Sunday, June 10, 2007

Training in plezWorld

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.
~ E. M. Forster

For the past week, plezWorld has been in a train-the-trainer session for new hire training at my job. I have pretty extensive (over 10 years) experience in developing and conducting training programs, so I took the opportunity to learn some additional "tricks of the trade" to deliver top notch training for my company over the next two weeks. I work for a consulting company which places a large emphasis on its people, so they place a sizable investment in bringing new hires up to speed on company culture and the art of consulting.

I'm comfortable in the act of classroom instruction, but my company is global, so there is the additional challenge of running a classroom of international students. My class (I have co-faculty members from Brazil and Poland) has students from: South Africa, Turkey, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Spain, Poland, Canada, Italy, Japan, and the United States). So you can imagine the challenge of 15 international instructors preparing for 150 international students!

In my experience, there are components of training that is crucial to the "knowledge transfer," so the training may be deemed successful: the materials, the preparation, and the training, itself.

The Materials:
You cannot substitute with poor quality materials or materials that are not appropriate for the subject matter. This is true whether you are dealing with kindergarten, high school, university, or corporate training. As students get older (and more sophisticated), the materials they use must increasingly support their learning. Hands-on experience requires something for the student to put their hands on! Real world training must include scenarios and examples of the real world.

The 2 week training that I will conduct includes a complete case study, computer simulation, associated documentation, actual data, and exercises that support the development and implementation of a computer system for a fictional company. Without these materials, the faculty would be hard-pressed to adequately prepare our new hires for what they will encounter as they begin their careers with the company.

The Preparation:
Practice! Practice! Practice!

Practice the materials. Know how the demonstrations work. Know the expected outcomes. Be able to explain why the materials do what they do. Be able to apply the test materials to real life examples.

Practice your delivery. Take the opportunity to practice your delivery, get critiqued, and then work on the areas that need development. We spent the better part of two days during our preparation this week with all of the faculty practicing a module of training before the group. Learning coaches were assigned to critique our delivery and provide feedback on areas for improvement. We were then given another module to present while keeping an eye on improving in one or two areas. This was especially useful for the faculty who do not have English as their primary language.

The Show:
With the proper materials in hand and proper preparation in the bag, the instructor must turn his/her attention to The Show. For me, teaching is a performance, a live instructional video! Each student must be thoroughly engaged while being thoroughly entertained.
Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.
~ Gail Godwin

A few key tips:
  • Maintain Good Eye Contact - Every student wants to feel that they are part of the learning process and to keep their interest, they must feel that they are being addressed. You must talk TO your students and you must talk to each one of them.

  • Repeat and Respond - In an effort to engage the entire class, everyone must be knowledgeable about what is going on in the class. When you field the inevitable question, make sure you repeat the question for everyone to hear, take a few seconds to gather your thoughts (and get everyone's attention), and then respond with an answer. And a simple trick that will allow you to involve more students in the conversation, provide the answer to a student in a different part of the classroom.

  • Work the Room - Move around your "stage" and make sure that every student gets acknowledged by your presence.

  • Provide Real World Examples - Make the learning real by providing real world examples that support the training material. If you do not have expertise in the area that you teaching, then you should elicit feedback from class participants. If the class participants are new to the material (or lack experience), make sure that you find tangible examples during preparation.

  • Be Flexible Yet Firm - Provide the latitude to discuss ancillary subject matter, but be prepared to bring the class back to the task at hand if it wanders off course. You want to engender a love of learning and spur the student's desire to learn outside of the classroom.

  • Set Expectations - Provide an agenda and make sure that you stay on time. Teach the materials.

  • Tell me and I’ll forget;
    Show me and I may remember;
    Involve me and I’ll understand.
    ~ Chinese proverb

    Since I'll be conducting training and networking over the next two weeks, there will be few opportunities for me to blog. I'll check in and update when I can.


    Villager said...

    Plez, I left Corporate America five years ago to start my own gig. I recall the days of being an instructor with fondness. Your points are excellent and on-point. Thank you for taking time to share with us.

    peace, Villager

    Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

    You nbeed to teach this to some of my students - what is the world coming too nowadays. good post folk

    CapCity said...

    i concur w/ all others:-). well written!

    Eddie G. Griffin said...

    I enjoyed reading about how you engage the class. This is what's missing in public schools. I believe this methodology will help when we began educating kids online- an anticipated inevitability, as more and more education content goes up on the Internet. In fact, our children are more adept at learning with the use of technology tools, than teachers are prepared to teach with them. Keep us posted on any TQM improvements.

    plez... said...

    hey there, Villager, Torrance, CAP, and Eddie... thanks for the kudos!

    teaching is a passion of mine, my wish is that i can teach in my community's public schools when i retire!