Category: Classroom

Adult LearnersClassroom

Adult Learners – Engaging Them in the Learning Process

Student engagement is the underlying principle of the Planet Speaking℠ Train the Trainer philosophy. There are several facets to getting and keeping adult learners engaged in the classroom.  In this article we will identify some of the fundamental needs of the adult learner. Understanding these basic needs will improve the instructor’s ability to engage their students and increase classroom satisfaction.

The Adult Learner thinks: Why Should I Listen to You?

When dealing with children who ask, “why?”, we sometimes take what we think is the easy road by saying, “Because I said so”. This tactic may silence a child’s questioning but certainly doesn’t encourage their participation. Try this with an adult learner and see how far you get. Even with the authority to pull it off, the learner will be reluctant to take part in the training.

Believing their instructor is an expert on the subject will give the adult learner good reason to listen. If I think, this person really knows what they’re talking about, or, I can learn something from this person, I’m much more likely to want to engage in the learning. A brief resume in the introduction can help establish this expertise and build credibility.

Information to include in the introduction can be:

  • Time spent in the relevant field
  • Number of classes taught
  • Success rate of prior students
  • Familiarity of similar topics
  • Degrees, certifications, awards

Providing some qualifications in a tactful way, without bragging, is a great way to give adult learners the confidence they can learn from you. It’s important to share qualifications with some humility. If an instructor were to stand in front of the group and declare themselves the world’s greatest, there may be a student anxious to prove them wrong.

The Adult Learner Wonders: What’s in This for Me?

Adult learners need a reason to engage with the learning process. There needs to be some value in the training that at least equals the valuable time of the adult learner. When the student sees value in the training, they are much more willing to engage. If there’s no perceived value, there’s no reason to be there. Sometimes we’re fortunate and adult learners come to the classroom already motivated by some perceived value. Others, may require some convincing. Understanding and reinforcing the value to the adult learner is one of the key roles of the instructor.

I once attended training, as a student, where the instructor began the afternoon session by saying, “It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever need to use the tools we will cover next.” You could almost feel the collective groan from the room full of professionals. A better introduction would have been something like, “The need for the following tools doesn’t come up often, but when it does, you’ll want to be prepared.” The best introduction would have been, “These tools are used so rarely that we won’t be covering them!”

Introduce topics or sessions by stating the value to the adult learner. Let the learners know that they should listen by telling them:

  • How it will make their job easier
  • How it has helped others
  • What opportunities are opened by this skill / knowledge
  • How it can make them money
  • How it can improve others’ perception of them
  • How much time it will save them

The Adult Learner Wants to be Recognized

Once we have the adult learner engaged with the learning, we then need to keep them engaged. When someone opens up and outwardly participates, it’s important that their efforts are recognized. Both the student and the instructor benefit from this participation / reward interaction. There are several ways to appropriately reward Adult learners for their participation, none of which should make them feel like they’re in elementary school. DO NOT THROW CANDY AT ADULT LEARNERS!

Here are some basic ways to appropriately recognize the participation of the adult learner:

A student asks a well thought out question. A simple, “That’s a great question” is all the reward they need. It acknowledges their effort and encourages them to keep participating.

A student asks a question that is out of scope or will be covered later. Physically writing it down somewhere shows that you care and appreciate their participation. Give them some timeframe as to when their question can be answered. This is the “Parking lot” response. Let’s park that question over here and get to it later.

A student correctly answers a question the instructor posed to the group. Have a list of positive responses to rotate so it doesn’t get repetitive. It can be as easy as: Absolutely, you’ve got it, that’s it, or Correct, Karen, thank you.

A student incorrectly answers a question the instructor posed to the group. Uh-oh. We need to be tactful here. We can’t just say, nope, and move on. The student still needs to be recognized for their participation. A response such as, not exactly, and offering another shot can be good. The expert instructor will use an effective questioning technique to lead the student to the correct answer. Effective questioning will be covered in more detail in another article.

Rewards for student participation are simple in nature but take practice to execute. The student should feel their participation is appreciated. Adult learners should never be made to feel they’re being treated like a child or they are being pandered to.

Closing

Getting and keeping the adult learner engaged in the learning is a constant mission of the effective training instructor. It can take some practice to recognize when a student in disengaged and it can take some work to reengage them.

What are some of your experiences with student engagement as either a learner or instructor? What techniques work for you? What techniques don’t work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Note: This article focuses on adult learners, however, these principles apply to younger students as well.)

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ClassroomCredibilityPowerPointTraining Content

PowerPoint – Three Areas To Keep You Looking Professional

PowerPoint for the Classroom

You know the phrase, “Death by PowerPoint”. Today we’re talking about what can be done to make our presentations more effective so we don’t subject our audience to this slow form of torture.

One of the many tools available to the training Instructor is presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. When used effectively, PowerPoint can help reinforce the message, build instructor credibility, and increase the students’ retention of the topics. As with all forms of media used in the classroom, PowerPoint is there to guide the instructor, not distract from them. A well-made PowerPoint will give a professional feel to the overall classroom environment. I see people spend a lot of valuable time trying to make flashy PowerPoints with lots of animations and sound effects. What ends up happening is the students become focused on the screen and not on the instructor. If the students are distracted by the PowerPoint because they’re waiting to see what exciting thing will dance around the screen next, they’re not paying attention to the instructor. In this article we will identify some key aspects of creating a PowerPoint that will enhance the message and not distract from it.

PowerPoint – Making a Professional Standard

PowerPoint design can be part of your personal brand so take some time and make them your own. I like all my PowerPoints to look and feel the same. If there is a sudden change in the look of the PowerPoint, the students will notice and their attention can be lost.

PowerPoint Template

Microsoft offers thousands of free templates to choose from. I personally like to make my own and that process is covered here. Simple is better when choosing a template. Keep the background light so writing can be easily viewed. Feel free to add your brand or logo but keep is small and out of the way. Use the template to set up a standardized outline format and default text animations.

PowerPoint – Using Bullets

Bullet points should be viewed as a guide to remind the instructor what to talk about. There are many things the instructor needs to manage in the classroom and good bullet points are an easy way to keep lessons on track. Bullet points only need to be a short, succinct summary of what the students will see in their training material or student workbook. If the bullet points are too long, both the instructor and the students have the tendency to read them word for word. The information needs to come from the instructor, the bullet points serve only as a guide. Can you imagine four hours or longer, sitting in a classroom while someone reads long winded bullet points word for word? Bullet points should have a simple, consistent animation. “Appear” and “Wipe” are appropriate. A good instructor will advance to the next bullet, glance at it to make sure they’re on track, and then fill in the details verbally from there. The teaching comes from the instructor, not from the PowerPoint. When the topic has been discussed fully, the next bullet is brought up and the lesson continues. The image below shows how this paragraph can be summarized by bullet points. Notice the “>” symbol after the final bullet. This symbol indicates that we are on the last bullet of the slide.

PowerPoint Bullet Points

PowerPoint Images

Images that are relevant to the topic can help make the PowerPoint more interesting and reinforce the topic. Remember our rule of keeping media from being a distraction. Silly images and cartoons can be perceived as unprofessional and should rarely be used. Be prepared to get student questions regarding ANYTHING you put on the screen. If you don’t want to talk about something, don’t put it on display. Crop images and highlight areas to keep student focus where you want it.

Closing

Keeping your PowerPoints clean, consistent and concise will help project a professional image of yourself. We want the students focused on us and not staring at the screen. These basic guidelines will serve as our PowerPoint foundation. Don’t spend hours trying to make fancy PowerPoints, spend your time polishing your delivery.

What are the ways you customize your presentations to enhance the learning environment? Have you made mistakes in the past that made it difficult in the classroom? What lessons have you learned? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

ClassroomCredibilityTrainingTraining Content

Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor

There are no shortages of mnemonics in the training industry and we here at Planet Speaking℠ are no exception. The reason mnemonics are so popular is they work. My post on Key Takeaways describes how and why valuable morsels like this are so important to the learning environment. Planet Speaking’s “Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor”, Credibility, Content, and Classroom, focus on student engagement and serve as the foundation of our train the trainer methodology. In this article I will give an overview of these topics, and our website’s continued articles will typically relate to one or more of these three categories.

The Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor relate to each other in a way similar to the Buddhist philosophy of non-self or interdependence. Each of the three cannot exist on their own and require the other two in order to be effective. Without credibility, the content and classroom environment suffer. Without the right content, establishing credibility is very difficult and the classroom environment suffers. Without the right classroom environment, instructor credibility and course content are affected. One aspect cannot effectively exist without the other two having been established.

There are so many factors that make up each of our Three C’s, it would be ineffective to list them all in one article. We will define them at a high level here and expand on each of them in subsequent posts.

Credibility

Instructor credibility makes successful completion of the course objectives possible. A colleague of mine, and fellow teacher of an older train the trainer program, always says, “Without instructor credibility, it’s hard to get much accomplished in the classroom”. It’s up to the effective instructor to first establish and then maintain their credibility. Adult learners need to believe the instructor is credible or they will find it difficult to participate.

The way we dress, the words we use, the tone we take, and student perceptions are some of the more direct aspects of instructor credibility. There are many other, sometimes nuanced, factors that also contribute to the credibility equation.

Content

Course content needs to meet the needs of the enterprise, any regulatory organization, and the student. The foundation for creating course content is the learning objective. Learning objectives are so important as they describe not only the expected outcome of the training but also define the training scope. It is the instructors job to make sure the learning objectives have been successfully met.

The enterprise must first identify what training is required and ensure it is aligned with the goals of the business/organization. It’s the responsibility of upper management to put support in place by providing communication and ensuring adequate budget is in place.

Guidelines or rules established by applicable regulatory agencies will need to be reviewed by the instructional designer/s to ensure the training is adequate. Some agencies, such as IEEE, have very detailed and clearly defined guidelines. Other certification bodies, like ISO, can cover topics that are much more broad.

Let’s not forget the student! The course content needs to meet the actual needs of the training recipients. If the objective of the training is for the student to demonstrate the proper way to extinguish a fire utilizing a handheld fire extinguisher….. We’re going to need a fire!

Classroom

Classroom requirements will also be defined after the creation of good learning objectives. As a professional training instructor, I’m quite particular about the capabilities and amenities of the classroom. This isn’t meant to imply that my particulars are always met. Quite the opposite is true in many cases! Many times the instructor has little to no control over the classroom location or setup and must improvise while minimizing any impact on credibility and content.

As with the course content, the learning objectives should be the key in identifying the classroom requirements. Can the objectives be met in a conference room or is some form of training laboratory required?

Other topics that need addressing with regards to the classroom are; class size, seating arrangements, access to electrical power, lighting, and many more. The classroom atmosphere is a combination of many aspects and will need to be managed by the instructor.

Closing

Each aspect of Planet Speaking’s℠ “Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor” is equally as important as, and dependent upon, the other. It is the intent of this site to dive deep into each of them in a sort of modular “train the trainer” format that can be consumed as required by our readers. Whether your role is as an instructor, instructional designer, public speaker, manager, or human resources professional, we hope to provide valuable content to help you meet your training needs. As is true with our instruction, your feedback is a critical part of this endeavor and is always greatly appreciated.