Training that is good for the soul

With a career that has involved working in the private, public and voluntary sectors I have been on a fair few training courses myself over the years. Something that really bugs me is attending a course about education/teaching and finding that the facilitators have totally ignored most teaching and learning theory. My top five crimes are 1) too much PowerPoint/PowerPoint that is for the facilitator not the participants/Powerpoint slides that you can’t read or are not given time to read 2) sessions that overrun leaving you late to toilet breaks or departure 3) a facilitator who sees themselves as the fount of all knowledge 4) not enough participative hands-on activity and 5) poor quality cake.
Over the last few years I have worked with colleagues in Norfolk’s Environmental and Outdoor Learning Team to develop a training ethos that extends the emphasis away from imparting knowledge and towards holistic learning experiences that feel good for the learner. I always include a standard outcome in all of my courses: that participants leave the course having had a day that they feel has been good for their well-being. Teachers work hard, they often do long hours in high-pressure environments; it is therefore desirable to look after their needs carefully when they get out of school to undertake CPD.
Through trial and error, and requesting, and listening to, feedback from participants I have come up with a recipe for a more soul-nurturing approach to INSET training:
• Share the programme with participants so they know what to expect when; be clear about when coffee/eating/toileting opportunities will occur. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is clear on this: for effective learning to take place basic needs need to be catered for.
• Ensure that some outdoor learning happens. No matter what the course content there is generally always some learning that will be enhanced by going outside
• Provide opportunities for both group and individual work/thinking… everyone thrives in a group setting
• Try and give enough supporting materials to ensure delegates can focus on participating and thinking rather than note taking (unless, like me, you need to note take to process your thinking!)
• Use slides that you think will help your learners. If a slide is to help you as the facilitator then keep it in note form to make reference to in private
• Be friendly and honest about your experiences and skills; it’s okay not to know the answer to a question. Do your best to find answers and communicate these to delegates afterwards
• Do your best to run to time. If sessions look like they’re over-running think fast to adapt other elements of the day and always ensure breaks and departure happen on time
• Prioritise time for plenaries and reflection so that delegates have time to process learning and feedback about it
• Provide regular and wholesome food. Ideally locally sourced and seasonal, which we are lucky enough to get as standard at Holt Hall when I work there. Learning Outside the Classroom is hungry work and plenty of cake-based fuel seems to help
Sometimes the cake is beyond my control, but I’ll never give up lobbying for it 🙂