What Learners Want From Trainers

Hands up in a classroom

As trainers we all know what we want from our learners. Indeed most of the time this is formally spelt out in documents such as learning outcomes and the like. But have you considered that there are also things that learners want from their trainers?

Paul Clothier in his book The Complete Computer Trainer listed eight qualities that came top of the list in a survey of what qualities, methods, and skills learners wanted from their trainers. Many of these are still relevant today. So let's look at these eight.

Knowledge. Learners want a trainer to have a good working knowledge about what they are presenting. Especially true of trainers who teach software learners want them to have more than just a teaching knowledge. They want the trainer to be able to provide quick ways of doing things, tips, as well as shortfalls.

Organisation. It's amazing just how many learners want their instruction to be organised and well-structured with a logical and identifiable pathway from beginning to end. They want their trainer to have good organisational ability and to be able to present a clear picture of what will be covered and how it will be done. Sidebar: Years ago when I worked in a large training organisation we had a training colleague who we nicknamed Mr Spock after the Star Trek character. This guy was so logical and methodical that socially he droves us nuts. Yet every evaluation he got from his classes were rapturous to say the least - they almost always commented on just how organised and structured he was in his presentation.

Ability to capture and hold attention. Learners don't like boring courses or presentations. They prefer trainers who are both lively and entertaining and who can stimulate their interest, gain and hold their attention, and constantly offer something fresh and interesting. They like a bit of spice and entertainment in their courses.

Relevant examples. Learners like their trainers to present information to them using relevant examples, not just text-book or inappropriate scenarios.

Genuine Enthusiasm. Learners don't really like pretend or put-on excitement - they prefer the genuine article. Learners like trainers who are genuinely excited and enthusiastic about what they are teaching because excitement is contagious and learners, as Clothier points out, get infected and caught up in the excitement. Even though you've presented the tenth Excel class in as many days you need to maintain your enthusiasm and excitement about the product.

Involvement. Learners like a trainer that can get them involved. They want to feel as though they are an integral part of the training and that their involvement and opinions count for the trainer. Learners are not usually happy with a straight lecture approach to training.

Respect. Learners are usually reluctant to ask questions for fear of being seen as dumb. When they do venture into asking a question they want to feel that the trainer can interact with them and answer their questions respectfully and without condescension or ridicule.

Patience. As they say, it's a virtue... and it's a virtue that learners like to see in their trainers. The ability to continue to assist a learner that is struggling without getting frustrated is what learners want from their trainers. They want trainers that can listen carefully to questions without interruptions.

Naturally, as Clothier points out, this is a pretty impressive checklist for the "perfect" trainer. Clothier asks each of us trainers how well we fare in this list and where we feel we could improve. Interestingly he also provides a short list of mistakes that trainers commit in the class and that really peeve learners. These include:

  • Being unprepared
  • Lecturing
  • Getting off topic and track
  • Lack of enthusiasm and energy
  • Inflexibility
  • Lack of Knowledge

As a self-professed avid eBayer I like to check the feedback score of anyone I'm buying from on eBay. Perhaps we as trainers can develop a similar feedback score for our training. Food for thought.