I described the first three rules to providing good trainings in Eight Rules for Good Trainings (Rules 1-3). The first three rules in summary are “Be explicit in your requests, provide time to safely incorporate the trainings and let the students learn the power of different solution methods and paths”. I also provided some background for the genesis of the post. Here I offer rules 4-8.
4) Invite Students to Teach What They’re Learning
There is no greater way to learn what you don’t know than to teach something to someone else. They will ask questions you never thought to ask, they will come up with methods you couldn’t imagine. In short, they will teach you how much you really know about your given subject. I will select different students from all levels to teach elements that they’re learning — especially when I see they’re weak in something. One goal is open, learning discussion. A more subtle goal is to instill confidence; it’s okay to admit you don’t know something. Knowing how to figure something out is far more important than knowing something outright (my opinion).
5) Teach Application to Theory to Application
I’m a strong believer in “Understand the theory and you can apply it anywhere”. I also recognize that pure theory is often too abstract for most people to incorporate successfully. First I’ll give students a real world application, something that has meaning to them in the context of the class. Once I’m confident they understand the application I’ll explain the theory behind the application, make sure there’s acceptance if not understanding, then provide a completely different and completely useful application of the theory. Lightbulbs go on all over the place. Usually the next half hour of the class involves students telling me how to apply the theory to this, that and the other thing. Learning — understanding — is a wonderful thing.
6) Be a Fallible Master
There is nothing worse (my opinion) than students who think the instructor grows wings and flies away when they’re not looking. Instructors are neither gods nor near gods. If they know more than the students its because they’ve been doing it longer. Buckminster Fuller described expertise as the ability to spit over a boxcar and I always tell students that the front of my shirt is soaked from my many attempts. Students may need to know you’re a master of the material and they also need to know mastery is attainable. The easiest way to demonstrate this (and I always get great feedback on it) is by admitting I’ve made and will make mistakes. I turn it into a game; catch me because you can. This allows the students to accept their own level of mastery as valid and provides a willingness (along with the patience) to increase their level of mastery over time.
7) Provide Only Positive Feedback
No matter how foolish you may think an idea is, somebody put effort into formulating it and more effort into expressing it. Honor that. Even if “Wow. I never would have come up with that” is the best you can do, do it. Remember, if students outright fail it’s your fault, not theirs. Students don’t make mistakes when they’re learning…except possibly in choice of an instructor. (note: no students fail in NextStage classes. NextStage certification has to do with accountability and understanding, not understanding alone)
8) Allow Networking Time
Yes, true, students or their companies paid good money for someone to sit in front of you. That recognized, we all know that part of their time in class is going towards making connections, making job inquiries, re-establishing friendships and making new friends. Give students time to achieve their social goals because it promotes their group acceptance of class materials.
And there you go. Eight elements that I’ve learned and found useful since the first class I gave way back in my 20s. Enjoy.
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