The Principles of Learning Segment

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The principles of learning segment usually begin with the concept of adult learning, which includes how adults learn. Motivation is discussed as well as tips for making material interesting and keeping learners enthusiastic and energized. Feedback and review methods are also important topics. Most programs include retention principles and what to do when learners do not under-stand the material presented.

Program management covers the physical arrangement, size, and audiovisual equipment requirements of the training room. This segment also provides techniques for handling difficult participants, maintaining control of problem situations, and improving group dynamic skills.

The delivery skills segment of the seminar concentrates on improving the verbal and nonverbal presentation style of participants. Learners are exposed to techniques for promoting participation, leading a discussion, asking the best type of questions, using audiovisual aids to enhance presentations, and conducting small-group exercises. Most programs also include time for participants to practice their delivery skills while they are being videotaped. Each taped presentation is followed with a critique by the instructor and/or peers. Later, participants can review their tape and assess their presentations, focusing on improving a specific skill on which they need to work. Videotaping presentations documents the progress of participants and builds their self-confidence.

Presentation Skills

There is nothing as important to the success of a well developed training program than a trainer who is prepared and has mastered essential presentation skills. Every trainer can prepare; however, mastering presentation skills requires practice, practice, and more practice. The skills essential to becoming a successful, effective presenter include the ability to:
  • Communicate clearly and logically

  • Establish a learning climate

  • Establish rapport with a group

  • Use appropriate gestures and body language to communicate non verbally

  • Make eye contact with participants and rotate attention throughout the group

  • Use questioning techniques

  • Use active listening techniques

  • Use motivational techniques to keep learners excited about the learning process

  • Stimulate group discussions by asking probing questions

  • Involve the group through the use of exercises, case studies, demonstrations, role playing

  • Use a variety of training methodologies

  • "read" and react to a group

  • Summarize material

  • Give clear, specific, task-oriented directions

  • Maintain group interest

  • Know how and when to use a variety of visuals

  • Handle questions asked by participants

  • Show enthusiasm for the learning taking place

  • Use training techniques appropriately: group exercises, handouts, overheads, flip charts, role playing, games

  • Evaluate training throughout the session

  • Organize presentation and materials

  • Observe participants

  • Provide feedback to the group and individuals

  • Be flexible

  • Provide for follow up

  • Manage training time

  • Know the organization or business

  • Maintain control of group behavior

  • Effectively handle difficult participants
The Training Leader

The most important responsibility of the person managing the training is to demonstrate the usefulness of training in achieving the goals and objectives of the organization. In order to handle this primary responsibility, the training manager must understand his or her organization's goals, priorities, and values. In other words, the training manager must know and live the strategic plan that senior management has determined for the future of the company. The training managers and employees need to meet their company's goals. This requires strong leadership skills, and the training manager determines the value training adds to the organization.

The training department will always be involved in addressing the skills needed to perform specific jobs within an organization. Historically training departments have done this well. But the broader responsibility of training as a support to management and to the performance of the organization as a whole means both establishing direct communication with senior management and keeping an eye on change in order to serve new strategic priorities.

Training managers must sell the benefits of what they accomplish and find quantifiable data to analyze a situation before and after training. Bottom line training results need to show how much change has occurred. Trainers need to publish these results on an ongoing basis to consistently demonstrate a picture of organization change through training aligned to the vision of the organization's top management.

The Facilitator as Change Agent

Before we can design a more open, creative business learning model, we must reconsider the role of our primary change agent, the trainer. We need to move most business-related teachers, instructors, and trainers from their current presentation mode toward a facilitator/mentoring role model. Unless we train the trainer to become a cognitive facilitator, our newly designed models will fail. Here is why.

Traditional classroom teachers, instructors (technical training), and company management trainers view their students or trainees as passive learning agents to whom they present or demonstrate new information. In their expert role they seek to shape effective learner behaviors. They focus on learning concepts, new skills, or practical how-to knowledge. The traditional educator makes the learning process meaningful and helps the learner achieve a new level of understanding, adopt a new technique, or acquire the desired effective behavior by using rewards. These developmental educational roles can be compared with the characteristics of the behaviorally based learning models referred.

The desirable alternative is a facilitator/mentor, cognitive-change agent model. The focus shifts to the adult learner as an active participant rather than a passive attendee. The facilitator becomes a helper in the discovery process. This role supersedes, but does not completely eliminate, aspects of the behaviorally based models. Content is mastered through discovery learning, which gives added personal meaning to each adult rather than filling his or her mind with facts, skills, or behaviors. The learning process has meaning because it is built around the individual's work/life instead of the educator's interpretations.

To use this change agent model, several specific design elements must be addressed in a training program

  • To accept new material, adult learners have a need to know "what's in it for me."

  • Most adult learners have personal experiences that will give meaning to their learning of new ideas.

  • It is far easier for participants to accept a new concept if they are involved in its development during the training process.

  • If the facilitator can state something, why not have the facilitator ask the participants to help develop the same information from their own perspectives by asking open-ended questions?

  • The facilitator builds the participants into subject-matter experts and does not remain the sole source of knowledge.

  • Participants' responses are never completely wrong. Some piece of their idea may be linked to the desired training application or principle, or the facilitator can extend the participant's thinking and build upon it.

  • The primary task of any facilitator is to develop maximum learner participation and understanding.

  • To implement what has been learned, a primary task for all participants and their managers is to formulate a personal action plan for the workplace.

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