Learning from Fresh Learners

New Learners Vs. Experienced People

Sometimes it is better to learn something from someone who is himself a new learner of that thing rather than to learn it from someone who is highly experienced in it. The reasoning behind this is that the highly experienced person might have reached the level of carrying out the skill without consciously thinking about how he actually carries it out. A new learner of the skill however would still be performing it while being totally conscious of how he is doing it.

Driving Question

I remember during the time when I was first learning how to drive I was once sitting with my uncle and my cousin. My uncle had been driving for years and was a highly experienced driver. My cousin, on the other hand, was a novice driver who had just learnt driving recently. I had some question about a common maneuver in driving which I can’t recall right now. Instead of asking my experienced uncle about it I asked my cousin how it was done. My uncle was surprised that I was not directing my question about driving to him and was instead asking my cousin who was still a novice driver and had just learnt driving recently.

I believe my uncle even got a bit offended by that. He was unaware that the reason behind my skipping him and asking my less experienced cousin was due to the fact that my cousin is a fresh learner of driving and would thus be able to remember and be fully aware of how such a common maneuver is done step by step. A new learner of a skill might also be carrying it out in an easier way than an experienced person. Learning the easy way from a new learner could also be better than starting by attempting to carry out such skill by following a more complex or difficult method that would require a higher skill level.

Language Learning

Another example I remember was an Indonesian guy who came to Egypt and was trying to learn Arabic words. Instead of learning from adults he set about learning from children. Children were better able to explain to him the meaning of words in a simple and straightforward manner.

Learning from Peers

When learning a new skill it is totally OK to attempt to learn some of its basics from someone who has just been learning it so that he could be fully aware of how things are done in an easy way and could be able to explain them in a clear manner. This gives us a clue into why learning from peers can give great results.

Has there been anything you have attempted to learn from fresh learners of that thing? What was it? How did you go about learning it?

Think and Listen

I had read about the think and listen technique in the past in a PDF document that I had stumbled upon online. It was a technique used in meetings aimed at community building and working collaboratively for activism.

Productive Meetings

I then later set out to try it out during delivering a training session about productive meetings. The think and listen technique turned out to be a great success. I used it once again during delivering another productive meetings workshop to a different group of participants with tremendous results. I then started using it regularly during my training programs for various things.

Procedure

Here is how the think and listen technique works:

  1. Have participants seated in a continuous circle or U-shape.
  2. Go in turn giving each participant a number in sequence starting from #1. Start with participants on your left side.
  3. Ask participants with odd numbers to raise their hands.
  4. Now ask those with even numbers to raise their hands.
  5. Ask those with odd numbers to turn their chairs slightly to the left side and to look to their left sides.
  6. Ask participants with even numbers to turn their chairs slightly to the right side and look to their right.

Participants will find themselves being paired with one another! They will start smiling and speaking to one another.

Now explain to them how the think and listen technique is carried out and the benefits of doing it such as practicing the all important listening skills.

  1. Now ask participants with odd numbers to start speaking to their colleagues about a specific topic you had specified.
  2. Participants with even numbers must keep completely silent and only listen to their colleagues.
  3. This can continue for 2 minutes.
  4. You then ask participants to switch roles allowing participants with even numbers to speak, about the same topic, while those with odd numbers must now listen while keeping silent.
  5. After another 2 minutes, you signal to participants to stop speaking.

Go Round

A fast round of go round should follow the think and listen activity. Each participant in the circle takes a turn to select and mention to the whole class one and only one of the many points he had just mentioned to the colleague he was paired with.

Documenting

An optional step would be to write down what participants are saying in points on the flip chart. You can even ask one of the participants to do the writing. If one of the points is repeated, a check point can be added next to the point that has already been written. When the round of go round has finished the technique now has completed.

Uses

The think and listen technique can be used for a variety of purposes such as collecting problems facing participants at work, gathering their expectations at the beginning of the training or asking them to state what they would be doing differently at work having attended the training.

Where else other then meetings and training sessions do you believe the think and listen technique can be successfully used?

Closing Training with a Grand Finale

A training session should be closed just like a piece of music played by an orchestra: with a grande finale. The trainer here being like a talented maestro creating a lasting positive and pleasant effect in the hearts and minds of attendees.

Participants Clapping

The final words a trainer uses at the closing of the last training session of a course may also purposely evoke clapping by the audience. The idea is to evoke feelings of great satisfaction in the hearts and minds of trainees. Of course this cannot be achieved merely by a few words at the end of the final session in a training course if the course itself was not effective but such a positive feeling and final impression would be a result of continual build up as the training course progresses.

Satisfaction Buildup

For instance during the training course the trainer must have shown participants that they are competent, allowed for a lot of interactivity through interactive and highly engaging training activities including ice breakers, pair work, group work, role play and reflection on videos watched during the training. The satisfaction build up can then be topped at the end of the last training session of a course by a series of words that would evoke such heightened feelings of satisfaction and perhaps also evoke clapping by the trainees as an expression of their gratitude and deep feelings of satisfaction from the training they have just completed.

Closing Sequence

One example sequence of words to say at the end of the last training session is to quickly:

  1. Sum up the core elements and benefits of the course
  2. Praise the performance of the trainees
  3. Hope for them applying what they have learnt during the training at their work
  4. Thank them by closing your words with “thank you.”

This final “thank you” may evoke clapping on the part of participants. This sequence of words should be said in a rapid highly energetic manner to produce their desired effect.

The trainer would thus be like a talented maestro closing a moving concerto with a brilliant grand finale that has a lasting positive and pleasant effect in the hearts and minds of participants.

In what other ways do you think a trainer could be wrapping up and closing a training program?

Preserving the Traveling Trainer’s Sanity

Feeling Stressed

When I first started to deliver training to corporate clients in other cities I usually had to spend my days at a hotel in such city. At first I used to spend the day delivering the training while remaining trapped in my hotel room, perhaps watching TV or in front of the computer, during the evening and night. I used to feel a lot of stress and it was very difficult for me to remain a few days in a raw like that.

Out in the Streets

Within a few months of traveling from one city to the other I learned to get out of the hotel room and go about exploring the city I was staying in. The stress I used to feel vanished completely and I found myself able to keep going for many days in a raw. I have finally managed to get out of my cocoon and discover the pleasures of walking in the streets of various cities to explore them.

Having Company

This is best done with others. Sometimes we went out together, myself and other members of the team responsible for organizing the training. At times we even went out with trainees, since they came from the city in which the training was being held and in which we were staying. Even just sitting at some cafe together talking was a great social activity that contrasted sharply with the solitary confinement I used to enforce on myself in my hotel room in the past.

Maintain your Sanity

So next time you are delivering training in another city try to get out of your hotel room every day, mingle with people and explore the city. This will help you maintain a much better state of mental and even physical health and would make your training days much more enjoyable and fun besides giving you the strength and stamina to go on delivering training for many days in a raw at that city.

Using Storytelling in Training

Story telling is an important skill that any professional trainer should master and be able to use effectively during training. The human mind is designed to accept, enjoy, seek, retain and make use of stories effectively. Stories are the natural way through which rich information is passed to the human mind.

Benefits

Stories may contain emotions which reinforce the learning process, boost retention and improve comprehension. Stories include time sequence which also help create a natural sequence between events. Stories are very rich in connections and relationships among various elements of the story which makes them a very powerful and effective learning tool. Stories are anti-boredom tools that can be used in the training room.

Reflection

One additional interesting thing about stories is that they can be a very rich source for reflection. Trainees can draw lessons from a story on their own and make discoveries. They can even keep discovering new lessons from a story long after they have listened to it.

More Benefits

Another reason that makes stories very powerful is their ability to convince trainees and influence them through touching their emotions and providing a logical sequence of events. Stories also evoke trainee imagination which creates a high degree of trainee engagement, enjoyment and retention.

Storytelling

Types of Stories

Fictional/Fable

One type of story is the fictional story or the fable. Although such story is not real yet it still enjoys the elements of engagement, enjoyment, time sequence, reflection and retention.

Real Life

An even more powerful story is a real story that has actually taken place in real life in the past and that the trainer might have heard or read about. If the trainer has learned about such a story firsthand by listening to it directly from someone who has experienced it this provides for an even stronger type of story. The trainer in such case should mention that he has heard it from a person who has experienced it himself.

Firsthand Experience

The most powerful type of story at all is one that the trainer has experienced by his own self and has learned from. This is the most powerful type of story and the most engaging and convincing.

Past Mistakes

One sub-type of such a story is when a trainer talks about his past mistakes which makes the personals story even more powerful and influential. Personal stories also help create an even stronger bond between the trainer and his trainees.

If there is no personal story covering the concept being explained the trainer can resort to stories he has heard or read about or to fictitious stories. Storytelling is a very powerful tool that every professional trainer should master and be able to use effectively during training.

What else makes stories so enjoyable and important?

Structure of a Training Session

New trainers are keen to know how a training session should be structured and in what sequence elements of a training session should be laid out when designing and delivering a training session. Below I will be proposing a structure for the first training session in a multi-session training program.

I would like to note from the start that the structure I am about to suggest here for the first training session is not set in stone and can be modified by adding or removing elements from it or by changing their sequence as needed or as seen appropriate by the trainer.

First Training Session

Here is the structure I am proposing for the first session of a training program:

  1. Start by introducing yourself as a trainer or have someone introduce you such as the organizer of the training.
  2. Provide the title and main elements or goals of the training program.
  3. Explain the training style you will be using during the training and its benefits.
  4. Set ground rules.
  5. Start with an ice breaker that includes fun introductions among trainees.
  6. Optionally follow up with a more thorough introductions activity that can be fun as well.
  7. Gather trainee expectations.
  8. Provide the rest of the training program elements such as pair work, group work, videos, role play and games.

Such elements would also form the content of the following training sessions. Other than the activity elements, there is also direct explanation by the trainer and answering trainee questions. You can also include questionnaires and written exercises and drawing that can be done individually by trainees.

Breaks are an important element to include during the training as well as time for summary and recap.

Next Training Sessions

As for the following training sessions they also include the same elements except for the initial one time elements of intros of the trainer, the trainees, the training program ice breakers, ground rules and trainee expectations.

During the following sessions such initial part is removed and replaced by one element only which is recapping of what took place during the previous training session. This is an important element and may take time yet it has great benefits and should not be skipped.

Again I would like to point out that the structure and sequence I am proposing here for the first and following training sessions is not set in stone and should be used only as a general guide by new trainers and can be modified as seen appropriate.

What change would you suggest to the sequence of training elements proposed here for the first training session in a training program?

Agitated Trainee Leaves the Training Room

What if a trainee leaves the training room in protest against the will of the trainer? If such rare case happens such trainee is clearly the looser.

Keep your Calm

The trainer should just leave him get out of the room without jumping to him in an attempt to make him stay. The trainer should also not ask nor encourage the colleagues of such outraged trainee to attempt to go out after him asking him to stay or come back. The trainer should handle such a situation very calmly and with full confidence. The trainer should act as if nothing major has happened and continue the training session normally guarding against showing any stress in his tone of voice or actions.

Sorrow

What happens next is that the trainer has all the rest of the trainees with him in the training room all engaged listening to the trainer or carrying out lively training activities while the protesting trainee that had left the room in protest is by himself. Probably that annoyed trainee would not leave the building but would just be staying outside the training room.

At first, he might be thinking that his colleagues or even the trainer himself would rush after him and try to calm him down and ask him to come back again to the training room. Finding that none of this takes place and that his supposedly disruptive action has not resulted in the collapse of the training session such participant feels a great sense of sorrow and deep disappointment. He is there all by himself while the rest of his colleagues are all together and are with the trainer deeply engaged with him. Such a protesting trainee would feel as if he is in a kind of solitary confinement that he has imposed on his own self.

Reconciliation

During the break, his colleagues may attempt to provide condolence to him finding him in a deep state of sorrow after having been highly agitated and outraged. In such broken state the trainer may speak to such a trainee and allow him to rejoin them in the training room if he so wishes.

This case of having one of the participants leave the room abruptly in protest and in a state of outrage without excusing himself first from the trainer is pretty rare yet a trainer should have the confidence and ability to deal with such a situation if ever it shows up.

Have you ever witnessed an angry participant during a meeting, training session or lecture? Tell us what happened.