Keeping students interested and engaged during a training class can sometimes be a daunting task, even for a seasoned instructor. The secret to a successful class is to keep the energy up, the ideas flowing, and the students interacting with each other and the instructor. Careful preparation is important. Choose topics that will have quick return on the training investment. Prepare agendas in advance. Determine learning outcomes ahead of time. When conducting the course, keep students active.
Prepare learning objectives in advance. Identify the knowledge, skills or attitudes that the students need to gain. As training guru Robert F. Mager states, the objectives should “describe what you want your students to be able to do when they leave your course.” Build your training class around these objectives, and don't cover anything that's irrelevant to them.
Build the agenda with the learner in mind. The old trainers’ adage “The mind can only absorb what the seat of the pants can stand” holds true. Keep class length reasonable, generally no longer than a standard workday, with an hour for lunch. Schedule a 15- to 20-minute break in the midmorning and another in the mid-afternoon.
Prepare yourself. Know the material thoroughly, and be prepared to answer questions in depth. Rehearse your delivery with colleagues ahead of time and get their feedback.
Make sure the logistics are in place. Ensure that the training room has the necessary equipment and that seating is arranged properly. Be sure that training materials have arrived and that pens, paper, markers and other class materials are on hand. Become familiar with the location of emergency exits and restrooms. Do all this the night before.
Begin the class with an icebreaker or team-building exercise to energize the group. This will put people at ease, help them get to know their fellow students, and set the stage for an energetic, enjoyable learning experience.
Keep the energy up throughout the class. Maintain your own enthusiasm and get the students involved. Minimize lecturing—get students talking to you and to each other. Use breakout sessions and active learning experiences to engage students. Use games, simulations and role-playing. Have students interact with each other and employ their creativity. This maintains energy, keeps interest high, and reinforces teaching points. Allow short breaks as needed.
Make sure that learning is occurring. A short quiz after each module ensures that students are learning and points out any who may need extra attention. Use an end-of-class quiz to certify successful course completion. Follow up once employees have returned to work to ensure that they're using what they learned.
Don’t try to overload students with learning.
- “Making Instruction Work;” Robert F. Mager; 1988