To deliver training, it is important that you are confident in the subject. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, and yet there can be an assumption that if you are a trainer you can deliver anything. Personally I do not believe that to be true. In particular with child-care and associated subjects I believe that you need to know your subject, be up to date with legislation and research, and be able to show your passion for your subject through the delivery. To me, these are the hallmarks of a good trainer.
What we do know is that training adults is a complex process. Adults have existing knowledge and experience. They may well have more experience than their trainer. But the role of the trainer is to facilitate learning, not necessarily to teach in the traditional way. There will be adults who had a negative experience of learning, perhaps at school or since school; there will be people who really fear the whole training and group scenario, feeling that everyone knows more that they do. And of course there will be those who do not need to attend training as they already know enough. Some people are quite manipulative and will skillfully take the training in a different direction for their own agenda.
When delivering training I like to facilitate the sharing of existing knowledge, this supports people in feeling valued, their experience and knowledge noted. Training should build on existing knowledge of all levels. We all like to feel that we have learned something new at training and we need that ‘light bulb’ moment to make it feel worthwhile. Trainers need to provide the ‘light bulb’ moment and frequently this will be something so simple that it has not been thought about.
We all learn in different ways and have preferred learning styles. Some people, the activists, like to try things out in order to learn a skill. Some, the theorists, like to read and theorise,while some people, the pragmatists, like to think about, and practice a skill or an idea. There are also some people, the reflectors, who will like to listen and reflect prior to making decisions. Each of us have a little of each of these styles of learning and most of us will have a preferred, or dominant learning style. And so when planning training we need to consider the different ways in which people learn; and to develop exercises and scenarios that will meet the needs of the whole group.
The pace of the session is very important. Beginnings and endings are extremely important and sometimes over-looked when it comes to planning sessions. Introductions need to be insightful and real, an aid to getting to know each other. Ask people to give some information about themselves, this will help people to remember them (names alone are not particularly helpful in this respect). So if I introduce myself as Cathy and my favourite past-time is horse riding, then the latter is more likely to be remembered as it is concrete and tangible. Another way is to ask people to tell you why their name is important to them, where it came from, who named them, again this is tangible. Make sure you are clear on how much time you will give to the beginning session as you will find that some participants will have plenty to say and some will struggle to say more than their name.
Endings, again are very important and the session will be spoilt if it is not given an appropriate ending. If the last few minutes are given to evaluation, people will tend to slip away before the ending. It is good to have verbal feedback on the day as well as written evaluation. If you have used a new activity it may be that you ask what people gained from that specific activity, or ask a generic question such as ‘what will you do differently because of today?’. Do not be afraid of getting feedback, particularly constructive feedback, as it is really helpful when planning future sessions.
Visual tools will be particularly useful for some people, so DVD clips work well, but make them short, you don’t want the group to nod off! Audio can be very powerful as you only have the words no body language to give clues. Small group work is a useful activity and especially for those who may find it difficult in the wider group to engage in discussion. If you know your group; think about how to organise small groups with the individuals present. Some people will need to be together, for confidence; some people will lead the group, others will follow. And if there is an opportunity try to have people from different disciplines in each group as we can all learn from each other and it is a great way to network. I would suggest that you leave ‘role-play’ for groups where people know each other very well and even then, if you choose to use it, use it within a specific scenario, for example what are the individual roles within a strategy meeting, child’s review or case conference? How many of you shivered when you read ‘role-play’! Your group will likely do the same!
All activities need to be meaningful, however that does not mean that everything has to be serious: learning should be fun and worthwhile. So dare to be different. Think about different opportunities for learning, think about how to draw people into the group, how to involve people who like to talk, who like to challenge, and above all use the experience and knowledge within the group. Always acknowledge that you do not have all the answers and yet do give examples of what has worked for you; always reminding the group that we are all individuals and therefore what worked in one scenario may not work in another. Whatever activities you choose to use, keep them to 15-20 minutes each and cover a range of learning styles over the session. Give participants, time to think, and time to network. Keep to timings of start and finish and be confident with more flexibility during the day, observe and plan accordingly. The more experienced you are as a trainer the more comfortable you will feel with flexibility.
Planning is the key to a good session. My own guide is three hours planning for one hour delivery. My three hours will include, thinking, brainstorming, research and design of the time-table headings. And then finally I will be able to put together the resources required (the fun part). Try to keep power-point slides to a minimum, they are a helpful tool, both for you and for the group to take away, as a trainer though, do not read them and do not feel that you have to talk to each slide in great detail. Slides should be your prompt cards, not your speech in full. Keep to your aim and meet your objectives, keep it simple, keep it clear. Use anecdotes where you can, these make training more meaningful, use scenarios, carefully of course, no breaches of confidentiality. Be brave, talk, listen, show your passion, and dare to be different.
Above all, enjoy training. Get a real buzz from it!
Freelance Programme Design and Trainer
Med Early Years