One of the qualities of a good teacher or instructor has traditionally been to have an extensive lesson plan prepared before entering the classroom. I remember even once as I was being evaluated as an instructor for English language the first thing the evaluator asked me about was my lesson plan!
On the Fly
In contrast to that, the just-in-time trainer can adapt and customize the content of the training on the fly during the training session itself to suit the needs and desires of participants and depending on the situations that arise.
An extreme form of this flexible approach would be to decide only on a title for the training session and have participants decide on the actual content by eliciting questions and points they would like to learn about at the beginning of the training session. I have seen this approach used by Mohamed Essa in one of his training sessions about pranic healing. Only a highly competent and knowledgeable trainer would be able to use such an extremely flexible approach for deciding on the content of a training session. This approach goes hand in hand with open space technology, which is a highly flexible method for running conferences (or unconferences) in which attendees of the conference create the agenda of the conference themselves at the beginning of the conference.
Between those two extremes of preparing for an extensive and detailed lesson plan and going to a training session with only a broad title and eliciting the outline of the session from participants, between those two extremes lies a wide spectrum of methods with varying degrees of flexibility and rigidity.
Usually an experienced and competent trainer would have some outline prepared for the whole training program and for the training session and have content ready for them yet would still have the flexibility of adding, removing, modifying or adapting content of a training session on the fly according to the needs of participants and according to situations that arise. This reminds us of the 3-part training session time management technique.
The Just-in-Time Trainer
A trainer who masters his craft well can jump instantly into a room full of participants and start delivering a successful training session at very short notice even if he had just been asked to do so only a few minutes before the start of the training session. A rigid instructor would never be able to handle such a situation and would ask for several days to prepare first.
A just-in-time trainer is one who is able to navigate easily between the two extremes of detailed preparation and planning for a training session and managing a successful training session with only a title for it in hand.
On which part of this spectrum do you see yourself as a trainer?
It is essential to gather trainee expectations about the training at the beginning of the first session of a training program. This can be done after the trainer has introduced himself or herself, explained the training style and thrown an icebreaker.
Trainee expectations can be gathered using the think and listen technique. Expectations can also be gathered using various other means.
It is important at the end of an expectation gathering activity to write down such trainee expectations on the flip chart in front of everyone. You may ask one of the trainees to do the flip chart writing while the rest of the trainees mention their expectations. Remember to give such a trainee who volunteers to write a chance to write his own expectations about the training as well. If a trainee repeats the same point already mentioned by another trainee a check mark can just be added next to such point on the flip chart. At the end of writing all trainee expectations down on the flip chart the points with the highest number of check marks next to them would be the ones expected most and desired most by the trainees.
The flip chart sheet that has the trainee expectations listed on it can be kept till the final training session and revealed once again at the end of such session in order to check which points in it have actually been covered during the training program and which have not.
Allowing participants to search for and express their expectations and hopes from the training program makes them feel more comfortable that the trainer is fully aware of their actual needs. It also provides the trainer with insight into the desires and hopes of the current group of participants which may lead to him making some adjustments to the training program to suit the current group of trainees.
Furthermore, a trainer may clearly state that one or more of the points expected by trainees are outside the scope of the current training and will not be covered during such a training program while explaining why they are not going to be covered. This helps set trainee expectations right and makes them more accepting when such a point is not covered during the training because they are aware of the reasons for it not being covered.
Gathering trainee expectations is an essential activity that a competent trainer should be carrying out at the beginning of the first training session in a training program in order to provide a great learning experience for all trainees.
When do you think it is not essential to for a trainer or facilitator gather participant expectations?