Training vs Teaching: Reflecting on Practice
Before we start, take a moment to consider the following questions:
Why did you decide to read this article?
What are you hoping to gain from reading this article?
What do you already know about this topic?
How often do you apply information from articles to your practice?
How often for you reflect on why you read these articles?
Why am I asking you these questions?
The problems I used to have with training
When I first started giving workshops to teachers, I ran into the same issues again and again: there seemed to be no ‘take-away’, teachers admitted that they saw it as something ‘to sit through’ – they weren’t there to learn. Even the motivated ones could answer quick fire comprehension questions during the session, but then weren’t learning what I wanted them to learn. For a long time I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong - I was using visual aids, giving examples, going into detail... why wasn’t this learning turning into action?
Training ‘mirrors’ teaching
I had been treating teaching and training as two different things - when I was teaching, I was watching my teacher-talk-time, using creative student-centred activities, finding ways to help my students engage with the materials and make the class relevant to them. When training, I was basically giving a fast lecture and expecting participants to absorb the information I was gifting to them. This is a mistake a lot of trainers make!
So, I started planning my workshops in the same way I would plan a class. Try asking yourself the following questions:
What is my objective for the training?
What do I want the participants to take away from this experience? What are they going to take away that will be immediately practical and helpful?
How will the workshop content relate to the process?
Am I as a trainer demonstrating what I want the teachers to learn? If the session is about using less handouts, am I limiting my own? If it is about seating arrangements, am I switching the seating for each activity in a logical way for this session?
Pacing and stages
Have I allotted enough time for each activity? Are there enough/too many activities? Do the tasks and activities build upon the previous ones?
What will show learning?
How will I know that the participants have learned the content? Am I using a variety of concept checking strategies, or repeating the same one? Have I included enough time for reflection on the session at the end?
The ELC and the value of reflection
One of the most famous theories of reflection is Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ (ELC). In this cycle, the practitioner moves from the concrete experience (what is actually happening), through reflective observation (reviewing what actually happened), then into abstract conceptualization (what was good/bad/useful/interesting about this experience) and on to active experimentation (based on what happened, what am I going to do next time?). By going through this cycle I was able to improve my own practice as a teacher - I reviewed what had happened in my classes and carried the successful parts along with me into training. Once I realized what a huge improvement I was seeing, I tried walking workshop participants through the cycle at the end of sessions: it made a huge difference. Trainees not only saw the value of the content of the session, but the value of the way I had conducted the session itself.
My training framework
It is split into three phases:
1. Purposeful Introduction
Begin with a Purposeful Introduction - a warm-up activity that is directly related to your workshop topic. Running a session on classroom management? Why not play a game with your trainees, managing them as you go? Giving a workshop on non-verbal communication? Have your trainees interpret gestures that you make without speaking.
Pro tip - to really make this introduction stand out in your trainees’ minds, to really create an experience for them, do not explain how this fun/jarring/strange warm-up relates to the session. This will become apparent to them during reflection, either immediately after this phase or at the end of the session. Show, don’t tell.
2. Experiential Phase
In this part the participants are immersed in the activity (experience), engage with challenges (problem solve), and provide their insights to the group (report back).
Experience: This is the section where trainees are experiencing the ‘problem’ that your session is about. Perhaps they are sharing anecdotes about issues they have had in multilevel classrooms, or listening to sections of an article about pronunciation issues that is read with poor pronunciation. Whatever it is, they are experiencing the issue first hand as much as possible.
Problem solve: In this section, trainees are either given tools to solve the problem or asked to create and share those tools for themselves. What would you do if your students keep interrupting each other? What have others in your group done about this in the past, and how successful was it?
Report back: This is when the participants share their solutions with the rest of the group. Your job here as the trainer is to facilitate the discussion, checking for understanding as they go.
3. Reflection Phase
This is arguably the most important and useful phase in this framework. This is where the trainer leads the participants in not only applying what they have learned to their practice, but also linking the content of the session to the way it was run.
Reflecting on this article
As we have learned, the reflection phase of a workshop (or class) is one of the most important - it cements the experience of the session in your mind, arming you with new skills and knowledge to move forward in developing your practice. You started doing this today when you began reading this article - that was my Purposeful Introduction.
Consider the following questions while reflecting on your experience of reading it:
What makes a good training session?
What similarities are there between training and teaching?
Could you be a teacher trainer? Why/why not?
How do you know a professional development session was successful?
What can you take from this article and apply directly to your practice?
Adelina Holmes is an international teacher trainer and educational leadership coach with qualifications in education, leadership and management. She has presented her theories and strategies for educational improvement at multiple international conferences across the globe. Adelina believes that through applying the concepts of both transformational and servant leadership, school executives can create professional learning communities that will endure, grow and move far beyond our expectations for the future of education.
Adelina can be contacted here.
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