Trainers! It's Not About US

Telling isn't training. How do we change the focus from what we say to what they learn? How do we give them choice and power over their learning so they're more involved? Read on.


Teaching a dog to whistle

A ten-year-old kid named Joey had a dog named Buster. One day Joey tells his younger pal, Brian, that he taught Buster how to whistle. Brian looks doubtfully at Buster and says, "Oh yeah, show me." At that, Joey begins to urge Buster.

Okay, Buster, whistle! C'mon, boy, you can do it - whistle! Just like I taught you, Buster, whistle boy!

But Buster just sits with his tongue hanging out and every time he hears his name, his tail wags. Undeterred, Joey continues, until Brian finally interrupts.

Hey! You said Buster could whistle. We've been here ten minutes and he hasn't whistled once!

Joey looks at Brian with a grin on his face and says,

Oh, Brian. I said I taught Buster to whistle. I didn't say he learned it.

Telling isn't training.

Many of us trainers are focused on the information, the content of our subject matter - what we are going to say. This is a product of the traditional approach to teaching and what much of our education was based on.

In traditional teaching:

  • You select or are assigned your topic
  • You gather and organize your information
  • You present your information

There's a big problem with this approach. Can you see it? What's the focus? That's right - the trainer and what the trainer is going to say. But as Buster showed us, that doesn't create anything of value. Unless we're only interested in adding hot air to the already diminishing ozone layer, we need to do a paradigm shift.

We need to shift the focus from the trainer telling to the learner learning. In a learner-centered approach:

  • You decide what you want officers or recruits to do
  • You assemble the information they must have to do it
  • You present the information in a way that engages them to listen, learn, remember and act

Cognitive research has shown that learner-centered training has a powerful impact on learning, remembering and being able to apply what we've learned.

What is learner-centered training?

Learner-centered training shifts the paradigm from a trainer-centered/content oriented focus to a learner-centered/learning oriented one. Think of a continuum with training centered on one end and learning centered on the other:
Where do you fall on the continuum? In learner-centered training the trainer isn't a teller or transmitter but a facilitator and guide. Which are you?

Tips for learner-centered training.

The first thing to do is design your instruction with the learner-centered approach set out above.

Here are some other tips for giving your officers or recruits more power and choice and getting them more actively involved.

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