To Learn or Not to Learn - Thoughts From the Classroom
Jun 3, 2011 Learning Methodology 2535 Views
I recently found myself back in the training room, delivering an ITIL Foundation to non-English speakers. As usual, it made me consider the classroom environment and the various learning styles we have to cope with in a public setting. Not the officially recognised, Bloom's taxonomy type of learning style... no, these are the ones we actually recognise as tutors and trainers!
First there is the keen and eager, inattentive type - full of comment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, even when you're still setting up the projector as its an hour before the class! Never listen, always having to repeat for them, because they were far to busy making a comment on something that had just passed to their long suffering colleague (or total stranger) sat next to them, whilst everyone else had moved on.
The bored and listless are the polar opposite to them - resist the urge to walk round and prod them with a whiteboard marker to see if they are still alive! Any attempt to draw them out by direct questioning is met with a blank and sometimes contemptuous stare. A class full of these is a real challenge - sadly I have only met this type in the UK, but the best that can be said is that they are quiet, and not disruptive.
If you want disruptive, have a keen digresser - "this reminds me of the time when..." followed by an incomprehensible and rambling anecdote. Charming, interested and completely missing the point, firm handling is required if you are prevent their fellow students from lynching them in the morning break.
Then there is the superior and knowledgeable - seen it, done it, worn the T-shirt, was doing it before you were out of school type. Not always age appropriate, sometimes not grey haired and wise, just worldly and cynical. I enjoy this type, as covering a framework which deals in common sense, its so easy to get them won over to the subject, and when they open up, the tales (appropriate and relevant ones) come flooding out.
The dedicated student frankly terrifies me - studying hard, taking copious notes and earnestly waiting at each break to clarify a point or expand on the subject. Often missing the light hearted references and taking them seriously, you almost expect them to ask where the Service Desk staff can buy a coat of rhino hide! But they want to learn, and you are the focus of their laser like stare - look round the class and at any given point eyes will be wandering (I can hold attention, don't get me wrong, but even the best can lose a few in the post lunch session) but not the dedicated student. Eyes transfixed on you, as though they were a Labrador and you had a biscuit, but probably without the drooling that usually accompanies that scenario.
The panic stricken and nervous, desperate to pass the exam at the end of the week because the boss has said they must.
The frustrated and bitter, knowing that this is how they want to work, but there is nothing but lip service paid to service management.
The show off - least favourite for tutor and fellow student alike. Always at pains to come up with a better anecdote, a more relevant example, jumping onto every question without pause for breath.
The ordinary and interested - easy to talk about the extremes, but the majority are none of the above. Just good folk, wanting to get the best they can out of the time they have out of the office.
But is it just my experience that the courses I deliver outside of the UK produce more of the 'dedicated' and 'ordinary and interested' types of student?
These are the ones who are keen to learn, and are enthused by their desire for knowledge. Students like this will be asking questions, sharing experiences, and are open to all different forms of learning. They will actively research the subject matter outside of the class, bringing back information to share with the group the next day.
I noticed a singular difference in the students perception of the course from the UK to the Europeans I was teaching - in the UK the complaint is often that the syllabus is too crowded, and there should be a longer course available. The European students were almost all of the opinion that the course could or should have been shorter.
Learning styles are in fact, very different, across individuals. Some need the interaction and structured stimulation from a classroom setting; others respond well to personal study from an online course. Still others prefer a 'blended' approach, combining the benefits of the classroom, with the efficiency of the self managed learning.
There are any number of online training courses that have been developed, and the best provide you with access to tutors, a clear and manageable interface, often including video of an instructor, with downloads of useful information and exercises. These provide an excellent alternative to classroom training, but can also be used as a complimentary resource.
So - how did I enjoy my return to the classroom? Well I was delighted and re-energised by the experience, and I look forward to more of the same throughout 2011, maintaining a training / consultancy balance. It was great to meet the old friends - the nervous, the knowledgeable, the keen, the disinterested, the cynical and suspicious. But most of all the students who enjoy the experience, against their expectations, and are encouraged to take the subject further and actually adopt the principles.
And in answer to my own question - to learn or not to learn - lets hope that all industry sectors remain enlightened, and continue to understand that to stop training in this economic climate is a form of business suicide. It is vital in these times that we continue to invest in the skills of our people, to build on their motivation, develop and enhance the skills we need to continue to promote business growth.
The sharing and transfer of knowledge within the business environment, and the introduction of new skills is what keeps our organisations fresh and innovative. Best practice training can only be of benefit, as it allows the organisation to improve in efficiency and effectiveness.
So I hope to have many more hours in the classroom, or presenting online training, or supporting students with a mixture of both - whatever their learning styles might be.
First published at ITSM Portal