[Employee Development] Tips for Trainers

Dos and don’ts to help one become a successful educator, trainer or instructor.

Have you had some great training programs at your pest management firm? Have you had some that were not so good? Have you participated in good and bad training sessions? Management at all levels in many organizations is calling on "training" to come up with answers to improve workplace performance. Keep in mind that "training" is not always the best solution and many times is part of an integrated solution. Whether it is called educating, training or instructing, (more on this later) the way individuals learn remains grounded in some basic adult learning principles of instructional design, presentation skills and evaluation.

Since good trainers tend to use checklists to manage details needed for successful learning, here are some checklist suggestions to follow when attempting to become a successful educator, trainer or instructor.

Dos for becoming a successful educator, trainer or instructor:

• Plan, prepare, practice

• Survey the facility in advance

• Dress professionally

• Review and stick to an agenda

• Have an opening and a closing

• Make objective(s) clear

• Gear sessions toward learners’ needs

• Make the session participatory

• Encourage questions

• Divide information into sections

• Use transfer of learning techniques

• Circulate around the room

• Promote networking among participants

• Use visuals or varied learning techniques

• Market the training program internally

• Evaluate

Don’ts for becoming a successful educator, trainer or instructor:

• Start late

• Criticize or embarrass a participant

• Hesitate to say, "I don’t know"

• Hide behind the podium

• Permit discussions to stray from a subject

• Indulge in poor presentation habits

• Skip scheduled breaks

• Overload learners

• Let your delivery overshadow the content

• Limit yourself to one method of delivery

• Get stale or fall into a boring routine

• Pigeonhole yourself; stretch your talents

• Go it alone; engage the participants

• Worry about new challenges

• Assume; trust but verify

• Lose control of the learning environment

WRITING GOOD TEST QUESTIONS. Although writing good tests seem to be an art, there is a science in developing good test questions (and responses). Any question is well written when a reader can understand it in just one read. A question is poorly written if a reader has to read it more than once to understand the question (and response). Keep in mind that tests should validate the desired learning as set forth with the learning objectives. Also, remember that there are numerous individuals who have test anxiety. This phenomenon may have developed from experience(s) with a poorly designed lesson, a poor teacher and/or poorly written tests.

There are basically six types of test questions used to evaluate training with advantages and disadvantages to each. (My least favorite is true-false.) They are:

• Multiple choice test

• True/false binary test

• Matching test

• Fill-in-the-blanks completion test

• Short answer closed-question test

• Open-ended essay test

Dos for writing good test questions:

• State how an item will be scored and what will be included (spelling, etc.)

• Give clear concise directions for how to respond to the item

• Ask only one question in each item

• Have one correct answer for each item

• Make sure the question asks about important rather than trivial content

• Make the wording in the questions and responses clear and concise

• Keep the response categories consistent in both type and length

• Make sure all the responses are plausible for the question asked

• Place answers in a logical order

• Cite an authority or theory if a question is controversial or debatable

• Decide how you will score responses before you look at the responses

Don’ts for writing good test questions:

• Try to assess more than one idea, fact or concept in a question

• Use absolute clues (none, all, never)

• Create patterns with the responses

• Give partial information in a question

• Overload with content and wording

• Utilize guessing; test the content itself

• Opinionate responses

• Be funny with responses

• Assume that passing a test will actually transfer the desired skill to the job

• Use correct answer in instructions; should use "best" answer

• Use all the above or none of the above

• Use items to assess minor points

• Use items that are plainly right or wrong

• Have test takers manually write "T" or "F" as they can be mistaken one for the other.

Good adult learning is a result of well thought-out instructional design, delivered professionally in combination with responsible learners. Trainers can use the SCORRE acronym to structure training content: Subject, Central Theme, Objective(s), Rationale, Resources and Evaluation. This approach helps a trainer meet management’s request for a good training solution while helping to improve the adult learning experience. Perhaps the best tip is saved for last.

Do you remember a teacher from school or a trainer that made learning fun? Maybe they led you through role-playing sessions, interactive group activities or learning games. Chances are you learned more and probably learned it more quickly in this engaging, interactive environment. Make your training fun training!

Author’s soapbox: The words "educating," "training" and "instructing" are often used interchangeably. PCOs know that using terms like "fogging" and "fumigation" interchangeably is wrong. Did you know the same is true with "educating," "training" and "instructing?"

What makes them different? My short answer is the difference in focus as educating centers more on the why (to persuade one to believe or act in a desired way); training more on the how (make fit, qualified, or proficient); and instructing on the numerous details to achieve effective learning (knowledge and skills with authoritative information or advice).

The author is a certified professional instructor and a certified instructional designer. He can be reached through his Web site www.qualitycenteredconsulting.com or by calling 816/436-1627.

January 2007
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