Learner Involvement and Instructional Design
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.
To achieve a climate that is conducive to learning, involvement skills are employed. Just as you have tools such as projectors, lesson outlines, and training aids to help you in your training duties, these involvement skills can be thought of as your inner tools. Some of the involvement skills needed by trainers to coach their learners to success are (Laird, 1985):
Adapting the training program to meet the learners' needs by analyzing and responding to individual learner needs. For example, you have a outstanding word processing class that includes creating multiple columns, but little about inserting tables. If a business unit inquired about the class, and informed you that they need instruction on creating tables, could you change your class to fit their needs? How about if it only involved one student?
Not only must you be prepared to change a course before it starts, but also on-the-fly. You must consistently monitor and evaluate your learners' needs throughout the course of instruction. Do not be afraid to change your instructional steps to meet the needs of your learners.
However, do be careful when it comes to changing a learning program:
Many years ago I was asked by a business unit leader to design a project management class with a significant emphasis on budgeting and forecasting. I complied with his request and designed several exercises intended to address this stated need. When the class ran, participants convinced the instructor that because they didn't have to do budgeting and forecasting, there was no need to spend much time on those subjects. Therefore the instructor skipped them. Participants (learners) were happy because they didn't have to learn content they didn't want to learn, and the instructor was happy because his end-of-class evaluations were extremely high. Unfortunately my client was angry. As he explained to me after the class ran, his employees were correct in saying that they didn't do budgeting and forecasting, which is why most of their projects were over budget and delivered late. — Larry Israelite in Lies About Learning.
Although a good training program has structure, it should not be canned or contrived. If it simply goes step-by-step with no change, then why not use a cheaper media, such as a video tape?
This was coined in the 20th century from the German word "einfuhling" (to feel with), which comes from the Greek word "empatheia" (empathes = emotional & pathus = feelings). This is the ability to perceive another person's view of the world as though that view were your own.
The Sioux Indian Tribal Prayer reads, “Great Spirit, help us never to judge another until we have walked for two weeks in his moccasins.”
Empathy differs from sympathy in that sympathy connotes spontaneous emotion rather than a conscious, reasoned response. Sympathizing with others may be less useful to another person if we are limited by the strong feelings of the moment.
Alleviate stress when it is not conducive to the training program. Some stress is good as it helps to motivate us (see Arousal). Without some stress in life there is no need to accomplish a task, reach for the stars, go where no person has gone before... However, too much stress places an additional burden on most people.
Use the Ask, Pause, Call (APC) method.
- Ask the question.
- Pause to allow learners to think. Normally about 7 to 15 seconds depending upon the difficulty of the question. Look at the learners. Do most of them look perplexed or do they look comfortable with the question? The questions you ask should help you to gauge the effectiveness of your instruction. Also, note that the pause time can be even longer as the the quietness in the classroom can be quite disturbing to many, thus it will help to force them to answer because of the quietness. However, if you have to do this too often, you need to reexamine your training methods.
- Call on someone to answer the question. Calling on someone after asking the question allows all the learners to think and reflect on the question. Even if some learners have no idea of the answer, they are now thinking of a way not to be called upon, such as looking busy by taking notes or fidgeting with something. At least you have their brain cells firing neurons and warming up so that they will be prepared for the next line of questioning!
Some hints for effective questioning are:
- Know what you want to find out.
- Generate interest in advance.
- Use open-ended questions to elicit dialog.
- Keep the questions short. Long questions may be confusing.
- Ask questions with answers that will suggest a course of action.
Trainers tend to ask questions in the “knowledge” category 80% to 90% of the time. These questions are not bad, but using them all the time is! Try to utilize higher order level of questions that require much more brain power (thought) and more extensive and elaborate answers. These higher order categories are defined in Bloom's Taxonomy:
- Comprehension: Involves the understanding and ability to interpret and communicate the meaning of given variables.
- Application: Implies the use of knowledge to solve problems.
- Analysis: Requires a learner to examine material or relationships of information of constituent parts and to arrive at some solution or response.
- Synthesis: Requires the learner to combine elements and parts into a unified entity.
- Evaluation: The most complex of all questions. It involves making judgments, appraising, choosing, assessing, measuring, and critically inspecting some idea or object and determining its relative value or worth.
Photo by radiospike photography
This is the ability of the receiver to change and alter the message so the intention of the communicator or sender is understood. This should be done by paraphrasing the words or restating the sender's feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than just repeating their words. Your words should be saying, “This is what I understand your feelings to be. Am I correct?” It not only includes verbal responses, but also nonverbal ones. Nodding your head or squeezing their hand to show agreement, dipping your eyebrows shows you don't quite understand the meaning of their last phrase, or sucking air in deeply and blowing it hard shows that you are also exasperated with the situation.
Carl Rogers listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations (notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand):
- Evaluative: Makes a judgment about the worth, goodness, or appropriateness of the other person's statement
- Interpretive: Paraphrasing - attempt to explain what the other persons statement mean
- Supportive: Attempt to assist or bolster the other communicator
- Probing: Attempt to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point
- Understanding: Attempt to discover completely what the other communicator means by her statements
Counseling has a powerful, long-term impact on the learners and the effectiveness of the organization. There are two type of counseling — directive and nondirective. In directive counseling, the counselor identifies the problem and tells the counselee what to do about it. Nondirective counseling means the counselee identifies the problem and determines the solution with the help of the counselor. The counselor has to determine which of the two, or some appropriate combination, to give for each situation.
Throughout a program of instruction there needs to be continuous or intermittent reinforcements (Skinner, 1974). These reinforcements are what cause the operates (responses) to be learned by the learner. Reinforcers can be either rewards (positive) or punishment (negative). However, negative reinforcers have the greatest effect when they are discontinued. Reinforcers do not always have to be verbal. For example, head nods, a form of gestures, communicate positive reinforcement to learners and indicate that you are listening.
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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