Deliver the Training
Note: This section is for Instructor-led learning platforms. For other types of learning platform, such as elearning, see Delivering eLearning and Other Non-Trainer Led Learning.
The learning platform is brought to life by skillful trainers. Skillful means involvement is the focus, rather than favorable impressions such as oratorical skills. You should be less concerned with platform skills and more concerned with skills that facilitate learning. The days of long lectures are over! Learning is achieved by focusing on the learners. If you want someone to put on a great show, then hire a struggling actor. They can sometimes be cheaper than a good trainer. Good trainers bring a poorly designed course to life and make a well constructed course great.
Trainer, Instructor, Coach, or Facilitator?
What are all these titles we use to describe ourselves and others, whose job is to guide learners to reach a learning objective? It seems as if every organization has its own title. For a starter, a brief definition of the major terms:
- Directs the growth of learners by making them qualified or proficient in a skill or task.
- Gives knowledge or information to learners in a systematic manner.
- Instructs, demonstrates, directs, guides, and prompts learners. Generally concerned with methods rather than concepts.
- Makes it easier for learners to learn. Guides a team towards the results for which it exists to achieve and then the team maintains or improves its competency for continuing to achieve results.
Now, does all the above sound like your job description? If not, it should for this is what a trainer is and does. To keep it simple, this guide will use the term trainer.
Just as an actor has a repertoire of skills to perform on-stage, a trainer needs a repertoire of skills for helpings others to learn. Some of these skills may come naturally, while others must be practiced and learned. Although most of these skill are based on scientific fact or theory, knowing when and how to use them is more of an art.
The Three Learning Factors
There are three factors that must happen for a successful learning experience to take place:
- Knowledge: Know the subject matter, provide leadership, model the desired behavior, and adapt to the learners' needs and preferences.
- Environment: Have the tools to transfer the subject matter to the learners such computers and software for computer classes, find adequate classroom space, and ensure the courseware, such as lesson plans and training aids, are on hand. Fuse the training tools with to the needs of the learners.
- Involvement Skills: Know the learners. Easy enough, you say, "I have a student roster that lists their names, departments for which they work, and I always ask them to give a short introduction about themselves at the beginning of the class." But, do you really know your learners? What are their real goals for being in the classroom? What are their learning preferences? What tools do they need to help them succeed? What are some of the affective-tools that will help your learners succeed in the learning environment you have been charged with? You must also coach the learners to become self-directed, intrinsically motivated, goal oriented, and open to learning.
Whole Brain Learning Theory
Our brain is divided into two hemispheres — the left brain and the right brain. The left side of a brain is the Dr. Spock of Star Trek (the logical side), while our right side is our Henry David Thoreau (the creative side).
Note that both sides of the brain work together as they are not completely divided; however, depending on the task at hand, one half is normally considered more dominant. Thus the idea is to actively engage both halves equally.
Our left hemisphere characteristics include: judgmental, linear, logical, systematic, and verbal. It provides:
- Time orientation
- Language skills
- Sequential processing
Our right hemisphere characteristics include: creative, intuitive, holistic, playful, and visual. It provides these functions:
- Visuospatial orientation
- Art and pattern awareness
- Synthesis of information
Learning should be orchestrated so that both the left and right sides of the brain cooperate equally. You must combine the technical step-by-step side of the learning objective with interpersonal and experimental activities so that both sides of the brain become involved in mastering the subject matter.
Using both sides of the brain to learn a new skill aids us in learning it faster and retaining it longer. Note that the left and right brain theory is quite similar to the Three Representational Modes (linguistic, nonlinguistic, and affective).
For more information see Left-Brain Right-Brain Metaphor.
The Learning Cycle
In a good learning organization, learning generally goes through a process (based upon Hershey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model) similar to this:
- The learner starts the training as a beginner. She is very enthusiastic to learn a new skill. She may be somewhat apprehensive because she is about to enter a change process. She needs clear instructions because the task is new, and just a little bit of support to calm the stress of change.
- The level of guidance from the trainer becomes somewhat less so that the learner may experiment with the learning style that works best for her. She has now reached failure a few times in the process. Although the trainer still provides a lot of technical support, emotional support must increase to keep her confidence high. This normally becomes one of the toughest time for the trainer as he has to provide technical support and emotional support. Technical support is needed so that the failures do not become learned. Emotional support is required so that the learner does not give up. The emotional feedback needs to be specific, such as: “You did an excellent job with the..., now you need to...”; not: “You are doing just fine. Keep trying.”
- At this point, the learner has become capable in performing her new skill. The amount of guidance drops to just a few pointers so that the learner can experiment with her new skill. But she is still not sure of herself! The amount of emotional support stays high to help build up her confidence.
- The learner now returns to her job. Her supervisor provides little direction and less support so that she can begin to take ownership of her new tasks and responsibilities. She is allowed to perform. She is also encouraged to take on new responsibilities and new assignments... the learning cycle now repeats itself.
Setting Up The Learning Environment
A short question and answer guide for choosing the classroom setting:
- How much space (square footage) should we allocate for the classroom?
- 15 to 17 square feet per participant.
- Is there a configuration that works better than others? For example, is a wide, short classroom preferable to one that's square?
- It should be as nearly square as possible. This will bring people together both psychologically and physically. The room should be at least 10 feet high. This allows a projection screen to be placed high enough so the learners in the rear can see over, not around the people in front of them. The distance from the screen to the last seat of rows should not exceed 6W (six screen widths). The distance to the front row of seats should be 2W (twice the width of the screen). The proper viewing width is 3W (1 1/2 width from center-line).
- How much table space should we allocate per student.
- After the PCs are placed (if any) there should be at least 30 linear inches (with a depth of 18 to 24 inches) per learner. This allows them to spread their papers during activities.
- What type of seating arrangement should we use?
- This depends on the learning environment that you are trying to obtain. For some various arrangements, see Seating Arrangements. Traditional 60-inch and 72-inch round tables will always be in style; and in addition round table lends itself to better conversation among the learners.
Psychological Factors in the Learning Environment
Laird, Dugan (1985). Approaches To Training And Development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Skinner, B. F. (1974). About Behaviorism. New York: Alfred A. Knoph.
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