Keys to Successful Training
Successful training requires careful preparation, planning, and knowledge about your audience. Do not underestimate the role your staff members can play in designing effective training by helping you to understand where gaps in knowledge of procedures or new practices exist. Engaging the target audience in advance of training provides important insights on what they perceive as relevant. In addition, you can seek advice from experts on how to perform job-related tasks better or how to provide employees with improved professional growth and advancement opportunities. Supervisors can also provide important insights on how to introduce new practices into the work-place. Another essential element in planning successful training is to build in techniques and time that help learners remember new knowledge such as selecting or designing training that applies the principles of Adult Learning Theory
or other simple but effective methods that reinforce retention of new knowledge.
Roles of Staff in Planning and Developing Training
Whether you plan to purchase training from a vendor or a consultant, adapt existing training, or develop new training, staff members have important contributions to make, without which the training may fail to produce desired changes. For example:
- Target audience members can provide information on their current attitudes to the proposed topic, their relevant background, their current approach to related tasks, how they see related problems, and many other areas that will help trainers and developers deliver relevant training.
- Expert practitioners can provide insights into how the tasks are performed in the organizational environment, barriers encountered, and strategies they use to be successful.
- Supervisors and team members can reinforce the trainee’s efforts to apply new material, offering encouraging feedback and opportunities to practice.
It is always helpful to involve these three audiences
in identifying training needs, reviewing training plans, and commenting on draft training materials.
Making Training Stick
Adult learners have experiences and knowledge. They come with “software” as well as “hardware.” As adults, when we listen we are “filing” what we hear—or not, if we don’t “get” what we are hearing or if it doesn’t seem relevant. How we file what we hear depends on its relationship to what we know and the signposts we are given.
When we organize a training program, we need to plan a presentation that is as easy as possible for learners to take in, remember, and use. For example:
- Make the principles of the organization apparent. Provide an overview of content that acts as a “road map” to what will follow. The reader/learner can not “file” the information if he or she can not find the file cabinet or name the folder.
- Organize content in a way that is meaningful to the target audience and use consistent “cues” for action. How will they be retrieving information, under what circumstances? If you only present a theory, the target audience will not be able to discern the expected application or the context in which ideas are translated into real choices.
- Relate new knowledge to existing knowledge by building on existing skills and experience where you can. This makes it easier to hear, accept, remember, and apply new information.
- Ensure that you are communicating information in ways that are culturally appropriate and take cultural practices and beliefs into account. Otherwise, barriers that you may never know about may block application of the material after training concludes.
- Use “signposts” to orient the learner and to organize content (e.g., subheads, transitions, statements that relate one part of the content to another, running examples that provide continuity and highlight connections, etc.).
For example, at a recent meeting of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protection
(SACHRP), members had trouble following issues that pertained to different parts of regulation relating to children (e.g., below minimal risk, minimal risk, minor increment over minimal risk). They asked the subcommittee chair to develop a running example in which a project is below minimal risk, something is added to make it minimal risk, and something is added to make it minor increment over minimal risk.
An instructor has many tools available to make training “stick,” ranging from the simple (e.g., discussion) to the more complex (e.g., scenarios and case studies). However, there is a perennial struggle between stuffing a little more in the bag because it’s all so important and taking time to process material so it can be understood and remembered. Education students are often taught to be suspicious of the statement, “I taught them that, but they didn’t learn it.” We share responsibility with our students and target audience members for making learning possible. That means we need to:
- Take time to process material so students “get” it.
- Take more time with the things that are most important.
- Use tone of voice as a cue to importance and vary tone to keep students’ attention.
- Keep important concepts in “working memory” by using them and referring to them.
- Use an appropriate amount of elaboration to carry the point (for instance, some research says 20 to 30 percent of total presentation time, but this can vary depending on the complexity of the material).
- Show how what you are saying is relevant. For example, “a number of studies converge on the conclusion that transfer is enhanced by helping students see potential transfer implications of what they are learning”—Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, How People Learn.
- Don’t forget the element of motivation. Point out benefits or elicit feedback from audience.
- Where possible, incorporate review of activities that require synthesis of presented material.
- Take breaks when needed. Otherwise, the target audience may stop listening well before the trainers are through talking.
It is especially important to reinforce training
after the program itself, so that trainees are encouraged to use their new skills to benefit the organization.
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