Be the Best Instructor You Can Be

Many people have the inherent skill and talent to be a natural teacher or instructor. But if you are not one of them and you find yourself in a supervisory position responsible for the training of others, this article is for you. First, knowing what a...


Many people have the inherent skill and talent to be a natural teacher or instructor. But if you are not one of them and you find yourself in a supervisory position responsible for the training of others, this article is for you.

First, knowing what a student expects will help you to formulate an appropriate training program. Most students expect a training experience that includes quality instruction from an effective trainer. Trainers do not have to be experts, but they should be capable of fielding questions and following up with further research. Documentation should be clear and provide the information necessary for students to use what they have learned when they return to work and perform their expected tasks.

A seasoned trainer will clearly outline learning objectives for the class at the outset. This can help demystify the learning process for the student. The old advice to do your homework holds true once again. Learn as much as you can about the training class you are considering. Ask these questions:

  • What is the student to trainer ratio? (12:1 is ideal, less is preferable when the class is hands-on.)
  • What needs to be covered in class? Develop an outline.
  • How does your background and experience relate to the content of the class?
  • Will there be a student workbook, maybe a presentation, a guest speaker, or “show-and-tell” items that need to be in the classroom?
  • Is there any kind of placement process for classes offered at a certain skill level?

Content

A solid learning experience has key components that should go unnoticed if they are used well. At the bare minimum, consider the following when developing training content for your class:

  • Different skill levels will be addressed.
  • The examples used should be relevant to the work trainees are asked to perform.
  • The sequence of any training materials should be consistent and easy to follow and understand.
  • Does the content require an equal balance between lecture time and hands-on time? (This is especially important in physical task training.)
  • There should be a clear understanding of the subject to be taught, use of documented resources, and practical examples.
  • A workbook or handouts is helpful to students for continued study after the class ends.

Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to curriculum. Trainers play an extremely important role here. They must bring the curriculum alive and make it relevant to the students and the tasks they are going to be asked to perform. Many times that means helping students to understand the “why” as well as the “how” to do something.

Learning styles

Every person is different, and every person learns in a different way. The way one person learns may not be the way everyone learns. There are basically three different types of learners: the audible learner, the visual learner, and the kinesthetic learner.

Audible learners

30 percent of learners prefer to hear things. Your ears are your best sense, and seem to be connected directly with your brain, feeding it everything you hear. If a trainee is an audible learner, they are probably good at foreign languages, learn best in study groups, and read slowly. They may find it difficult to keep quiet for long periods of time, and tend to enjoy attention and interaction with others.

The subjects audible learners find most difficult are ones that include lengthy reading assignments and having to write answers about that reading assignment. They may also find spelling hard, since they prefer to spell according to how their ear hears the word. They will remember things the easiest if they can hear them; they also will benefit greatly from group discussions.

Visual learners

Visual learners are those who learn things best through seeing them. On average 60 percent of the population are visual learners. Visual learning trainees like to keep an eye on the instructor and may prefer sitting in the front of the class and watching the lecture closely. Often, visual learners will find that a picture or a chart is very helpful in understanding explanations.

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