Drawing boundaries around training content - The systems thinking and training blog - Bryan Hopkins

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Drawing boundaries around training content

Published by in Training design ·
The only face-to-face training I do these days is in so-called 'train the trainer' workshops, where I look to improve participants' skills in designing and delivering training.

The people in these workshops are always experts in their own particular subjects (not training), and this expertise can range from security in high-risk environments to knowledge about drought-resistant seed varieties. The common denominator amongst all of these as regards training is that, when asked to deliver a training programme, they usually proceed to try and transfer all of their knowledge to the learner.

In my courses I always cover some of the key theories about cognition, Kolb, Vygotsky and, of course, Malcolm Knowles. Knowles introduced Western thinking to the concept of andragogy, adult learning. His initial, 1977, paper on adult learning compared pedagogical and andragogical approaches, in the process outlining a number of key principles to follow in adult learning. The one which is often of interest to my participants is about planning: Knowles says that in a pedagogical approach the planning is "primarily by teacher", whereas in an andragogical approach planning is participative.

This always comes as something of a shock to subject matter experts. How can people who know nothing about a subject participate in planning? My answer is then to draw people's attention to the idea of learner-centred outcomes, what do we want people to be able to do at the end of a training session? So we then spend some time talking about Bloom's taxonomy, observable actions, three-part training objectives and so on.

And this always seems to be a real light bulb part of the course for people. Having followed a learner-centred paradigm in my practice for quite a few decades, I tend to forget how revolutionary an idea this can be.

But it is very powerful. If we think about what the learner's outcomes need to be, then we can draw boundaries around what knowledge and skills need to be transferred. Rather than everything.

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