All of us have been through different training programs throughout our lives; wouldn’t you agree? For most of us it started at five years old, heading off to kindergarten. The standard learning progression is elementary school, middle school, high school. After that some go off to college and graduate work. Once in the workforce everyone is engage, at one point or another, with different courses and one-the-job/life training and learning. If you take some time and remember back to any of these programs you can probably remember teachers who you felt really taught you a lot and those who you wish you never encountered.
At each of these levels of training, the equation for learning remains the same:
Learning = Knowledge Capacity + Teaching Technique
This simple equation contains a number of details: Learning is about retaining more facts about a topic, increasing our understanding or gaining a new skill. Knowledge Capacity pertains to the person who hopes to gain the Learning. It is a combination of a person’s ability to take in new information, their enthusiasm for the topic and their willingness to be taught. Teaching Technique includes the knowledge of the material by the presenter, the pace of the program and how the teacher interacts with the students. Basically, increasing Knowledge Capacity, Teaching Technique or both will lead to better Learning.
Unfortunately, the complexity of this equation increases because different forces influence each of the pieces. Let’s take a person falling asleep during training as an example. Obviously their Knowledge Capacity has been greatly diminished thus reducing the Learning. What we don’t know is the reason for their falling asleep. It could be any of a dozen or more reasons like not getting a good night’s sleep or not feeling well, becoming bored with the training, being overwhelmed by the material or not connecting with the trainer’s presentation style.
I use this equation to help make me a better trainer. Before the training begins I work to maximize the Teaching Technique as much as possible. Learn the material to present, learn about the proposed audience so the pacing and be adjusted and how to best interact with them. Once the training begins I pay close attention to the people: who is falling asleep, who looks bored, and who looks confused, as well as who’s asking and answering questions. Based on what the audience tells me physically and verbally, I adjust my teaching to accentuate the positive factors and diminish or eliminate the negative factors.
Great Learning is a dance between keeping Knowledge Capacity as positive as possible and adjusting Teaching Technique to meet the people’s needs.