Originally posted February 2013.
Many people believe that teaching any subject whatsoever is fairly easy, and that anyone can teach anything, so long as they’re familiar with the material. This belief, when considered objectively, is easily countered when one stops and reflects on classes they’ve attended in the past that had great material, but were conducted poorly by the person ‘teaching’ the class. In the world of NPT/SUT/Preparedness training, possibly because of preconceived notions of what effective instruction is comprised (influenced also by Hollywood impressions), many time the instructor is not actually teaching; he or she is simply parroting information within his or her reference, and responding to student questions with less than effective responses.
The truth is that teaching others is a science which is tempered and ehanced by the useof artful presentation skills that include audience analysis, extemporaneous lecture, discussion, and demonstration/performance methodology, and the enthusiasm of the instructor.
Adult learning is a mutual endeavor experienced by both the instructor and participant; each having equal responsibility in the learning process. The instructor must be able to present the subject in an understandable, efficient, and meaningful manner, while the student must engage in attentive listening, questioning for clarification, and purposeful participation for the Desired Learning Outcome to be achieved, whether the class is academic or performance based.
When making the determination to teach others vital skills in the field, the instructor must understand and prepare the class so that the material comes across in a simple, yet effective manner, that does not bore advanced participants, but does not leave novice participants confused.
The method that is most effective can be boiled down to its most basic elements:
Known to Unknown; Simple to Complex (KUSC).
This formula applies whether the class is purely academic or performance based. Building on known information or simple concepts or tasks and moving to the unknown allows the participant to increase knowledge or skill levels in such a manner that post-class retention is much higher. The KUSC formula encourages the participant to absorb the subject matter in a way that is individually meaningful as well as encourages the maximum amount of participation and dialogue with the instructor (who uses the feedback as a tool to dtermine the effectiveness of the presentation in terms of participant grasp of the material).
Another facet of successful training is adequate pre-class preparation by the instructor/trainer. Skimming a lesson plan doesn’t cut it. Careful review and study of the material, even if well-known by the instructor/trainer is essential. The participants may bring up related subjects, ideas, or methods that the prepared (well-studied) instructor/trainer can tie into the class while at the same time keeping the group focused on the Desired Learning Outcome. Conversely, the unprepared instructor/trainer may the tendency to shut down creative student input (which also takes a toll on a necessary facet of quality instruction: class and individual rapport) by being too rigid in presentation. Adequate preparation by the instructor/trainer also includes determining personal experiences that relate to the class that will allow and encourage the participants to relate their own life experiences to the material, which helps cement learning and retention timelines. Subject matter knowledge, which is typically the bedrock of any particular subject, is enhanced by class preparation, and provides the side-benefit of confidence to the instructor/trainer for the occassional jaundiced participant, who either wants to ‘help teach’ or disrupt the class. Calm refutation of unvetted material will most likely be accepted by the majority of the participants, and preparation helps achieve the skill level necessary in these situations.
Preparation also helps even the most experienced instructor/trainer relax and master the inevitiable ‘butterfiles in the belly’ that accompany public speaking. It does this by building confidence within the instructor/trainer.
To be sure, the above information is only an overview of the requirements necessary to train the trainer, however, it doesn’t take an inordinant amount of time to learn the essential skills, either. With diligent particiation and practice, a new instructor/trainer typically can effectively present classes within a few weeks.
DTG will be offering classes in the near future on basic instructor/trainer skills.