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Tips and strategies for facilitating training sessions

Thoughts and suggestions based on my own experiences and the principles of adult learning
Training should ideally have a practical component to it and have applications in the real world, writes Brian Kreissl. Shutterstock

By Brian Kreissl

This may be relatively obvious to some people, but I am becoming really interested in learning and development. Part of that relates to the fact I am now doing quite a bit of teaching, facilitating and speaking as part of my role here at Thomson Reuters.

As well as some internal training and facilitation I have been doing and webinars where I have served as a panelist, I have spoken at The Canadian Payroll Association’s (CPA’s) annual conference the past two years. More importantly, I teach a course entitled HR Fundamentals for the Payroll Professional on behalf of the CPA. I have taught the course five times now and am scheduled to teach it four more times within the next few months in Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Winnipeg.

This is an all-day professional development course eligible for continuing professional development credit. Teaching the course, I am reminded of the principles of adult learning, based on the work of Malcolm Knowles. I also learned a few tips and strategies based on my own experiences.

Andragogy versus pedagogy

Andragogy (the teaching of adults) is more learner-centric than pedagogy (the teaching of children). It should have definite objectives and help answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”

Adults tend to be more motivated, independent and self-directed than children in their learning. They generally come to the classroom with goals and specific reasons for wanting to learn.

Adults usually want to be there and aren’t just going through the motions (although it could be different where someone is taking a course because she is mandated to do so by her employer). For this reason, some of the most successful students are often mature learners.

Because adults are older, (hopefully) wiser and more experienced, they tend to come to the classroom with previous experiences, ideas, opinions and preferences. For that reason, trainees tend to learn best when they can share their experiences and learn not only from their instructors, but also from each other. Trainees should be shown dignity and respect as knowledgeable people with valuable contributions.

However, adult learners often juggle many responsibilities in their lives and careers. Because of that, their time is valuable and they sometimes struggle to fit learning into their busy schedules.

Therefore, it can be difficult to take time away from the workplace for training. Because of that, trainers need to respect trainees’ time, and it may be necessary to allow people to leave early or step out to check their e-mail. Training should be kept short wherever possible.

Training should ideally have a practical component to it and have applications in the real world. In order for training to “stick,” trainees should have an opportunity to practice what they learned on the job. It is also good to schedule short follow-up learning activities in the weeks and months following classroom training sessions.

Training delivery suggestions

The following are some suggestions based on my own observations and experiences. They relate to training delivery rather than the design and development of training programs.

  • Prepare beforehand and determine how you’re going to approach different parts of the session.
  • Try to get trainees involved by asking them for their ideas, thoughts and suggestions on how the training should be structured and some of the topics that interest them.
  • Encourage audience participation and ask trainees to provide personal examples and experiences (provided they're comfortable doing so).
  • Be aware of the needs of the audience and the diversity of backgrounds, interests, skill levels and prior knowledge.
  • Consider varying the difficulty and amount of detail provided to trainees depending on the interests and profile of the audience.
  • Periodically check for understanding through questions, quizzes and feedback.
  • Resist the urge to simply read the presentation slides.
  • Determine at the outset how and when you're going to deal with questions and communicate that to the audience (at the end, at any time or during breaks).
  • Provide personal examples and humorous anecdotes where appropriate.
  • Watch for audience reaction (people yawning, falling asleep, rolling their eyes, getting up to go to the washroom, etc.); consider taking a short “bio break” or increase the speed of delivery when you feel you’re losing people.
  • Provide context to answer the question: “Why do I need to know this?”
  • Be available afterwards to answer questions.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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