When A Subject Matter Expert Teaches: Focus is the Key

It is important to return to the basics occasionally.

The field of expertise and expert knowledge is growing exponentially, just like all knowledge in all disciplines. New ideas are always fun and attractive. No matter how exciting to explore fresh fields, it is important to return to the fundamentals to keep solid ground under your feet.

I was reminded of this yesterday when a colleague approached me with a classic subject matter expert dilemma: We have some brilliant people teaching in our institution, but they are not good instructors. They wander down arcane paths and lose the students.

My colleague is an experienced trainer, in fact an exceptional one with great credentials. We realized this is the time to revisit the basic materials on facilitation and instructional design. So, we put our heads together and came up with a plan for training the program instructor-experts that I would like to share with you:

  1. Hold a required train-the-trainer class that includes all instructors. This serves 2 purposes: it avoids creating an environment that singles out poor performers, and it allows the great performers to provide feedback and mentoring to those who are learning new facilitation and teaching skills.
  2. Ask each instructor to create a 5-slide presentation overview of their class: 1. Title 2. Three learning objectives 3/4/5. description of the three learning objectives. This requires them to focus on their main points in a small amount of space and time, and does not allow for traveling down any rabbit holes.
  3. Keep the train-the-trainer class small so that each person has time to present their slides (6-8 people is ideal)
  4. Develop feedback forms the class uses to rate each person and provide helpful suggestions
  5. Pair each instructor who needs help with a mentor for ongoing support.

Train-the-trainer sessions happen every day. Going back to basics every now and then reminds us to keep our focus on the things that are most important. We can all use a refresher every now and then.

Do you refresh training skills with your experienced trainers?

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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