Tag: Technical Training

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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Train the Trainer

Train the Trainer – What is It and Why Does It Matter?

Many times, I’ve seen a situation where someone is skilled at something and is therefore deemed the appropriate person to teach others about it. This ideology is flawed because doing a certain thing is very different than explaining how to do said thing. Teaching is a different skillset than doing. I’ve seen the effects of this mentality many times in my Train the Trainer courses. A student-instructor chooses a topic they are very familiar with to be their practice session topic. It seems like a great idea until they find themselves standing speechless in front of their peers. They suddenly realize, I know how to USE a micrometer, but how do I EXPLAIN the workings of one?

You may have heard the phrase, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”. This is an inappropriate mentality as well. The phrase implies an uninformed or unskilled person should resort to teaching rather than doing. To be an effective training instructor, a thorough knowledge of the subject matter is essential. Adult learners will not give their valuable time to someone telling them they know nothing of the subject matter.

The effective training instructor will have BOTH the knowledge of the subject matter, AND the ability to teach/train. Effective training is so much more than simply reading the words from a PowerPoint to a crowd of captives. When we’re training, we are accountable for the outcome of the training session. We’re engaged with the students. We’re performing a balancing act of knowledge transfer, handling student questions, checking for understanding, managing time and so much more. That’s why it’s critical that our instructors have been trained on how to train.

The 2017 Training Industry Report from Trainingmag.com states that businesses in the United States spent $90.6 billion on training in 2017. 42% of that training was delivered by a face-to-face training instructor. 13% of companies surveyed said training instructors delivered all or most of their training for the year.

Businesses are investing a significant amount of money into training their workforce. It should then make sense that businesses want to see a return on their investment. The competency of outsourced trainers can be measured and poor performers should be managed accordingly. Many companies are relying on in-house training and therefore need to ensure their trainers are competent.

I recently provided a week-long training course to skilled laborers in an industrial facility. After day three, some students remarked that they were very pleased with my training techniques and it was a welcome contrast to the prior week’s training. They told me a vendor had sent “one of their engineers” to provide training on a piece of equipment. The “trainer” sat at a table and read the technical manual aloud for three days. I then understood why the students seemed so weary of more training when I arrived. Who wouldn’t be weary after an experience like that?

What is Train the Trainer?

A traditional train the trainer model is basically having a subject matter expert teach others both the subject, and how to teach the subject. Rather than simply teaching someone how to throw a curveball, the model suggests we teach someone how to teach others to throw the curve. The idea being that it’s more engaging, increases learner satisfaction, and improves the learning process. The student then becomes the instructor and teaches others similarly in a sort of top-down fashion.

The Planet Speaking℠ take on train the trainer is slightly different. We’re not as concerned with the actual subject matter as we are the training process. Bring any subject you need to teach, that part isn’t as important as the mechanics of being an effective instructor. For us, it’s all about how to get, and keep, the student engaged with the learning process. The advantage of our process over the traditional model is that a talented instructor, who’s attended train the trainer, can then teach any subject in an effective manner. Enter the professional training instructor.

Our process follows our Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor:

  • Credibility
    • How to establish and maintain credibility
  • Content
    • How to create, and present effective training material
  • Classroom
    • How to manage the classroom environment

Planet Speaking℠ articles are meant to break the training fundamentals down into digestible chunks. One can pick and choose the topics where they feel there is room for improvement. The website was launched in August of 2018 as a means of sharing information as it’s developed rather than waiting for a completed workbook to be produced. Material is continuously being added. While the information is all relevant and valuable, the process requires application. The most valuable part of the Train the Trainer program is the teaching and feedback sessions that happen between the learner and our facilitator. Without this, the “curve ball” doesn’t actually get thrown. We will change the old phrase to make it more appropriate. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can do AND teach, train.”

Feel free to subscribe and offer your feedback as new articles are shared. Become a citizen of Planet Speaking℠.  Eventually, we will take the “best of” articles and compile them together to create a stand-alone workbook. We will be looking for reader stories and insight to be part of the final product. Until then, enjoy the process. May your laser pointer be always blessed with fresh batteries.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint Templates – How to Apply and Customize Themes

Whether it’s for classroom based training or for e-learning, PowerPoint is an excellent means of communicating topics. With a few steps, anyone can portray their message in a professional manner. Microsoft offers thousands of templates that can be chosen to get started quickly. I prefer to modify and save a PowerPoint template of my own so I can have a consistent look and feel to all my training lessons. I enjoy adding my personal touch to make the PowerPoint my own. This article gives step by step instructions for applying and personalizing an existing template. Have a look through this article that gives a few tips for keeping PowerPoint professional. Note: I’m using PowerPoint 2018, however, the steps are very similar across all versions.

PowerPoint – Applying a Template

Begin by opening a new PowerPoint. Under the view tab, select Slide Master. The slide master is where you set the formatting you want to apply to all of the slides that make up your presentation.

1 View - Slide Master

The Slide Master tab should now be visible. Select Themes.

2 Themes

Following the guidelines presented in our PowerPoint basics article, choose a theme that isn’t too busy and looks professional. Simple is better. The PowerPoint is to enhance the training, not distract from it. For this demonstration, I’ve selected the retrospect theme.

2.1 Select Theme

Select a text box to set the font and text size you prefer. Basic fonts like Calibri and Ariel are best because they are easy to read. Keep the text size 18 point or higher. The font should be consistent throughout the presentation. Some themes place the title banner to the side of the slide. I prefer titles at the top. Moving and sizing the title banner in the slide master view will make it appear in the place you want each time a new slide is added.

2.2 Select Font

Keeping the background a light color makes the text and images easy to see. I like to add a gradient to give the PowerPoint some depth. Select background styles – format background.

2.3 Background Styles

Select gradient fill and choose the lightest color available. Feel free to play around with the type and color selections to make it your own. You can also go up to the colors selection in the slide master tab and change the color scheme of the theme altogether.

2.4 Gradient Fill

Adding a logo, if applicable, will add a professional touch. Keep your logo small and out of the way. Select insert – picture to select your image. Resize the image and place it where you prefer. The text boxes in the footer can be repositioned as needed.

2.5 Logo

Saving a Custom PowerPoint Template

Take some time to experiment with the settings available in the slide master tab. You can always select undo if you don’t like something. Your personalized template can now be saved so it’s easy to use on multiple projects. Select file – save as. Select PowerPoint template potx as the file type. The default location should be documents – custom office templates. Your new theme can then be accessed from the slide master tab under themes – browse for themes.

2.6 Save Template

Creating and using themes is a great way to personalize your PowerPoint presentations. Remember to keep it simple and professional. Don’t let the PowerPoint distract from the instructor.

What personal touches do you like to add to PowerPoint? What have some of your successes been? Have you had any hard-learned lessons? Share your thoughts with us below.

Training

Good Training Versus Bad Training

What’s the difference between good training and bad training? What’s the instructor’s role in the perceived success of a training session? What makes learners feel like they’ve had GREAT training? How can I, the instructor, take training from bad to good and good to great?

Take a moment and think back to training sessions you’ve attended in the past. This could be professional training, sports training, or educational training. Think about a training experience you remember as good training. What was good about it? Was it the content? Was it the environment? Was it the instructor themselves? I remember taking a class related to industrial power generation. I thought it was great training. The classroom setup was good, the course materials were good, and I understood the topics presented.

Take another moment and think about a training experience you’ve had that wasn’t so great. What was wrong with it? I recently attended training to become certified for certain first-aid tasks. I understood the skills being demonstrated and received my certification. I look back at this training as not particularly good training. The classroom was fine. The materials were fine. The subject matter was appropriate. As I think back on this training experience, I realize it was the instructor that made me feel like the training could have been better. I had another experience attending training regarding statistical based process improvement. Again, the classroom was fine. The classroom was great. There were beautiful views of Mission Bay, San Diego. The materials were fine. This time it was a combination of a poorly prepared instructor, with a topic that was irrelevant to my career that made me feel the training was no good. I was so unimpressed with the learning that I felt my time could be better spent enjoying the views of Mission Bay.

If I try to narrow my experiences down to a single key aspect, I would say it boils down to student engagement. I, the student, was not engaged with the training I perceived as bad and I was highly engaged with the training I perceived as good. I can say, this instructor KEPT me engaged.

Throughout my career as a Technical Training Instructor, I’ve had the opportunity to see for myself what keeps students engaged with the learning process. I’ve been able to try different instructional techniques across a wide variety learner profiles and personalities. I’ve learned through trial and error how to keep the students engaged with the learning process. I’ve figured out how to keep adult learners focused on the learning objectives during classes that are an entire week of eight-hour sessions. It’s been my experience when students are fully engaged with the learning process, both the learner and the instructor are excited for the journey. Student engagement enables both parties to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Eager students sitting on the edge of their seats, fully participating in the knowledge transfer, is what keeps us in the game.

It’s our goal to share these experiences so that others can benefit and continue to improve their training sessions.

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.

Training Content

Those Are Some Lousy Learning Objectives

I’ll admit, I read people’s learning objectives and sometimes do a little bit of judging. Too often, I see some pretty lousy learning objectives out there. Learning objectives deserve some serious attention because they can do so much for us.

What’s So Good About Learning Objectives?

As a training provider, learning objectives provide the scope of my training sessions. If I’m unable to talk a student off the edge of the abyss that is an endless downward questioning spree, I can always refer to the learning objectives to bring them back to the scope of the training. The learning objectives are also the measurement of my instructional success. Did we accomplish what we set out to do?

As an instructional designer, learning objectives define what needs to go into the training materials. Training should never be about one person trying to prove to another person just how amazing their knowledge is. The objectives will tell me whether I need to include a chapter on ‘coaching for low performers’ or not. Learning objectives also tell me what kind of training needs to take place. Will this be classroom based or is a hands-on portion needed? Do the students need to bring any personal protective equipment? How long does the class need to be?

As someone who is selling training, learning objectives describe my product. Here is exactly what your employees will be able to do upon completion of this course. The learning objectives define the contract and help keep me accountable to my customers.

As someone who is purchasing training, learning objectives tell me exactly what I’m buying. I’m essentially buying some knowledge and/or skills for my team. I want to know what these knowledge and/or skills are so I can determine if they’re adequate for my needs. I can also use the training objectives to ensure the facilitator held up their end of the bargain.

As a student, learning objectives tell me what to expect during a training session. Adult learners like to have some control of the learning process and an understanding of what will take place can enable students to be comfortable enough to engage with the learning process.

Why So Lousy Then?

If training objectives are so important and such a good tool for everyone involved, why are there so many lousy learning objectives out there? Well, in typical Planet Speaking℠ fashion we will say, sounds like an opportunity for some training.

What Makes Effective Learning Objectives?

At its most basic level, learning objectives will begin with an action word. They should answer the question, “What will the student be able to DO after this training?” Good action words for effective learning objectives are words such as: List, Define, Install, Diagnose, Perform, etc. Notice these are all things I can have the student do to show me the objectives have been met. Let’s use these action words to create some effective learning objectives. We can start by saying, “By the end of this session, the student should be able to….”

  • List the monthly reporting requirements of the front-line supervisor
  • Define the main terms in the annual performance appraisal worksheet categories
  • Install the appropriate anchor mountings for XYZ type fall restraint system
  • Diagnose ABC system fault codes
  • Perform audit of XYZ accounting document

Notice these are all things the student can do and the facilitator can observe them doing so. When the student successfully does these things, I’m confident the learning objective has been met. Effective learning objectives like this can be used to meet all the needs described at the beginning of this article.

What About Those Lousy Learning Objectives?

Lousy learning objectives are ambiguous. Lousy words to avoid are words such as; understand, relate, and show. You’re going to be faced with lousy learning objectives and it’s up to you to recognize the fact that they’re lousy and fix them. When I see a learning objective that begins with “understand”, I first think LOUSY! How is the student supposed to do or demonstrate understanding? Understanding can be demonstrated by Listing, Defining, Installing, Diagnosing, Performing, etc. If these are the things the student will be doing to demonstrate an understanding then use these action words instead.

Keep the learning objectives succinct. If an objective is very broad or begins to creep in scope, it’s best to break it down into a couple of objectives that are more concise.

Closing

Learning objectives are such an important tool, and we will talk about them many times here at Planet Speaking℠. Take the time to look your objectives over and make sure they are effective in stating what the learner will be able to do. Unfortunately, you are going to be ruined about learning objectives now. You’re going to see lousy ones all over the place. At least you’ll be able to offer some quality feedback to those willing to listen.

What experiences have you had with learning objectives? Have you come across lousy ones? What challenges have you had? Have you used quality learning objectives and experienced how valuable a tool they can be? Share your thoughts with us 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.