Over the past few years, knowledge has become a commodity: we see it everywhere, all the time and anyone can get trained on anything. Everybody seems to take on the role of teacher without the slightest notion of what it actually means to teach.
Most of these so-called ‘teachers’ are managing pretty well because – let’s face it – teaching consists above all of common sense with most of the content captured in directives, in a number of actions that need to be taken in order to potentially get the desired result.
The main isue, however, is that most of these types of ‘training’ lack evaluation, or any kind of follow-up.
This raises concern about the durability of the obtained results (if there are any….). Therefore, the question no longer is where to find certain information, but how to familiarise yourself with that information and reuse it.
So then what is the magic recipe for effective training?
There is no easier answer than to say “As long as you master your area of expertise…” or “Well, you just have to be a teacher!”
But what exactly does it mean to be a “teacher”? What do we mean by “teaching”?
A few definitions
According to the Larousse (a French dictionary), pedagogy is the set of methods used to educate children and adolescents.
What about adults you wonder?
Purists will tell you that the correct term, in that case, is adragogy but in this article, we’ll stick with the term pedagogy.
To fully understand the ‘methods’ mentioned in the definition of pedagogy, we need to know the three main pedagogical models on which these methods are based:
|Transmissive||The person ‘who knows’ transmits his or her knowledge via a lecture or a long monologue without interacting with the learners|
|CBehaviouralist||This model is based on the principle of the Pavlovian reflex or the reward-punishment system to condition a certain behavior, certain knowledge, or an attitude.|
This is the most interactive pedagogical model. It places the learner at the heart of their learning process. The person with the knowledge is more in the background; they are the ones who give advice and support when the learner asks for it and help them ‘get back on track’ if they see that the learner is getting lost.
The socio-constructivist method stems from the constructivist method and simply adds a layer of social interaction between learners.
Below you’ll find a summary of the various existing teaching methods, based on the models mentioned above:
|The person ‘who has the knowledge’ masters its subject and shares it without interaction with the learner. This is the classic example of the type of lecture we all received at school or university.|
|Behaviouralist||Démonstrative||This method is more interactive than the previous one. The person ‘who has the knowledge’ shows the learners how to do things, makes the learners explain it back to them, before letting them do it themselves. This allows learners to gain knowledge simply by imitating their teacher.|
|Constructivist (and socio-constructivist)||Interrogative
|This model is based on the assumption that the learner already possesses a certain level of knowledge. The person ‘who has the knowledge’ therefore guides the learner in building their own knowledge, connecting the dots by themselves and understanding the subject through structured questions. This model is somewhat similar to a debate.|
|Unlike the demonstrative model, the idea here is to let learners do things themselves and to let them explain how things work. This is then reformulated by the teacher, who provides the learner with a scenario and material, and allows learning on a trial and error basis.|
|Experiential||This is what we often refer to as “learning in practice”. The learner observes what a person is doing and reproduces it. He or she expands their knowledge on their own by talking with the person they observe about their experience, perspectives, ways of working, etc. Simply put, this method is used for all the knowledge that cannot be transmitted in writing or formalized in a book.|
This first level of knowledge makes it possible to answer the “What?”, i.e. the question of the topic of the training.
But before orienting your choice towards this or that type of teaching, it is necessary to ask yourself “Why?” What is it that the students need to know and take away at the end of their course? This is called the pedagogical intent (or learning objective).
Many theories exist on this subject, but the one that, in my opinion, is the simplest and most effective – and indeed the best known – is Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom categorizes the various pedagogical intentions into a logical order of difficulties and proposes examples of action verbs for each of them to make it easy to make a choice.
Below you’ll find a summary:
|INTENTION||EXAMPLE OF ACTION VERBS|
|Knowledge||Identify, describe, formulate, quote, reproduce|
|Understanding||Recognize, distinguish, compare, explain|
|Application||Classify, illustrate, solve, demonstrate, use|
|Analysis||Examine, decompose, categorize, interpret, schematize|
|Synthesis||Compile, adapt, structure, anticipate, invent|
|Evaluation||Compare, measure, test, conclude, persuade|
Once the “What?” has been answered (models and methods) as well as the “Why?” too (intentions), it’s time to ask the “How?” This is what we call a pedagogical situation, a pedagogical modality or pedagogical support.
- The pedagogical situation defines the working method, the conditions in which learners are put. In a transmissive model, these are the exercises to do after a lecture, where a constructivist model favors the exchange of practices, the project mode or the most famous “team building”.
- The pedagogical modality, on the other hand, defines the medium, the means, the vector of the training such as for example the traditional classroom (or face-to-face), e-learning or virtual class; the current “blended learning” trend which mixes face-to-face and distance learning; or innovations such as social learning, mobile learning or even escape games.
- The pedagogical support is the final element to choose when creating a training course. As its name suggests, it is the medium through which knowledge is restored. And the scope is wide: Powerpoint, Word or Excel, paper or digital, more or less serious games, interactive videos (or not), audio recordings, etc.
By answering the what (model and method), the why (intention) and the how (situation, modality and support), your training is almost fully created, with 80% of the work is done.
Remains one essential question, the one we should never forget… the “Who?”
Yes, how can we train people if we are not interested in the key element, the one at the heart of everything: the audience, the learners themselves?
What about the audience in all of this?
The notion of “Who”, of the ones to be trained, is very broad. It includes a series of questions to consider:
- Will the group be homogeneous or heterogeneous?
- How many students will there be?
- What is the age of the audience?
- What is their prior knowledge of the subject?
- Do they already have any skills on said topic?
- Do they come by choice or by obligation?
- Do they have time to train or will they do this on the side, on top of their workday?
- What are their own expectations of this training?
While there isn’t always enough time to answer these questions – which is a real shame – we can certainly take for granted some elements with respect to adult education:
- Adults usually don’t have a lot of time
- They often have (very) bad memories of their school period
- They think they already know (everything)
- They often wonder how this relates to their everyday practice
- They don’t memorize as easy as children because they have lost the habit of learning things by heart
- Even more than children, adults need to understand for themselves the reasons why they are studying a certain topic in order to learn
- Adults need to give meaning to their learning experience and know that what they are going to learn will really be of use to them.
By now you’ve probably understood that whatever the specificities of a given audience, the emotional aspect plays an important role in any learning process. Feeling pleasure and joy, not feeling judged, and being confident are essential ingredients to create a favourable climate within a training program.
As you may have guessed already, if we go back to the first question, that of whether there is a magic recipe for creating the perfect training, the answer is no. There is not one solution but there are multiple solutions. Everything depends on several elements that need to be taken into account. This could be articulated as follows:
What + Why + Who = How
Model & Method + Intent + Audience = Situation, Modality & Support