attributes for Effective Training:
I welcome your comments here or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers,Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.
Thomas, the 20 points that you have listed reads like a manifesto for teaching/training and clearly demonstrates the practical knowledge that you have gained. As someone who teaches myself, I would dearly love to aspire to all 20. I know that I will be going through the list and trying to assess myself against each one to identify where I need to be better.
In many cases I have small classes so what I try to do within the contraints of time and the program is to customize my sessions to make it as directly relavant as possible. A good example might be if I am teaching Access or Excel, I will try and get the class to work on a much simplified version of a real world project brought by one of the students. Pre-canned examples may illustrate features but don't hold anything like the same degree of interest, and therefore learning effectiveness.
I also like to ask the students questions on a regular basis about something that has been covered earlier, especially in context of any new material. It provides feedback for me as to whether I am getting the message across and useful revision for the students. Some repitition never hurts when it comes to remembering!
Many thanks for your very useful contribution.
Interesting points from a trainer's perspective. I usually find that the most effective trainers keep to topic but are flexible/dynamic enough to keep all participants (of various abilities) interested.
Once upon a time, I was asked to teach a middle-aged lady to learn how to use Windows. So we sat together and we started up Windows. When everything was up and running, she pointed to the icons on the desktop and asked, what is My Computer?
I said, why don't you try it?
So she tried different mouse clicks until the right-click popup came up. Then she looked at the popup menu options and said, what does Open mean?
I said, why don't you try it? You can figure it out.
Well, you get the idea. After an hour of trials and errors under my protection, she completely figured out how to navigate around Windows, and more importantly, she realized that this Windows thing was completely within her ability and reach, and that she could figure out the basic things in the future by herself if necessary.
So the question is, if I had "taught" and "trained" her how to navigate around Windows, could I have inspired the same degree of self-confidence and self-reliance in her? Mmm?
Well, I think the answer is obvious. Precisely because she figured out things by herself, she gained self-confidence and self-reliance. Any "teaching" or "training" on my side would just reinforce her (false) belief that she could not trust herself to figure things out on a personal computer.
I believe in any interaction with human beings, we need to consider the following two objectives:
1. We need to help them to solve their immediate problem
2. We also need to inspire them to solve similar problems or even more difficult problems on their own down the road
In my opinion, any teaching or training approach will need to be inspected against the two objectives above.
So from this perspective, you may be starting to see the moral of the story - I was able to accomplish both objectives with minimal action on my side. In fact, NO action except some questioning like "why don't you try it"? Now this is strange - how can I possibly accomplish so much with so little? This sounds like a paradox, especially for those coming from a traditional model of education, where the sole objective is to transmit knowledge to the trainees.
That is an interesting question.
You bring up many great points Graham including linking to prior experiences, knowledge. I was brought in as a troubleshooter at two different colleges when they had teaching issues. I can search for the training materials that I created to support the training of other teachers. If there is interest, I can blog about this.
Those are good points Marie. An effective technique is to solicit the areas of interest at the beginning of the training session when students introduce themselves. Then make a point of tailoring your topic to address a particular hot point for each student. This keeps the material relevant and the students engaged throughout the day.
I like your comments about the old lady. You are absolutely right, learning by guided discovery is definitely the best. Unfortunately, economies of scale tend to intervene. Like so many things in life we end up having to compromise. I have taught in the traditional classroom situation and in the facilitator situation, which is what you describe.
On a purely personal level, I much prefer and enjoy the latter. You can form a 'relationship' with the student and readily reinforce their successes, providing the confidence and encouragement towards increasing self-reliance. I have commented in a number of blogs here about the importance of creating self-reliance. Eventually it becomes a self-reinforcing process; successful self-discovery brings more confidence and so on!
Interesting approach and it does represent one model for education. Good training and effective instruction long ago abandoned the unicast method of training—one-way broadcast with no interaction or “transmission of knowledge to the trainees”. Now it encompasses things like Blooms Taxonomy of learning, Gardner’s different intelligences, and learning orientation (kinesthetic, visual, auditory, interactive, mixed mode). You tend to get this kind of progressive training in commercial centers and in colleges but not in universities. Alverno College is making some headway and receiving a lot of attention. Also, Gates is sponsoring experimental programs that show promise. However, you must mix practicality with theory in terms of teaching methodology.
A good exchange of ideas.
Learning attitudinal shifts are like making cultural shifts in organizational behaviour. It can be a challenge at times and doesn’t always scale well. As you indicated, economics drives many decisions. Personalized instruction could have a better future with Web 3.0 and it’s build-out plus with the evolution of the Semantic Web. It’s worth watching for. I’m also excited about some of the things Microsoft is doing in the Live environment and this is something Jing works in. Jing any comments you can make for the future?
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