Friday, July 11, 2008

Teacher Training - my beliefs

Training is something I feel very passionately about and I realize that I of all the things I do, I enjoy my time in a classroom the most. In recent years my interest has primarily been teacher training. Having trained first time trainers that were pushed into the role; moving on to training lecturers in a room with no electricity and then coming back to train subject matter experts with a passion for training; I've come a full circle with this interest. I still ask myself a few questions about what "every trainer should know". I've often faced the dilemma of what's too little or too much and I've realized a few things that Teacher training is about:

  • Methodology over Content;
  • Thinking beyond Techniques;
  • Pre-Exposition;
  • Reflection

Methodology over Content: When training trainers, I've realised that sometimes its not the content that is as important, but the method you use to pre-expose, present and teach it. On separate occasions, I've used extremely simple, elementary content to demonstrate different teaching techniques and I've found it useful to invite some critical commentary on the method right after.

Thinking beyond Techniques
: One of the things I always think teacher trainers should urge their students to do, is think beyond the techniques presented. I've run Facilitation Skills Workshops purely based on my reading and my own limited experience. That said I believe that the collective experience of the group could potentially overshadow my own, provided they can attune themselves to "Facilitation Mindset". Once this happens, people can usually come up with their own techniques and my tricks remain just a part of their inventory. To me that means believing:

  • there's no failure only feedback;
  • every action's preceded by a positive intention;
  • people already possess all the resources that they need -- a trainer/ coach/ mentor only needs to guide them to a resourceful state;
  • there are no unresourceful people - only unresourceful states;
  • if a training goes badly off course a trainer can always bring it back on track and learn a lot in the progress;
  • learning is self driven -- the trainer should be willing to support the process and create the right environment for learning;

Pre-Expostion - I have found that some thinking takes time to anchor and I take the liberty of pre-exposing topics by either placing pointers on flipcharts or making introductory, exploratory and culminating references over a period of time. By introducing the topic early and revisiting it at relevant sections, I've progressively anchored some thoughts that I'd have otherwise found difficult to explain (and make them stick with) to the new trainers.

Reflection - A Teacher Training course isn't meant to take noob trainers from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence. I've often found that depending on the duration, the stage you achieve is between Conscious Incompetence and Conscious Competence. Given this, its important that aspiring trainers spend time reflecting on the day's activities and ask themselves:

  • What did I learn?
  • How was the content presented?
  • What teaching methods did I find interesting?
  • What are the mechanics of these methods?
  • What should I plan to do differently?

While this isn't all that you need to consider when training new trainers, its a set of guidelines that has helped me prepare for every new workshop and refine my approach to building training capability. I am still learning and I hope in time, I can do a progressively better job at this.

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