BJ Liebno, a CVTA Senior Master Instructor with All-State Career, recently spoke with us to share some of her training tips. Her experience as an instructor over the past 18 years can provide a stepping stone for newer instructors, setting them up for success as their careers progress.
The first and most important thing to do is make the training fun. Students are more likely to retain information they enjoyed learning, and it helps to lead them into their careers with a more positive outlook. Instructors should make sure they get their students involved in the learning process. Group work is a reliable tool, as long as it is utilized properly. Work should be kept short to maximize retention. BJ suggests sticking to one or two tasks within 3-5 minute periods. Not only does this involve the students more fully in their learning process, it aids comprehension. If a student can adequately explain a process to someone else, and then have them successfully complete a related assignment, it shows that they have a solid grasp of the concepts being taught.
It is also important to make sure your lessons relate to real life. Students should be able to understand why they need to know the information. When something is relevant to an individual’s life, even in a basic way, they are more likely to absorb and retain the information being taught. In order to do this, it is important for instructors to be able to read their students. Not only will this create a channel between instructors and students that will make the teaching progress smoother, but it helps instructors recognize when their students are having trouble understanding the lesson. Make sure your students know that you’re willing to repeat things. Different students learn at different paces, and instructors must be aware of that in order to efficiently teach a group.
Instructors should also keep the class moving. Stagnation is the enemy. Getting side tracked with a long story not only takes the time from the lesson plan, but it damages information retention. BJ suggests using related short stories and anecdotes in order to strengthen the main objectives of the lesson plan. This requires instructors to stay up-to-date with their subject matter. In order to be a point of reference for their students, instructors must work to make sure that they are aware of all current happenings in their subject, in addition to knowing what’s happened in the past.
While it is key for instructors to strive to remain current on the latest developments in their area of expertise, having said that Instructors are still people and cannot know everything. There is no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Instead of side-stepping the question, BJ suggests instructors tell their students that they do not have the answer, but “let me write that down and I will find out.” This provides students with the knowledge that all questions are viable and it facilitates a smoother flow of information between students and instructors. As long as instructors have an answer by the next class, the students will be provided the information and as a side benefit the Instructors will be kept current and it will also ensure the Instructors keep as current as possible as well.
Having a plan is one of the cornerstones of success for instructors. In order to ensure their success, it helps to have all materials ready before their class starts. BJ suggests having more material to teach than there is time allotted. This way, you know you have a way of keeping the class moving should instructors finish their original lesson early. It also provides instructors extra resources if their students have questions they did not expect.
Finally, it is important for instructors to get to know their students on a professional level. This doesn’t necessarily mean going out for drinks with students after class, but instructors should be able to know why their students are attending their class and what motivates them to succeed. A basic knowledge of student competency is also important for instructional purposes - it is easier for instructors to adapt to the different learning levels and styles of their students if they are aware of the competency curve in their class.