Louis Mangione

Innovations in Education, Inc.

Training Faux Pas: “The Bad Scout”

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Being the “Bad Scout” (being ill-prepared)

Not Knowing Your Audience – If you were to tell any soldier, any coach, any interviewer that you were planning on going in blind without enough knowledge regarding those you will encounter, they would tell you this can be a recipe for failure. We cannot trust that the information will sell itself to all in attendance.

Advertisers not only know their audience, they target a certain kind of audience, hoping to convince the viewer, not only of the benefits of the product, but that one cannot live without it. In many ways, the role of the teacher is similar, especially when the product being advertised is actually one the audience absolutely cannot live without, such as Safety. The same is true when the audience cannot immediately see how the information relates to their job, such as exercises in attention to detail.

What steps need to be taken before a teaching session that can prepare the instructor to work efficiently with the target audience? What are their needs? What do they already know? What measured deficiencies already exist within the group? Sometimes, the teacher has considerable knowledge of the participants, because, as a veteran in the company, there already exists a great amount of knowledge and understanding gained over the years through association with the organization. Many times, however, this is not the case. The audience may be filled with people from different departments, buildings or even different organizations. No one knows you. They may not know each other. They are looking at you, hoping that you are not going to waste their time.

There are numerous steps we can take to familiarize ourselves with the group. It is always a good idea to do some form of research ahead of time to prepare for a teaching or training session. Thorough preparation helps to ensure that many of the questions on the minds of the participants will be answered in the presentation. All too often, this is not a feasible possibility.

There exist many other instructional strategies we can use to help us become familiar with our audience at the beginning of the training session. It is beneficial to plan an information gathering activity toward the beginning of the session that allows participants the opportunity to reveal their expectations for the day and the expertise they may be able to contribute to the goals of the training. When the participants understand that they are an integral part of the teaching process, the information is perceived not only to be more valid, they are able to discuss its immediate and important application to everyday situations.

Not Knowing Your Content – This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is not unheard of to see someone who has no personal experience regarding the information to be presented, being given the task of teaching or training a similarly or even more-skilled group. In this situation, we hope desperately that our expertise in “facilitation” is able to drive the session. We will need to engage the participants in active group think in order to do justice to the information itself and to the precious time of the participants. Even when you have knowledge and expertise of what is to be taught, the presentation of the information must be done with confidence. The teacher must be able to demonstrate belief in the importance of the information, but also a belief in their ability to train the participants to be able to apply it. Possibly the most wasteful and numbing experience we can offer the group is an endless slide presentation read verbatim. Usually, this is the default form of instruction that many are guilty of, mostly because they do not know about, or are simply afraid of trying other more engaging and challenging methods.
I frequently encounter teachers with this same concern. Many of them worry about losing control of the situation if they allow their participants or students to talk, to move around or to share information. This is a genuine fear. They are not aware of the benefits of active engagement.

In some cases, the room is filled with training managers, engineers, pipe fitters, electricians, or plant employees of varying degrees. You need to give them information and skills that are directly related to their everyday work experience. I know this group is seen as a tough crowd. Often, I am working with teachers who are facing a room crammed with thirty to forty-five students, anywhere from 11 to 18 years old. In some cases, half of these young men and women have been arrested or have a parent in jail, another half might not ever have known one or both of their parents, many of them having varied, serious learning disabilities, and a majority of them that have not yet eaten anything that day. The teacher has the task of somehow making a math lesson or poetry unit meaningful to the lives these kids. I think it is debatable as to which is the tougher crowd. If I, as a consultant, presented to a group of teachers, using a thousand slides filled with “straight up” information, I would lose their attention in minutes and their respect for good.

Know the Desired Learning Outcomes – How many times have you been to a training session and the presenter begins with “We’ve got a lot to get through today.” Can you imagine a plumber telling you, “Look, I’ll do whatever you need, but I’m supposed to use all of this pipe and all these fittings to do it. There will be so much metal under your house that, if you get magnetic boots, you can sleep standing up!” All you needed was for this person to get the water from point A to point B. What is the desired outcome? What is going to take to make it happen?

The first question is and always should be, “What do the participants need to be able to do by the end of the session?” The goal of any training session or workshop should be competency and not coverage. Competency measures effectiveness and achievement. Coverage measures only what the teacher does. If we know our desired learning outcomes we can work backwards from there to plan a teaching session that can accomplish those goals step by step.

Not Appearing Professional – First impressions are lasting ones. Sometimes they can form opinions in participants, students or trainees that become very difficult to transform.

Dress the part. If a contractor comes to your house to give you a bid on an addition, dressed in a three-piece suit, what would be your first impression? I would think, “This guy is not ready to start work and whatever he can do, I can’t afford it.” I would most likely tend not to listen to much of what this person had to say.

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