Q. We select some of the industries most knowledgeable people to develop and teach our classes, but quite often the quality of the training is less then we hope for. What is the problem?
A. The problem is in class design and delivery. Not content. It is a typical problem in the industry. Experts typically do not make the best instructors. Experts are great to use to develop the technical content of a class. The actual instructional design of the class layout and delivery is best done by adult educational experts.
Q. I never seem to have enough time to teach all the principles I want to by the end of the day.
A. Yes, that is typical for most classes. As difficult as it may seem, you will need to change your expectations for the class and decide to change the level that you wish to take the students to at the end of the day. It is better to have them competent in some things then confused about many.
Q. I would like to have more hands-on work and practice sessions in my classes, but in the end the class becomes mostly lecture because of time constraints. What can be done?
A. Lecture is the “duct tape” of industry training. It is what most trainers do because they either do not know better, or they believe they have to “say” as much as possible to get the information across. These types of classes are called “Information Dumps” and the retention level is dismally low. If time is running short always cut out the lecture and leave in the hands-on practice sessions. Students may have to struggle a bit more, but they will learn better and retain the information longer.
Q. I have problems with students challenging my knowledge and expertise in class. How can I stop this in the future?
A. This is a complicated problem whose answer lies not in how to respond to the problem, but how to prevent it from happening. You can help prevent this by:
Q. I have great PowerPoint presentations that are animated and colorful. However, I still seem to lose the students’ attention after a while. How can I hold their attention?
A. Even fancy presentations get old. You need to vary the media. Use PowerPoint, overheads (yes, overheads), chalk boards or marker boards and discussions. Today’s students need to be stimulated by changing the delivery methods fairly often.
Q. My lectures are entertaining and fast paced, but the students do not seem to remember much afterwards. How can I increase retention?
A. A lecture only involves one sense: hearing. To increase retention use visuals and demonstration equipment. The more senses you involve the more they will remember.
Q. I teach a complicated class that involves many steps. I teach the more complicated, and foundational principles first so that they have a foundation to build on. Is that correct?
A. Not usually. Adults learn differently from children. Adults need to learn in sequence. It is almost always best to teach a skill in the same order that it will be used. That is how the adult brain files information.
Q. How can I better motivate my students?
A. Give them a “WIFM” (What’s In It for Me?). Adults need a reason to listen to you. You cannot just start teaching them. First, give them some real world benefits for learning the new skill. This opens the “gate” in their brain to allow learning to take place. Show them how they can use the new skills in their job tomorrow.
Q. We use trainers that are knowledgeable about the subjects and are fun to listen to. However, we have doubts as to the actual effectiveness of the training. What can be done to improve our existing trainers?
A. They need to receive some formal training on how to effectively teach adults. Years of field experience and even a natural “gift of gab” will only take an instructor so far. There are proven effective adult educational techniques that trainers need to know and use to make the difference between an entertaining seminar and a useful class that delivers needed skills.
Q. What is “task based” training?
A. Task based training involves performing instructional design on a training course that is based on a specific skill. The skill is broken down into steps and training material is then developed to match those steps. Most of the training done in the industry should be task based training.
Q. My students seem to be catching on to the material as we go through class, but at the end of the day when quizzed, they seem to have become confused. Why is that?
A. What you are missing is reflection time. As the human adult brain learns new material it has to digest and contemplate new concepts. As it does this it tries to file the information in areas in the brain that contain similar information. It is easier for the brain to file new information together with similar data than to create a “new” file (though it does create new files when it has to). This process takes time, it also take some peace and quiet usually. Plan time in your class for individual reflection.
Q. We have access to good trainers and we wish to use our own people. However, it is very time-consuming for them to prepare the material and we are not completely confident in the quality of the training material. The teaching time is acceptable, but everyone complains about the preparation time. Is there a better way?
A. You might consider having a professional do the instructional design and create the class outline, manuals, visuals and practice sessions and let your own instructors then teach with that material. Quite often this is a good compromise.
Q. I have been teaching for years and I do a good job. I get a lot of compliments on my classes and they seem to work out fine. Why pay attention to all the complicated hub-bub? Teaching a seminar is not that complicated, is it?
A. Let’s put it this way; my brother in law once put his own landscape and irrigation system in. He got help from the Do-It-Yourself store. He then went on to help his neighbors. He has no training in landscape or irrigation design. If a professional was to look at his designs and installations they would shake their heads in disappointment. His comments are along these lines, “ This landscape and irrigation stuff is not hard at all, anyone can do it.” So it is with professional, effective, task based, adult education. It seems easy enough and many untrained people feel that they are great at it with no real training or experience. Take the time to learn the skills to create and deliver quality education.