The Human Touch
In an average training class size of 30 the instructor might ask, â€œHow many of you remember the topic of your last safety presentation?â€
Normally, weâ€™re lucky to get a one-person response. We then ask, â€œHow many remember their last training via video or computer?â€ The number of responses increases slightly, but typically the responders are vague about the details. This is followed by the question, â€œHow many remember how to use a fire extinguisher?â€ Invariably, all hands go up (assuming theyâ€™ve received such training).
Why is this? In the words of two great educators centuries ago: â€œTell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember. Involve me, and I will understand.â€ Attributed to Confucius, 500 B.C., and Aristotle, 350 B.C.
Understanding is a key goal in training in any subject, especially safety and job training. It seems easy to insert a CD/DVD, sit someone in front of a terminal and think that training is accomplished. Little manpower time spent, perceived lower costs, pressure to keep up with technology, and OSHA training requirements all play into the trend of training entirely by man/machine interface.
While technology in training is a wonderful thing and should be utilized, human interface and interaction should not be abandoned. Selecting, coordinating and delivering training is a challenge to all companies, large and small. An important factor in organizational training is that we are dealing with â€œadult learning.â€
Principles of adult learningAdults come to training with years of experience and an abundance of information. We need to focus not only on the gaps of knowledge but the strengths trainees bring to class. Opportunity for dialogue in a training session presents a major source of enhancement by tapping traineesâ€™ experiences.
Most adults prefer interactive learning as opposed to straight lecture. They learn best by utilizing a variety of teaching methods â€” visual, tactile and participatory. Using strategies such as small group problem-solving and open discussion are very effective in adult learning. Opportunities for discussion and asking questions are more likely to keep adultsâ€™ attention. Breaks in training are also important to retain their focus.
Values, beliefs and opinions are established in adult learners. The level of acceptance of the training is affected by these elements. Without the ability to debate and challenge ideas, information and opinions, many adults will reject new concepts and not fully utilize information imparted to them. Adults tend to have a need to be self-directing. We need to avoid merely transmitting information or expecting total agreement. Training should be a process of mutual inquiry.
Adults seek relevancy in training. They must see a reason for learning something. To be of value to adult learners, training needs to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities. They relate the new to what was previously learned and to their personal experiences. Good training focuses on application of concepts to relevant practical situations.
Self-esteem and ego are very important to adults. Thus, reinforcement is a key tool in training. Acknowledge their participation.
Technology-based vs. instructor-ledOnce employers decide to train, they face the quandary of whether to utilize technology-based training (TBT) or instructor-led training/classroom instruction (ILT). Timing, relevance and costs are key factors. Which is the best choice? There are advantages and disadvantages to both:
This all known, where does the direction of training go?
Blending togetherA great deal of attention is being given to the concept of â€œblendedâ€ training. The dictionary defines â€œblendedâ€ as â€œmixed together to produce the desired flavor.â€ Essentially, this is what we want from our training programs: â€œmixed together to produce the desired level of learning.â€ (See COALESCENCE sidebar.)
No single method is ideal for all types of training. Electronic content can be blended with interactive group exercises, work examples, feedback and performance support. Classroom training is not obsolete but needs to be at its best: less straight lecturing, more open discussion, activities, team problem-solving, an environment for practicing.
TBT used alone puts the responsibility of learning squarely on the trainee. Someone who is motivated to learn can do well with self-study methods. Others need more stimulation to learn. TBT can provide a good basis for â€œknowing about,â€ and ILT can provide the element of â€œknowing how to.â€ Blending â€œknowing aboutâ€ and â€œknowing how toâ€ in training can produce a high-level skill performance.
Make no mistake, the advances in the technology of training are to be applauded. However, training methods involving human interaction, involvement and participation should not be eliminated from the training curriculum. Saving time and money on training cannot come at the expense of sacrificing quality of training.
SIDEBAR: Blended training: Can you spell COALESCENCE?When trying to achieve the right blend of technology-based training and instructor-led training, consider the word â€œCOALESCENCEâ€:
C â€“ Combine technology-based instruction of principles with classroom practice of principles.
O â€“ Ongoing evaluation of the trainee population and their needs.
A â€“ Assessment/Measurement/Analysis of results of all instructional methods used on a periodic basis.
L â€“ Learning styles taken into consideration.
E â€“ Employee involvement in review and choices of training.
S â€“ Specific to the facility.
C â€“ Coaching provided throughout all training media used.
E â€“ Element of fun included in training.
N â€“ Non-punishing environment; provide for positive reinforcement in learning.
C â€“ Communicate training plans to employees; explain how training is to be accomplished.
E â€“ Employee experience drawn upon.