One method of teaching is to directly feed information into the minds of students. In training, however, it is much more effective to provide participants with plenty of opportunities to deduce the information you want them to learn on their own. One powerful method for discovering new information and gaining new insights is reflection.
A trainer can show a carefully selected short video to participants during the training session that touches upon one or more points related to the training. The trainer may then ask participants to split into groups and collaboratively reflect on such a video they have just seen deducing lessons and coming up with new insights from that video. Showing a video is a highly engaging activity for participants and is a sure way to get and maintain their full attention. Each group of participants can write down their reflections on a sheet of paper then come up and present them in front of the rest of the participants.
A trainer may provide participants with a game during the training session that has specific training goals. After the game is over the trainer may start asking participants about what they have learnt from that game. The trainer may also ask them about how they felt at specific times during the game. By allowing participants to reflect on their own feelings and on the development and outcome of the game they have just played they are often able to come up with new insights and lessons from such experience they just had.
During attending the graphic facilitation workshop, the trainers asked us to draw the process of making coffee. After we finished the drawing activity, they asked each of us to look at his or her drawing of the coffee making process and try to discover something about his or her own personality. I kept gazing at my drawing for quite a while without being able to discover anything really meaningful about myself. Then it suddenly struck me that the drawings clearly indicated that I am a multitasking person who likes to do several things in parallel since I did not draw the process in steps, like most of my colleagues had done, but rather drew all components of the coffee making process as if they were happening simultaneously without a specific order or sequence. I like to finish things quickly and reach for the end goal in a short time. Such was another example of using reflection to gain insight after a training activity this time being a self reflection.
After providing participants with ample opportunity to reflect on a video you have shown them and express their findings or reflect on a game they have just played during their training you can then proceed to summarize and comment on their reflections perhaps stressing some of them, modifying others and even adding some insights of your own. Reflection is a powerful technique that can provide participants with deep insights and high rate of information retention if used appropriately by the trainer in various occasions during training.
How else can reflections be used other than after watching videos, playing training games and making drawings?
One powerful means for improving one’s performance and learning is getting feedback on his current performance in order to be able to act upon such feedback and improve his performance. During a training session it is crucial that the trainer provides useful and balanced feedback to trainees as he observes their performance as they go through various training activities completing numerous tasks. In addition to receiving feedback from the trainer, it is highly useful that a trainee receives feedback from his colleagues as well.
When the trainer asks trainees to provide feedback to each other both the receiver and the provider of the feedback benefit a lot. The provider of the feedback gets a chance to carefully examine the performance of his partner and come up with conclusions in addition to communicating such conclusions to his partner. This makes him see clearly how good performance can be like and what to avoid. The trainee on the receiving end of course benefits from the feedback given to him by his partner in seeing his performance more clearly through the eyes of someone else which helps him further improve his performance next time he is carrying out a similar activity.
When providing feedback one has to be positive and use positive language. If the provider of feedback tries to show off his superiority by attempting to find all large and small mistakes in the performance of a trainee and expresses them in a strong negative language this may overwhelm the person receiving the feedback and totally shatter any kind of self confidence he might have had to the extent of disabling him completely from improving at all in the future in some cases. Feedback therefore must be balanced and the wording of the feedback itself should be all positive.
During a graphic facilitation workshop I had attended, the trainers asked participants to pair up and provide one another with feedback about their drawings. We were asked to first list 3 positive aspects of the drawings then after that mention 3 improvements that can be made. We notice here that one should always start first with the positive when providing feedback. Even when the time comes for pointing out the negative this should be done using positive words such as labeling them as “suggested improvements” rather than “mistakes” or “negative points.” Such feedback that uses all positive language not only informs the feedback receiver but also boosts his self confidence and enables him to drastically improve his performance.
Training of Trainers
When delivering training of trainers (TOT) workshops I ask participants to first list the positive points they see in demos of their colleagues then suggest improvements after that. Sometimes if the main aim is to boost trainee confidence one can ask for positive feedback only and prohibit any feedback on negative points for the time being.
Although receiving feedback from the trainer can be highly useful yet having trainees exchange feedback can be more so. Peer feedback also allows lots of feedback to be provided simultaneously in a short period of time in the case of pairing trainees with one another or dividing them into groups.
I once joined a 3-day creative writing workshop. We were a small group of trainees and the trainer was a highly competent one. I really enjoyed attending the workshop and benefited from it enormously. The main focus of the workshop was activities rather than lecturing. The amount of information provided by the trainer during the workshop was minimal yet the activities were plenty. We had pair work activities, solo activities and group activities. We were guided and gently pushed to write which eventually led to the opening up of some creative doors in our minds that have long been locked.
Conflicting Session Time
I remember that at the final day of the creative writing workshop it coincided with another training course I wanted so much to attend. It was about how to start a new business. I had to make a decision whether to attend the final session of the creative writing workshop while leaving the first session in the other training course that I have long been dreaming of attending or do the opposite. I decided to go for the start your own business course and leave out the final session of the creative writing workshop. I even excused myself from the creative writing trainer and told her by the end of the second session that I would not be able to attend the final one.
Start your Business Course
Off I went with great hopes to attend the start your own business course. As it started, the ‘trainer’ told us that the course will be interactive and that he will not be relying a lot on lecturing but rather taking a participatory approach. I was shocked from the start of the session that his approach actually lacked any activities, was so boring and the ultimate ‘participatory’ element he ever used was asking questions to participants. His comments on participant answers were even so negative and not by any means encouraging.
Back to Creative Writing
I seriouslyconsidered leaving as my heart was leaping at the thought of the creative writing session I had left behind to attend such dry and useless course. I kept meditating the idea of leaving this boring session to catch the coinciding creative writing session. Luckily, we took a break soon and I did make the decision and drove to the location of the creative writing workshop which was not very far away. I entered the creative writing workshop and was a bit late. The trainer looked slightly surprised that I showed up. I told her that I just could not resist attending! I was indeed extremely happy that I have joined that final session of the creative writing workshop. It was so lively, engaging and enjoyable. After the workshop I realized that a creative door has opened in my mind and an avalanche of writing started to flow from pen to paper as I went back home.
This experience of mine showed me a sharp contrast between a boring useless course with little value vs a lively highly engaging truly interactive workshop that is of high value. One of the main lessons learnt here is that a training course with plenty of engaging activities and a minimal amount of direct information can not only be more enjoyable than another with no activities and loads of information transferred through lecturing but can also be of much higher value to participants.