Preparing the Learner for learning
All training should be placed in context. Before training begins, show the learner that “big picture.”
Focus on how the task or knowledge fits into the job as a whole and even how the job fits into the bigger department or organization picture.
What may be obvious to you as ETD practitioner may not be so obvious to the learner. Also explain why a task has to be done a certain way or within a particular time frame.
As Malcolm Knowles (1990) says, adults “have a deep need to know why they need to know something before they are willing to invest the time and energy in learning it” – even when it’s clearly part of the job.
To reflect adult learning principles, the training should build on existing knowledge.
One key to successful training is to start where the learner is, not where you want him or her to be.
To discover your starting point, avoid self-limiting queries like, “Do you know how to use a computer?” Ask open-ended questions such as, “What computer experience have you had?”
Along the same subject lines you might use the following questions to uncover a learner’s knowledge and skill level:
How long have you used a computer?
What have you used a computer for?
What type of computer have you used?
How did you learn to use a computer?
Although you may have asked similar questions on a pretraining questionnaire, this more personal, face-to-face needs assessment will go a long way in creating a comfortable training environment.
After you’ve determined the learner’s skill level, express your confidence in the learner’s ability and explain that mistakes are both predictable and okay.
Tell the learner that it’s most important for the two of you to find out why he or she made the mistake, how to correct it, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Always be enthusiastic and accentuate the positive by emphasizing the rewards of learning, not the penalties or disadvantages of not learning.
Another important guideline to communicate is that it’s often more critical for the learner to know where to find information than to know the information.