Understanding Your Learner

This is the first in a series building on the core concepts explored in Telling Ain’t Training. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Understanding Your Learner – What’s Your Approach?

When designing trainings, how often have you considered the learner? And in what capacity? Do you think about your delivery method? What about the classroom environment? A dozen things might go through your mind as you work off of your mental checklist. Before we get there let’s take a moment to think a little differently about what training means and align on what it should accomplish.

Telling Ain’t Training starts with a few key points centered around understanding your learners before they even step foot into your classroom, chief among them the tenant that we should be building trainings for the needs of the learners; investigating their roles, responsibilities and prior experience in order to build content that’s meaningful and relevant for them.

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

According to the authors, what we do falls into three categories:

  • Training – Is the goal to teach participants how to complete a step-by-step task?
  • Instruction – Is the goal to teach participants how to react in a situation with one or more variables?
  • Education – A culmination of life experiences and learning principles that go beyond reproducing or inferring; the road to expertise.
The purpose of training, instruction and education is to transform the learner, not transmit data. We want the learner to be able to apply what has been communicated and not just repeat it back.

Find Your Center of Focus

There’s a maxim repeated at the beginning of the book – educators must be “learner centered, performance based.” This encompasses not just your delivery but also the content you build, where you build it, and how you interact with participants. Lose sight of this and you risk losing your credibility and your learner’s interest and respect.

Learner Centered Means Adapting

How we learn is part of our genetic make up. Garden’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences tells us that we need to negotiate different senses and learning types in order to really make teachings stick. The question is how to cater to an audience you’ve never met. Educators can take advantage of what we know about the human body to build flexible courses that are designed to engage different types of learners.

Think About It!

Humans can store massive amounts of data. The issue lies in retrieving it. Assuming that it’s relevant to the learner, then organization is the key. Consider the acronym PEMDAS and the mnemonics My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Can you remember what they mean? If the answer is yes, when was the last time you needed to use that information? Chances are you haven’t consciously thought about either in a long time but the information still lives on. That’s the power of organization coupled with effective teaching and the human brain.

This, of course, doesn’t mean the classes where we learned these pieces of info were perfect but rather that someone stumbled upon a great memory technique that may or may not have translated into other parts of the curriculum. For example, I can’t readily recall most of what I learned in Earth Science but I vividly remember Algebra. The teacher included hands on and group activities, employed a reward system and used visuals and audio cues to draw connections between prior knowledge and newer, more complex pieces of information.

Put it in practice!

Make a list of ways you can engage your audience. Include exercises and content that appeal to the following:
  • Musical-rhythmic and harmonic.
  • Visual-spatial.
  • Verbal-linguistic.
  • Logical-mathematical.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *