Magazine article Training & Development

How They Learn What They Learn

Magazine article Training & Development

How They Learn What They Learn

Article excerpt

Too many trainers expect the training content to carry their programs. That may be because some trainers are more impressed with the material than the participants will be. But how a trainer presents the material is at least as important as the material itself

How does a savvy facilitator build rapport, set the learning atmosphere, and focus attention in the training room? Choosing an approach to achieve those goals is partly a matter of personal style. But several guidelines can help trainers assess and alter their styles until they hit on what works for them. The following ideas, techniques, and tricks of the trade offer a way to think more than a way to be.

Be clear about process objectives. Almost any professional trainer will have a clear picture of the content objectives for the program he or she is about to present. Far fewer trainers have absolutely clear process objectives-how the content objectives will be achieved.

For instance, do we want trainees to "get it" by listening to us, by listening to each other, by using a workbook, by watching a video, or by working at a keyboard?

Once we're crystal-clear about our process objectives, we can better plan our moves toward achieving them. Make process objectives consistent with content objectives. Consistency between what you want trainees to get and how you want them to get it is a very powerful influence on trainees' retention of training content. When a program is over, participants should be able to look back at the activities that took place and instantly recall their content. If that happens, the trainer has doubled the strength of the message and the chances that trainees will remember it.

For example, if the training content deals with team building skills, the trainer should consider using small-group activities and other assignments that allow team members to learn from the process. In short, the process and the content are the same.

In a basic course on interpersonal communications, that kind of a teamwork approach may be inappropriate. Having participants stay in the same groups throughout the workshop can be less effective than assigning new one-on-one partners for each new activity. When you rotate the pairings throughout a one- or two-day workshop, each participant has the opportunity to practice skills with many different partners. That provides trainees with far more input about their skills.

Learn as much as you can about your effect on trainees. We all love to read "happy-sheet" evaluations at the end of our programs, but they seldom tell us how we achieved the reactions.

Trainers need to know hundreds of bits of information about the ways trainees respond to them. A trainer who understands the ways in which he or she is having an effect may be able to make better use of those areas in order to enhance learning.

Various clues can help you discern trainee reactions. Do participants' eyes follow you everywhere? If they do, then you may be able to pull quieter audience members into a discussion simply by standing or sitting behind them so that all other eyes will see them first. Do trainees direct all their remarks to you because you're standing in front? You may encourage group discussion simply by sitting down in an empty seat, among the trainees.

Sitting with trainees can also enhance your transition from one subject or activity to another, especially if the new activity is one that you must be clearly in charge of. The transition can be much easier and more evident if you start your new introduction from your participant's seat and move, while talking, to the front of the room. …

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