Envision Effective Training

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Steep-Rocky_Paul-Irish.jpgThe task is like climbing Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. The task is simple but not easy.  Mt. Washington is a deadly peak showing little mercy for those who may make even a small mistake. High winds, sub-freezing temperatures, and snow are common even in July. The terrain steep and rocky. The views approaching and above tree line are dramatic, distracting, and just plain awesome. The task is simple really, inspire your students to learn what you are teaching and incorporate the lessons into their daily lives to become better at what the do. However, like trails to the summit of Mt. Washington, the path to successful training not easy. Adult learners are distracted in many ways. Some dealing with problems at home. Others deal with problems at work. Problems are like the tremendous views causing students not to pay attention to the trail. Some students do not feel they need to learn what they were sent to learn at your training, while others may think they know more than you do about the topic (and they might). Both groups are like large rocks tripping you if you do not pay attention to your student’s needs. Like to cold in July, some students remain cold through out the class. Vision is often discussed as a leadership tool to help employees focus on what is right. With vision comes passion. Vision in training and education accomplishes the same result as it does in leadership. With learners, vision creates a desire to pay attention, focus on the learning, and demonstrates you are prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you.

An example of casting a vision that catches the eyes of your student could be as simple as the opening of this blog. It is a short glimpse of an exotic place rife with danger. Showing (showing is a vision word) how your lesson connects to something exotic captures your students attention. It also provides you the tool the show your passion for the subject.

Instructors with passion retain the interest of students longer. In order for your training to affect the behaviors of students, they first must receive the information you provide. Passion for your topic, demonstrated through your vision, keeps their attention on your message.

As a believer, an instructor provides opportunities during training for students to practice new skills. Simple practice exercises allowing students to try skills keeps them focused, and reinforces you know something about what you teach. Skills students master during training are more likely used in life outside the classroom. They leave with the courage required to accomplish change.

BeachHammock-Kok_Chih_and_Sarah_Gan.jpgMost people want to learn to work better, rather than harder. Paint a picture of a hammock  strung between two coconut palm trees, the wind gently swinging them back and forth as they sip a cool tropical drink on a quiet, sandy beach. Let them leave your training with the passion, vision, and confidence that using your ideas and skills will lead them to that hammock. Students who understand how your lessons creates a simpler life encourages them to pay attention and learn more. Some say life on the beach is better than climbing mountains. Creating a vision of success inspires your students to implement the things they learned from you.

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Photo Credits

Both from Flickr.com using Creative Commons License

Rocky Trail by Paul Irish

https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_irish
Beach Hammock by Kok Chih and Sarah Gan

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gandhu

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Check your Map & Compass

Hard to believe, but it will not be long before people start making resolutions for the New Year. Last New Year I posted a piece on how to successfully complete your resolutions (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/time-to-reflect-plan-act/). I used the system I described before and also during this year to achieve goals successfully. One more birthday card and I can say I achieved the three resolutions I set for my self. How did you do? 2014 has not yet ended so there is time to dig up the written goals you started with and determine how much you completed on each of them. You may find there is time to finish one or more in the remaining days. If not, you can try again next year. Reviewing your progress is important, and so it reviewing your achievements. Today schedule time to take stock of how you did with your goals, the lessons you learned along the way so that your plans for next year include strategies to avoid pitfalls. Assessing is an important action to achieve continuous success.

Start your assessment by asking questions about your goal and plan.

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  • Was my goal specificity stated?
  • Was is it measurable and did I have reasonable expectations and standards?
  • Did I allow reasonable time to complete the goal?
  • What resources did I lack? How can I obtain those resources for the future?
  • Is completion still desirable and reasonable?
  • Who can help me achieve my goal; a mentor, supervisor, friend, spouse or trainer?
  • If I choose not to complete this goal (notice the key word choose), what lessons did I learn that will help me with similar projects in the future?

As I discussed in my blog on taking time to review your progress (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/check-your-map-achieve-your-goal/), it is equally important to review and evaluate your successes. Learning to set small, achievable goals allows you to complete what you start. Evaluating your success enables you to see your new location on the map. As you set a small goal, achieve success, evaluate your achievement you begin to understand that small, regular improvements are more likely to help you obtain long term success that lofty big goals. Smaller goals allow you to adjust course frequently ensuring you end up where you wanted to go, not just arrive at the end of the road. Assessments also allow you to determine if you are still on the correct road, or if your course corrections have really established a different goal and destination.

This is a busy time of the year for everyone. Taking a few minutes to review your achievements allows you to learn from both your achievements and mistakes. It allows you to determine if you are on the correct course or if you need to make some adjustments. Even if you have not completed what you set out to accomplish, this assessment shows the progress made encouraging further small improvements. Dig up the resolutions you made at the beginning of the year. Assess your success and chart your course for 2015. Do it today!

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Photo Credit:  Reggie

For more information see my deck on SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/achieve-29982036 and

Practice, Practice the Practical Exercise

One of the joys of being Chief Instructor at a military school house is the time I shared with instructor trainees during their final presentations becoming qualified Army Instructors. During one memorable presentation, the student instructor engaged classmates with two practical exercises. The first allowed students to work in small groups discussing how to apply lessons learned upon returning to their units. In the second, students developed a presentation for their commanders for adoption of principals of this lesson in their units. Both effectively ingrained important points of the lesson by allowing the students integrate what they prior knowledge with newly acquired information to develop their own ideas and reinforced what the instructor taught. This presentation raised several questions including why instructors choose to lecture instead of facilitate, use presentation software instead of practical exercises and how can instructors develop effective exercises to reinforce learning points.

Inexperienced instructors often choose lecture based training because they have the knowledge the students need, lack the skills to develop training that is learner based. They feel more comfortable talking than showing. Developing lecture based training is easy and the least time consuming. Lectures ensure presentation of important information, adhere to time constraints and repeatedly provide the same information during every presentation. Unfortunately, most adults do not learn well with the lecture style and many will leave forgetting most of what was said, defeating the purpose of the training.

Slide decks have become the standard to accompany the lecture method. Pictures, text and video supposedly stimulate the learner’s verbal and auditory centers improving retention from lectures alone, but one phrase says it all, “Death by PowerPoint.” An unfortunate reality, PowerPoint and other presentation software alone fails to engage learners as a result, some organizations forbid use. When used well, they amplify important instruction points, but most of the time slide are used as a crutch. Plenty of books, blogs, articles, TED Talks, comedy skits and ,yes, PowerPoints have been created to improve presentations and truly Impress (an open source alternative to PowerPoint).

ImageDeveloping practical exercises requires genuine understanding of the concepts and principals supporting training, information and task steps. Understanding allows the instructor to identify the basic knowledge required to achieve success. Basic actions required to complete the task create the practical exercise the same way that learning goals are the basis for test questions. Often people are selected to provide organizational training because the have a history of providing great training or are the most educated on the topic within the organization. Lacking expert wisdom, the instructor parrots what he was taught, but their lack of understanding of the concepts and principals prevent development of practical exercises. Students are denied the opportunity to experiment and discover how to use the ideas to improve their performance.

Good practical exercises achieve several objectives for adult learners. They allow the a review of new information learned during class increasing retention. They require learners to integrate new knowledge with what they all ready know. They permit students to teach and learn from each other. They require back briefs allowing peers to learn from their challenges and successes. Each step is a repetition of the information provided in class. Each iteration, embeds knowledge and skills learned increasing the likelihood of desired change.

Lecturing and showing slides permit training to check boxes. Lectures poorly translate knowledge into desired behaviors. Practical exercises allow trainees to practice what they have been taught. They provide opportunities to repeat key points. Repetition increases recall and creates deeper understanding of the material. Creating practical exercises requires the instructor to understand the concepts and principals of the task being trained. Development requires greater time and effort by the instructor but payoffs include increased student understanding, performance and changed behavior on the job. Next time you conduct training, create and conduct at least one practical exercise.

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I have prepared and posted a slide deck on SlideShare supporting this blog. 

I look forward to feedback.  Please take a moment to let me know how this blog has helped with your training and leadership activities.  I am also interested in know what other topics you are interested in reading.