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Maintaining a Training Environment

Maintaining a Training Environment
Once you've established a learner-centered environment, you'll want to maintain it. Here are some guidelines for doing so:
  1. Engage learners
  2. Provide opportunities and assistance to identify and achieve objectives
  3. Manage course flow and pace
  4. Facilitate group dynamics
  5. Create opportunities for learners to work with and learn from each other
  6. Handle disruptions effectively
Adult learners tend to be inquisitive and curious by nature. Take advantage of that by engaging them in prompt hands-on activities or discussions of the material to achieve their initial, intermediate, and terminal objectives. Connect with them, invite them to ask questions and, whenever possible, personalize the material so they can directly relate to it. These techniques can also be helpful if you have learners who are anxious about new information. This early apprehension can often be eliminated by trying something out to show them how easy or familiar it might be.

Each learner arrives at your event with their own unique experiences and viewpoints. Sometimes, by sharing ideas, they can learn from each other. You can moderate group discussions or initiate group activities. In using this type of learning, be sure to facilitate the group dynamics in a positive way. Encourage interactions that are respectful of the rights of individual participants, and redirect any unproductive digressions.

You can also create opportunities, in the form of activities, for learners to work with and learn from each other. Peer instruction can be one of your strongest instructional tools, but it needs to be managed well. Many students don't understand how to be effective mentors and peer learners. Before starting a group activity, discuss effective ways to work together and share ideas. Encourage learners to share all the responsibilities that come with group work equally, be it note taking, idea sharing, or keyboarding.

While your goal is to cover all of the learning objectives included in the material, you must also be aware of course flow and pace. Throughout your event, continue to assess learners' needs. If participants are struggling with a concept, don't leave them behind and continue on. Instead, you might need to slow your pace or adjust your teaching style, or approach the concept from another angle. Conversely, if learners understand the concepts quickly, you might consider picking up the pace and filling in extra time with bonus tips or other additional helpful information.

Should a disruption occur, handle it as discretely as possible. Begin by diagnosing the problem. Is the learner present because of an obligation, suggesting that he has no interest in the material? Does he perceive the training as irrelevant? Is there a personal issue? Once you understand the problem, acknowledge it in a way that supports the learner. For example, identify the problem as circumstantial and relate to the difficulties, rather than criticize or attack.

Then, find a way for the learner to participate in the learning process. For example, if a learner is unable to key along successfully with the rest of the group, encourage him to focus on the concepts instead of keying along at that time.

Finally, you'll want to bring the issue to a close. For example, indicate to the learner that unless there's a new problem, you don't intend to deal with this particular issue again.
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