Training good practice guide
Training good practice
This page contains guidance on things to consider when delivering training.
It will cover the following headings:
- Planning sessions
- Managing sessions
- Learning in a community radio setting
- Learners and learning styles
What Makes a Good Trainer
Knowing your subject is very useful but is not the end of the story. This is even more the case in radio where many people that ‘know radio’ might also be good talkers/presenters. In the worst case scenario, a ‘radio expert’ could talk at a group of learners, with a good degree of knowledge, and hopefully in an engaging way – and yet the learners will not have learnt. If a trainer does not prepare, does not give the learners space to use their learning or recognise different learning styles (amongst other things) then the opportunity can be lost – either to maximise the impact of that training or indeed ensure that the learners come back for the next session.
Your trainer does not have to be qualified but the Award for Education and Training qualifications and their predecessors have been found to be useful by some community radio staff .
The quality of all teaching or training depends on how prepared the trainer/educator is. In order for a training session to go well, you need to have some sort of structure to the session, from the overall learning objective(s) of the session to the materials to be used. This requires you to prepare a lesson plan for every session you teach. (Some very experienced trainers/educators don’t always have a written lesson plan – but that is because they are either working to a structure that has already worked for them in the past, or they are drawing from a wealth of experience to guide the session.)
A lesson plan will usually have the following components:
- Learning objectives: what the learners will know and/or be able to do by the end of the session
- Activities: what the trainer and learners are doing at different points of the session (e.g. demonstration, presentation, small group discussion, practical activity, etc)
- Materials: what materials are being used to teach (e.g. flipchart, trainer talking, Powerpoint, radio desk, handouts, etc)
- Timings: how long each activity is anticipated to take
A lesson plan is a guiding structure – it’s not meant to be a prescriptive itinerary, dictating what to do and when. You can never exactly predict how learners will react to a given activity – they may find some things boring (possibly too easy, too convoluted, or simply irrelevant), and some things may engage them in a way you didn’t expect. So, it’s always best to be overprepared – to have resources and activities (and possibly even whole lessons) up your sleeve to cope with those times you need to re-engage your learners, or you find yourself with 15 minutes spare at the end of a session.
There’s a useful page on preparing a lesson plan on Wikihow: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Lesson-Plan
Anatomy of a session
Your session will look the way you want, according to the subject, your learners, the resources you have available, where the session is taking place, etc. However, the following categories may be useful in structuring a session.
- Warm up: get the session going with an activity like an icebreaker. These can be cheesy – sometimes that’s the point – but the aim is to bring people into the room, dust off cobwebs, and get learners interacting and engaging. ‘People bingo’ (see example) is a classic icebreaker particularly useful at the beginning of a course – there are any number of other icebreakers you can easily find on the internet.
- Present information: present (in whatever way is appropriate) the core information that is needed to fulfil your learning objectives. This could be through watching a video, delivering a presentation, drawing a diagram on a flipchart, or whatever you see fit.
- Guided practice: reinforce the learning through practical exercises that cover the information and build skills. You could have more than one exercise or activity that build different, but complementary, skills.
- Check work and assess progress: check whether learners understand the main learning points. If not, you can present further information, or carry out further activities. If some learners do understand and others don’t, get those who do to explain to those who don’t – which serves the dual purpose of not allowing some learners to get bored while other learners catch up, and also reinforcing the learning for those who are doing the explaining.
- Freer practice: this is for learners to get more creative with the learning materials – to explore ideas and activities, and to exercise their own knowledge. This still requires monitoring to check that learners are engaged and that group dynamics are productive.
- Questions: if the learners are confused, or if there’s anything that they’re not sure about, or if they want to make links to other things that are of interest to them, this is the opportunity for that discussion. Of course, you don’t need to limit questions to a five minute slot at the end of the session – you can manage questions however you feel appropriate – but it is usually good practice to leave time for questions at the end of a session.
- Conclusion: if there’s time, go over the main learning points of the session, check for understanding, and show the learners that they’ve learnt something!
Delivering and managing a session
You’ve planned the session, brought your materials, and checked that the technology you’re using works. How do you ensure that your session goes as well as possible, with the learners leaving the room informed and inspired?
Groupwork is one way of breaking up the session, getting learners to work and communicate together. Some points to bear in mind…
- Some learners will benefit more from working alone while others will thrive in pairs or in groups. Getting to know your learners, and how they learn (see ‘learning styles’ below), will help you format activities to learners’ different interaction preferences. However, constructing activities so that some learners always work alone would result in those learners missing out on key skill-development opportunities (see below).
- Groupwork is a crucial way to develop many of the key skills that underpin so much activity in learning, work, and general life. Doing work with other people builds core employability skills, teamwork and collaboration skills, interpersonal skills, and communication (speaking & listening) skills.
- You could make group-based activity a competition between the groups, if it suits the activity. Competition can be a good way to focus activity and to inject some extra energy into the session – though it does have its drawbacks, and shouldn’t be overused.
- Group dynamics have to monitored, and managed if necessary. If you’ve got some talkative and some quiet learners, you might want to pair the quiet ones together if you want to encourage them to talk more. (Otherwise, talkative learners will talk, and quiet ones will listen.)
It’s all very well you – the trainer – knowing your stuff and imparting the information in a clear and concise manner. But do the learners understand what you’ve covered, and how do you know?
- To check, you can ask your learners something like “Is that clear?”. If anyone says “No”, instead of explaining it yourself, you could ask if one of the other learners can explain it.
- Asking “Is that clear?” rather than “Do you understand?” is better because the learner may not feel comfortable saying “No, I don’t understand.” The learner who doesn’t understand may well think s/he is the only one who doesn’t get it, and may not want to admit that in public. Questions like “Is that clear?” instead shift the blame to the quality of the information or instructions. (source)
Learning in a community radio setting
Managing learning in an informal setting can be challenging and also immensely rewarding. One of the strengths of the community radio sector is the informal nature of the learning and the fact that young people feel that the environment they are in is, in some respects ‘not like school’. At the same time it is important that young people know that there are some expectations or guidelines that you will need them to adhere to in order to participate in your training.
Research has shown that community radio training is most effective when it is:
- ‘Hands on’ – involving learners getting out recording audio and vox pops, and making radio broadcasts as soon as possible
- Collaborative – involving learners working together to produce radio shows
- Engages the whole person – being aware of the emotional needs of learners, taking account of their social and cultural backgrounds and histories in relation to learning
- Tailors learning to individual needs – by building on what learners already know and are interested in
- Teaches the language of ‘radio’ – how to talk about the radio sector and the process of radio production, how to critique radio
- Includes reflection on learning – helps learners to think about what they have learnt during the process
- Encourages experimentation and creativity – supporting and encouraging ‘new’ approaches and practices that challenge mainstream representations and stereotypes
More generally, in addition to these points, the flexibility of community radio’s approach to training is key, as Mary Dowson of BCB points out:
Practical or hands on approaches are important in motivating and engaging young people. As a practitioner at Forest FM said in the Connect:Transmit ‘Yacking away’ report (on youth training), “when you work with young people, their learning has to be proactive and interactive, not passive – forget PowerPoint.”
Do’s and Don’ts
- don’t talk too much
- don’t assume you know better than your learners
- do spend time chatting informally to learners and getting to know them as people (not only as ‘learners’)
- do make sure that you know enough about your learners to be able to provide an appropriate amount of support, BUT don’t assume that you can solve all their problems. You may need to signpost them to other services that can support them better.
An Asset Based Approach
It is important to approach learners from the perspective of what they bring to the training (rather than assuming you are there to ‘teach’ them everything you know!)
Developing an asset based approach to training is therefore key to the success of your work. Assets may include:
- The practical skills, capacity and knowledge of learners
- The passions and interests of learners
- The networks and connections that learners already have – including friendships and family connections
Encouraging learners to work together not only improves their capacity to work in teams (a key skill for life) but also ultimately enhances the quality of the radio shows that they will produce.
Collaboration is not always easy and it is important to negotiate clear guidelines through discussion with learners at the start of a project.
It can sometimes be helpful to support learners to negotiate roles within a production team at the start of a project and providing support with time management is often useful.
We all sometimes need support in managing our relationships with other people, and it is important that you are available to provide learners with support if they need it.
Working with the ‘whole’ person
One of the strengths of the informal learning sector is that trainers take account of an individual’s emotional and social needs. If you can take account of these needs you are more likely to attract and retain those learners that have found traditional educational institutions difficult.
Learners who have previously not thrived in traditional education institutions may need help with their self-esteem and confidence, so creating a supportive environment in which learners and trainers give plenty of positive feedback is therefore essential.
Bring out diversity. One of the things that makes community radio so special is the diversity of its participants, and voices. This diversity does present some challenges in the context of learning (e.g., including people with special needs, or exposing different values and understandings between trainers and learners, or between learners themselves) – but it is more helpfully seen as an asset, something to be nurtured and used productively. The diversity within a group makes for an inherently distinct and interesting mix of opinions on any point or issue – which is great for bringing life and personality to a discussion, but, most importantly, giving your learners a sense of engagement.
‘Training’ itself can be a prescriptive term, with fixed outcomes to be achieved and procedures to be followed – an approach which obviously has its benefits but is also not without its drawbacks. Some of the stations we spoke to prefer to think of their volunteers engaging in learning rather than training.
Learning (including training) can take place in very different environments, and involve very different processes. It’s therefore difficult to be prescriptive about a community radio training programme. Gravity FM’s experience is that the learners get more out of it when the trainer is not someone whom the learner knows outside of the station – learners seem to respond more to trainers where there’s no prior relationship. However, this experience may vary from group to group – so there really is no substitute to gauging from as early as possible the needs and expectations of your learners, and what they feel comfortable and uncomfortable with.
Working with vulnerable people
As community radio stations, you are used to working with a diversity of people with a variety of needs and challenges. As already stated, many of our learners will have had difficult life experiences – in education, work, and/or in their personal lives – so it is therefore necessary to take this fact and these experiences into account when designing a training programme. Below is a video of Christine Cox, who uses radio with vulnerable families to develop communication skills – in it she talks about putting a project like this together, and issues that need to be taken into consideration when working with vulnerable people.
See also NIACE – meeting the needs of disadvantaged groups: http://www.niace.org.uk/community-learning/resources/partnership-engagement/disadvantaged-groups
Reflection is key to learning and, although it can be challenging to find time for it you should try to ensure that you are regularly asking young people to consider what they have learnt, how they feel about this learning and also how they might be able to use this learning in their future practice. If you do this you will also find that you have some great evidence for your station about how your training helps young people to learn a variety of skills and therefore great evidence for that next funding bid!
There are a number of ways that you might do this:
- you could ask learners to keep an audio or video diary of their experiences
- you could put aside 5-10 minutes of each session for learners to reflect on the last session in small groups
- you could hold regular group sessions where the focus is on looking back on what you have learnt and thinking about moving forward. These group sessions could involve sharing photos, audio or video of previous sessions in order to enhance reflection. If it suited the particular group, you could use smiley faces or stickers, graffiti boards or lego to encourage learners to reflect in creative ways.
You can also reflect, as a trainer, on your approach to training, and whether it is meeting the needs of the people you are training. What has worked so far? What hasn’t worked? Why might these approaches have worked or not worked? What might you do differently in the future? Some of the trainers in the Connect:Transmit project successfully used this reflective approach to keep their training approach relevant and appropriate – meeting up before each training session and asking the above questions to help discuss how they could best deliver, or might need to adapt, that day’s session.
Learners and learning styles
Gravity FM pointed out the importance of recognising the different ways in which people learn. Everyone has a unique learning style – and knowing how to make the most of how people learn will make your training more relevant to each individual. For example, some people don’t like to be put on the spot; and some people hate role-play! Being aware of these aspects of your learners – and taking time to discover these preferences – will enhance the learning environment, and your training offer in general.
There has been lots of work done over recent decades on learning styles. One theory is that we each have a preference for a particular style of learning: visual (to primarily take in information visually, through graphics, symbols, etc), auditory (primarily receptive to spoken word, such as lectures), reading/writing (to primarily process information as written text), and kinaesthetic or tactile (to be primarily interested in doing or experimenting). Other theories hold that some learners are, variously, more collaborative, independent, or competitive with respect to other learners. Other theories categorise learners as ‘hands-on’, or ‘reflective’, or ‘theory-driven’; or between left-brained (logical) and right-brained (creative, intuitive).
It makes perfect sense to get to know your learners, and what they are most receptive to – as it will obviously have an impact on how they respond to your training. It also makes sense to vary the ways in which your learners are processing information – to mix it up between, say, watching videos, reading text, engaging in peer-to-peer discussions, and having hands-on experience. It’s at least less boring for the learner to have a session with a variety of activities than it is to hear you talking at them non-stop for an hour!
Community radio stations are generally person-centred places, so this process of getting to know the learner and tailoring training to their needs and strengths fits perfectly with good practice on learning styles.
The following is a useful article on learning styles, how to spot them, and how to teach with them, from the British Council / BBC : https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/learning-styles-teaching