CLIG Seminar: Hints and tips for trainers

I went to a seminar way back in June, organised by CLIG, on planning and delivering training sessions. I’ve been meaning to write it up for a while – I’ve had so much on over the past month and a bit! Stay tuned for a flurry of blog posts as I catch up with everything 🙂

The CLIG seminar was run by Sue Beavil, the in-house training provider at Reed Smith. It was a lot of information to pack into one hour, and I could easily see the topics Sue covered filling a full day’s training, but it was a great overview of the kinds of things you need to think about when planning a training session.

Sue started by asking us some simple questions, such as what is training and why do we train people, and what are the characteristics of a good trainer. For the latter, we came up with the following:

  • Good listener (thought it was interesting that was the first quality mentioned!)
  • Knowledge/credibility
  • Patience
  • Planning
  • Imagination
  • Enthusiasm
  • Confidence

We then talked a bit about preparing for training, and what do you need to make sure you prepare for. The points we and Sue came up with were:

  • What are your learning objectives, i.e. what do you actually want people to take away from your session? Too easy to neglect this stage!
  • Who are your participants? How do they learn?
  • How will you actually deliver the training? Lecture style, workshop, discussion?
  • Visual aids/props – check everything!
  • Notes/handouts
  • Training environment – check the space you’ll be using in advance, and make sure the session you have planned works in this space.

Moving on to influences on the way people learn, we had a quick run through of the various different ways that people learn and how you should try to accommodate that within your training session. We covered topics such as right brain vs left brain, communication styles (i.e. direct, spirited, considerate or systematic), Gardner’s “multiple intelligences” theory, and learning styles (i.e. activist, pragmatist, theorist or reflector). We also looked at the conscious competence model, which was a new one to me (I’d at least heard of all the other models mentioned), and one which I thought was a particularly useful way of thinking about learning. Basically, this model says that you go through four stages when learning a skill, which Sue explained with the example of learning to drive a car. You begin with no idea of what it’s even like to drive a car, apart from what you might have observed from being a passenger, so at this stage you don’t even know what you don’t know. This is unconscious incompetence. When you start trying to drive, stalling all the way down the street and hitting the curb, you move to an awareness of how much you don’t know – this is conscious incompetence. By the time you’ve passed your test, you’re in the stage of conscious competence – you know what you’re doing, but you have to think about it. It’s not until you’ve been driving unaccompanied for a while that you move to the stage of unconscious competence – you don’t even think about what you’re doing, you just do it instinctively. I can very well remember doing long motorway trips, and just be driving along and suddenly realise I’ve got no memories of the last hour! You remain in this state until something unexpected happens, e.g. a bike swerves in front of your car.

Sue’s point was that it is almost impossible to learn anything while you’re in the unconscious competence state. This will often be the case when you’re teaching search skills, for example, because people usually know how to search (or at least think they do!). Your job as a trainer is to knock people back to the conscious competence state – to “push people off their bikes”, as Sue put it! – to get them thinking again about what they’re doing. She demonstrated this by giving us all a piece of paper on which was printed a computer keyboard. She put them face down in front of all of us, and said that when she said so, we were to turn the paper over and type “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. We did so, and were all instantly baffled – I started typing the first few letters, but had to stop after “the” as there wasn’t a Q on my keyboard! Turned out there actually was a Q, I just couldn’t see it because it was in the wrong place – they weren’t standard qwerty keyboards. I had to stop and think about what I was doing, and hunt around for letters, where normally my fingers would have just typed that phrase without needing to consult my brain. Very effective demonstration of her point.

Sue then talked about the various methods of delivering training, such as lectures, workshops, group discussions, or role-playing; and some training styles, such as presenting, guiding, facilitation or coaching. She then talked about the effectiveness of different training methods – see table below, where 1=highly effective and 8=ineffective. What I thought was interesting was that according to this table, lecturing is the least effective method overall – yet it is by far the most frequently used, at least in my experience! Perhaps this is because it’s the easiest way of delivering training when you have limited time, both for preparation and delivery?

Training methods comparison table

Sue summed up the session by going over general advice for presenters, including the “6 Ps for Presentations”:

  • Projection – be heard by everyone in the room
  • Pitch – vary pitch to keep interest
  • Pace – use variety of pace for emphasis and explanation
  • Ph”illers – don’t allow “er”, “um”, “ah” etc to distract from what you’re actually saying
  • Pauses – use pauses to focus attention on a point and give participants time to think
  • Pronunciation – be articulate and clear and distinct

She also emphasised the importance of gathering feedback – if you want to know how your session went, ask! Sue explained that constructive feedback is difficult to obtain – when asked how something went, most people will just say “fine” (unless they’re either really enthused or really disappointed!). She suggested ways of ensuring that a) you actually get feedback and b) that feedback is worthwhile, such as setting out your objectives beforehand so you know what to measure afterwards.

I was really glad I went to this session. I’ve never had to deliver training before, but I ran my first one-to-one training session with a fee-earner a couple of weeks ago and I’ll be involved in delivering induction training to the new trainees when they start next month, so I knew when I went for the CLIG seminar that it was a skill I needed to develop. The seminar didn’t make me any less nervous about delivering training – there’s still that fear of public speaking to overcome, not to mention the whole imposter syndrome thing – but it did give me some good ideas for when I’m planning training sessions.

I’d be interested to hear from other librarians who are involved in delivering training, as I know lots of you are! How did you start off? What were useful resources to you when you were learning how to train? I’ve been looking at Lisa Jeskins’ new blog recently, which has some good food for thought on it already! Anything else I should be reading?


9 comments on “CLIG Seminar: Hints and tips for trainers

  1. I’ve just joined the Librarians as Teachers network, which seems like it might be relevant to you too http://latnetwork.spruz.com/ – I’m about to start my first proper year of teaching / training so trying to develop the same skillset.

    • I hadn’t really thought about joining the Librarians as Teachers network – I guess because somehow “teaching” somehow sounds like a different skill to “training”! I don’t know why really, but I don’t think of what I’m asked to do at work as teaching – it falls very definitely in the training category instead. I know that’s a bit of an arbitrary distiction though, so I’ll have a look at the network 🙂

      • It seems to be a bit of an ongoing discussion whether librarians can count themselves as teachers (in fact, I think that very debate is behind the name of the network!) but I wouldn’t get too caught up on it.

        The difference between teaching and training isn’t that well defined. I’d personally say you train others to use tools, but teaching is about transferable skills, and if you’re covering information literacy skills it’s probably valid to say you’re teaching, even if you don’t want to consider yourself a teacher (a term I’d never use to describe myself!).

        Anyway, I suspect 90% of the skills used are the same, so there’s productive debates to be had either way…

  2. I’m part of a group of librarians organising the TeachMeet in Cambridge (#camlibtm), which is will (hopefully) be an informal training event with lots of short presentations. So not all this advice is relevant to us, although much of it is, especially the sections about setting objectives and gathering feedback. I’m sending this link to the other camlibtm organisers.

  3. Really interesting post, with lots of extra links/reading to follow up. Thank you. I wish I had been at this session actually!

    I carry out a huge amount of training (group and one-to-one) so will put together some more coherent thoughts and come back to this at some point.

  4. This is terrifically useful! I have an interview coming up which requires me to give a presentation on training methods and this is giving me lots of ideas – thanks 🙂

  5. I’m an Information Skills Trainer so most of my job is training and having come into the job with no training experience at all I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone along. I did have the chance to do Susie Andretta’s FILE (Facilitating Information Literacy Education) course earlier this year and found it immensely helpful. All the material produced by the participants (including some rather embarrassing photographs!) are online along with Susie’s lectures and links to useful articles. Here is the link: http://www.ilit.org/file/indexfile.htm

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