|As the name implies, a learner-centered environment is one that focuses on the individual student. As a trainer, your role is to provide gentle guidance, leadership, curriculum, and instructional modes that meet the needs, interests, and goals of each of your learners. This can be challenging, but you can accomplish it by following a few key steps.
In addition to the orientation, set the direction for the day by writing the schedule on the board and reviewing the performance objectives. You can also suggest your preferences for the treatment of equipment and when it's appropriate to interact with others.
Communicating the course plan
In addition to reviewing objectives, you can communicate the course plan by previewing the topics you'll cover. Be careful of any topics that might overwhelm learners with jargon or technical terms. Take this time to tame these subjects, introducing the more technical lessons in layperson terms and how these topics would be used. The intent of the preview is to set expectations and build excitement around the content, not to intimidate. Keep this section short and at an overview level. Orient learners to the book or material you'll be using in class. If appropriate, encourage them to take notes while having their books out. Encourage them to make this valuable learning and resource tool their own. Be sure to give frequent page numbers and references throughout your instruction so the learners can keep up and see the value of the text.
Greet each person before you formally begin class. Ask them individually what they hope to gain from the event. Make a note of these goals for yourself, so that you can be sure to include that information during the day. This approach is especially helpful for meeting the needs of those participants who are more reserved and unlikely to voice their concerns or goals in front of a group.
Begin class by reviewing the course plan. This will give learners an opportunity to assess whether their goals can be met by the course or not. Ask for their input. You can address the entire group, for example, "Are there any objectives or goals you were hoping to attain that haven't been mentioned in the outline?" Should a discrepancy arise between the learning objectives and the learner expectations, you'll need to reconcile it. In some cases, a learner might want to know something related to the objectives that would require little digression to include it. If this is the case, by all means, include the extra material. Perhaps others in the class could benefit as well.
If including the material would require a more substantial amount of time, assess the needs of the other participants. If everyone wants or needs to know this information, include it during class time. If, however, only one participant needs the information, then perhaps you could share the information with them at a break or at the end of the day. Again, be careful not to overwhelm here. If content was not originally put in the course outline, the author typically had a good reason for not including it. If the added content goes way beyond the course, there's nothing wrong with adding the information after class or even in some type of follow-up after class. A wise trainer once said, "Just because a student can articulate a question, doesn't mean that they're ready to hear its answer." Use good judgment based on the time you have and the ability level of the learner.
Creating a supportive environment
As you begin communicating the material, create a supportive learning environment by encouraging questions and making sure no leaner is left behind struggling with a concept. This can also create a friendly, safe, relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning. However, equally important, should you notice that questions or activities are leading the group on a tangent, gently return the focus to the stated objectives.
An effective teaching tool that you could use is called a "question parking lot" this can be an extra flip chart or even an open section of the whiteboard. Use this area to post questions that are better answered at a later time. Applaud your students for asking good questions and tell them that you want to reward them by answering the question when it can be best answered. Sometimes that means later in the day or even after class.
To optimize the productive participation of all learners, create a non-judgmental environment, open to everyone's input. Treat all participants fairly and equally. Make sure your classroom is free of bias, favoritism, and criticism.