Learner vs. Instructor Centered Programs

Let’s face it, it is much easier to design training around the instructor versus around the learner. Have you ever been in a training program in which the instructor comes in, opens up a book, and starts reading? Actually many of you may have had this very experience in college. Professors are notorious for believing they have very little to do with the learning process and it is the student’s responsibility to somehow salvage any crumbs and bits of knowledge they choose to drop during a remarkably poorly planned presentation. Learner centered means designing training and teaching around the learner, their needs, their learning preferences, their learning styles, and whatever it takes to help your collective learners physically and emotionally engage.

The argument for an instructor centered approach might go like this. If I am the instructor, the one with the knowledge, and my students are the ones needing the knowledge, my job is to relay what I know to them. Sounds simple, direct and honestly, does work to a degree, but only to a relatively small degree. We know that a lecture style approach will hold an audience’s attention for approximately 15 minutes. After this our minds tend to wander and learning retention levels plummet. Conversely, if we design participative programming, retentive levels can remain high for the majority of participants throughout the entire training session. With a higher percentage of individuals, retaining information at higher retention levels, it only makes sense to use a learner centered approach.

When you’re designing a training program think about your learners on a number of different fronts. Ask yourself (1.) if you are providing training that allows your participants to interact with you and with others during the training. (2.) If you are structuring an environment to allow participants to actively participate, touch, feel and in some way become physically involved with what is being taught, (3.) and most importantly, presenting information in a manner that will captivate and capture the attention of your learners. I agree that learners are also responsible for their own learning; this is a given. But as teachers and trainers a large part of the job is optimizing the learning environment, and to do this we need to focus on the learner.

Contact the author Gary Trotta at gary@training-games.com. Let’s face it, it is much easier to design training around the instructor versus around the learner. Have you ever been in a training program in which the instructor comes in, opens up a book, and starts reading? Actually many of you may have had this very experience in college. Professors are notorious for believing they have very little to do with the learning process and it is the student’s responsibility to somehow salvage any crumbs and bits of knowledge they choose to drop during a remarkably poorly planned presentation. Learner centered means designing training and teaching around the learner, their needs, their learning preferences, their learning styles, and whatever it takes to help your collective learners physically and emotionally engage.

The argument for an instructor centered approach might go like this. If I am the instructor, the one with the knowledge, and my students are the ones needing the knowledge, my job is to relay what I know to them. Sounds simple, direct and honestly, does work to a degree, but only to a relatively small degree. We know that a lecture style approach will hold an audience’s attention for approximately 15 minutes. After this our minds tend to wander and learning retention levels plummet. Conversely, if we design participative programming, retentive levels can remain high for the majority of participants throughout the entire training session. With a higher percentage of individuals, retaining information at higher retention levels, it only makes sense to use a learner centered approach.

When you’re designing a training program think about your learners on a number of different fronts. Ask yourself (1.) if you are providing training that allows your participants to interact with you and with others during the training. (2.) If you are structuring an environment to allow participants to actively participate, touch, feel and in some way become physically involved with what is being taught, (3.) and most importantly, presenting information in a manner that will captivate and capture the attention of your learners. I agree that learners are also responsible for their own learning; this is a given. But as teachers and trainers a large part of the job is optimizing the learning environment, and to do this we need to focus on the learner.

Contact the author Gary Trotta at gary@training-games.com.

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