Mandatory refresher training…the bane of every instructor. Frequently the trainer is provided a lesson plan and a slide deck, a period of time to fill and appropriate training facilities (maybe). The instructor is expected to stand before the group of experienced students and present the material determined by management as essential. The result one to four hours of heavy eyelids, sore bottoms and the sending and receiving of text messages on mobile devices by distracted employees who fail to pay attention. They learn nothing. You can improve the situation by recognizing that the occupants of the room possess hundreds of collective hours of experience; many more qualified to teach than you. Developing methods to engage, entertain and focus students during mandatory training separates the run-of-the mill instructor from the master trainer. Nothing that follows is new, but I challenge you to adopt one or two of these ideas for your next refresher training and take your first step down the road to become a master trainer.
Facilitation is a training process that focuses on the student rather than the instructor. Generally facilitate means to make easier, to promote or to serve as a catalyst (Google 2014). An instructor who engages in facilitation recognizes the expertise of the students and develops a learning environment that permits those with various experiences on a given topic to share what they know allowing the rest of the students to assimilate those experiences into new ideas on their own. This process allows the students to come to conclusions on their own.
Instructors are reluctant to conduct facilitated discussions for fearing accusations they did not follow the program of instruction required by management. A well thought out training event covers all the points required by management. The difference between an interesting, facilitated training event and being buried by slides is how the material is presented. The traditional, well-known, boring method of lecturing while showing a slide deck echoing everything the presenter says only ensures the required material has been presented. It does nothing to demonstrate knowledge transfer, but does provide coverage for the tushy if ever called to task for providing training on a given topic. A facilitated training however requires student participation during a guided discussion about the same points made in a lecture. In order to participate effectively, instructors must possess complete understand the topic, and students should have some knowledge.
Preparation for and conduct of a facilitated training event requires greater preparation and execution time. To prepare for a facilitated discussion,
- Review and understand key learning points of the lesson,
- Convert learning points into discussion points,
- Prepare questions to requiring discussions to answer, and
- Prepare to guide student discussion by infusing information and making corrections,
- During the conduct of class,
- Ask students questions that require thought and development of opinions,
- Ask students what they think of points made by others during the discussion,
- Require students to justify opinions based on facts or prior learning,
- Ask students if they agree or disagree with other students points and explain why or not.
As the class demonstrates understanding of each point, the instructor segues into the next discussion point by either asking a pre-planned question, or taking advantage of a point raised by a student. Ensuring many students participate. Use the following formula to include all students:
- ask the question,
- pause to wait for students to think about the answer,
- call on a student to answer.
When attempting to pull in the quieter students, it is important to ensure to ask them something there is no wrong answer. By doing so, you allow them to participate without loosing face. As the discussion moves along, show the required slides and let them speak for them selves allowing students to integrate the information from the slides into what they learned in the discussion.
A quality facilitated discussion during mandatory training improves student participation. Increased participation improves information retention. Increased participation permits the same idea to be expressed more than one way improving understanding by less experienced students. Engaged students are less likely to allow their minds to drift and learn more. Students pay attention when they know anyone can be called upon to answer questions. The slide deck re-enforces points made by the students.
Using a facilitated discussion during mandatory in-service training allows for management and instructors to cover important learning points. A good guided discussion covers all required points by allowing students to express their knowledge of the topic and identifies areas requiring more discussion or information. With more discussion the same idea is expressed in different words increases understanding of the concept. Students become responsible for their learning, more engaged in the process and focused on the class. For your next training event, implement some of these ideas to generate a guided discussion on one or more points. You may be surprised at what YOU learn in the class you are teaching.
Google Search Results “define facilitate” https://www.google.com/search?q=define+facilitate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb retrieved 4/26/14
U.S. Army. 157-ABIC-3.0 / Army Basic Instructor Course (ABIC) (2011) Army Training Support Center, Ft Eustis, Va
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan. flickr.com CC license