10 tips for trainers

Good trainers know that they always have something more to learn! Here are some quick tips on being an effective trainer.

Ask the right questions

Sometimes it’s the question that matters – not the answer. Using some good, well thought out questions, instead of simply supplying the answers, will get your learners to really engage with the material, think through it and learn the answers without you necessarily having to tell them. This makes for a more interactive and rewarding learning experience, plus, your students are more likely to remember the information.

Leave your ego at the door. This is not about you.

At the end of the day, the lessons are about your learners and not about you, so don’t spend too much time talking about what you’ve done, or using your experience as an example of something. It’s good for your learners to know a little bit about you – it helps them to understand where you’re coming from. But there’s no need to spend too much time on it or keep referencing it. Talking about yourself is rarely seen as an endearing trait and classroom is no exception.

Are you an expert or a teacher?

Similarly to the previous point, it’s not about what you know – it’s about how you can deliver what you know. While your expertise in the field is useful, always focus on your training techniques and delivery methods. Reflect on your delivery after a class – think about what you said, how it was received, how the students interacted and whether they really learnt anything. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you know about your subject unless you can deliver it effectively to your students.

Be prepared for different rates of learning

You will almost always have a range of knowledge levels and learning rates in your class. Even if in theory all your students are at the same level (for example: all have completed Certificate II in Creative Industries) there will still be variety. Prepare for this, for example: Have a number of variations on an exercise so that different people can do it at a level they’re comfortable with. Perhaps more importantly, watch for it – adapt your lesson to your learners. (See the tips on various learning levels for more information on this)

Be prepared for different types of learning

Everyone learns using a combination of skills – watching, listening, doing etc. But different people will tend to favour one over the other. By planning your lesson to include a range of teaching styles you will not only cater for the full range of learning styles, you will also create a lesson that is more varied, dynamic and ultimately satisfying for all of your students.

Show them what NOT to do

Strangely, the mind will often remember an example of something done incorrectly, better than it will remember an example of something done correctly. Cater to this – let your students see why they shouldn’t ‘press that button’. They will see the consequence, understand it and, generally, remember not to do it.

Don’t make stuff up

If you get asked a question that you don’t know the answer to – don’t make up an answer. It’s surprisingly common for teachers to do this as they feel the pressure maintain their authority and think it undermines this if they don’t know an answer. While there’s some truth in this, it looks even worse to make something up and then get found out! If you don’t know an answer, be up front about it, but take on the task of finding the correct answer. If you’re able do this while the class is doing an activity, that’s even better.

Repeat and reinforce

Use the sandwich method by giving the daily objectives at the beginning and end of the day (tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them). Don’t assume that just because you said it, they got it. And don’t assume that just because you said it five minutes ago, they remember it now. In other words, don’t be afraid to be redundant. That doesn’t mean repeating the same material over and over… but it often takes between 3 to 5 repeated exposures to something before the brain will remember it, so take the extra time to reinforce earlier topics in the context of the new things you’re talking about. Great teachers know how to slip in the redundancy in an almost stealth way… where the thing is looked at again but from a different angle. It’s up to you to keep it interesting and lively.

Passionate trainers get passionate learners

You don’t need to be a cheerleader, but you do need to inspire your students. Be honest, be authentic, but be passionate. It’s your job as a trainer to find ways to keep yourself motivated – if you can do that, you’re a long way down the road to keeping your students motivated.

Plan, plan and plan again

A good lesson plan is vital for a good learning experience. Your plan will help you to feel more confident in your delivery; it will give you a better balanced session and ultimately will have better learning outcomes for your students. But don’t just follow a plan and leave it at that – assess your plans, alter them as you use them and always be ready to veer off the plan if you need to.

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