Tips for Excellent Training and Teaching

The following tips for teaching are provided by Larry G. McDougle, director of the Division of General and Technical Studies at Indiana University at Kokomo. McDougle bases these suggestions on his experience teaching a course called Management Training Techniques. “In a very real sense,” says McDougle, “the program teaches others how to teach.” As a teacher of teachers—read trainers— McDougle has found these thoughts useful to cling to when facing a class.

• Education is a joint enterprise: Students learn best when they con¬tribute to the educational process.

• As an instructor, you can be wrong at times, so admit mistakes. And don’t bluff if you don’t know.

• When preparing to teach a course, clearly define the course objectives, and select a text, teaching techniques, materials, and assignments to best meet those objectives.

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• In determining assignments, plan the course in its entirety and allocate sufficient time to cover the various topics. Plan for holidays, examina¬tions, review, etc.

• Remember: Most students want you to “take charge.” They want to feel they are being allowed to contribute, but, at the same time, they expect the instructor to provide direction.

• When you meet a class for the first time, clearly define the classroom structure, i.e., let the students know from the outset exactly what is ex¬pected of them and what they can ex¬pect from you. Introduce yourself to the class and say something about your background and qualifications. Like it or not, students are most often motivated by grades; therefore, define your grading system and adhere to it on an impartial basis. Distribute a course outline and schedule— and go over them carefully to give your stu¬dents an overview of the course.

• The course outline should contain: a) name of course, time and place it meets; b) name of instructor and how he or she may be reached; c) list of course objectives; d) title of textbook; e) assignments; f) course require¬ments; g) dates for examinations; h) policy on grading/attendance/class participation; i) resources available, e.g., books on reserve in library, au¬diovisual materials, etc.

• When organizing a classroom pre¬sentation, try the “sandwich method”—tell students what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you have told them. Studies reveal that most students want the instructor to draw appropriate conclusions rather than leaving the conclusions strictly to them.

• Avoid personal criticism of a stu¬dent when opposing his opinion or po¬sition on a given issue. Attack the ar¬gument, if necessary, not the student.
• Avoid sarcasm in the classroom. It usually backfires.
• Field trips, properly planned and organized, can be a tremendous rein¬forcement to classroom instruction. Schedule them frequently.

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• The first step in constructing a test is to consider the objectives of the course. Don’t construct a test which requires students to “read your mind”; let them know what you expect from them. Examinations shouldn’t be guessing games. Avoid making tests too long for the allotted time. Re¬member, a test that is easy to con¬struct (essay questions), will be time-consuming to grade. Conversely, a test easy to grade (multiple choice), will be time-consuming to construct.

• Students appreciate these charac¬teristics in their instructors: the abil¬ity to see subject matter from the stu¬dent’s perspective and the ability to communicate it on an intelligible level; a commitment to their fields and enthusiasm for the material; a willingness to listen and learn from students; a flexibility in conceptualiz¬ing subject matter.

• Spend adequate time in prepara¬tion.

• Obtain prompt and continuous feedback from students. Make certain they know what they are supposed to be learning. See that the presenta¬tions are not over their heads or too elementary.

• Pose study questions designed to focus on the major points in the as¬signments.

• Don’t hesitate to seek the advice of colleagues. Discuss teaching problems with them, observe their classes, and solicit comments from observers in your class.

• Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques or methods, even if only for a change of pace.

• Finally and foremost, remember that teaching is fun. Properly done, it should be a rewarding and satisfying experience for all concerned.

Source : Training Magazine, June 1978