As Instructors - Training and Development

Often,the instructor is the ultimate "delivery agent" of the learning system. Instructors therefore manage the critical dynamic process: acquisition of new behaviors by the learner.

This implies skill in bringing to life all the content and all the methods called for in the "lesson plan." It implies skill in two-way communication.It implies flexibility, spontaneity, empathy, compassion—almost everything except feeding the multitudes with "but five loaves and two fishes."

The truth is that in recent years our perception of the effective instructor has changed sharply. We are less and less concerned with platform skills; we are more and more concerned with skills in facilitating learning in others. This means that instructor-training workshops don't stress oratorical skills or count the"ers" and "uhs" or practice gestures. Rather, the emphasis is on questioning and listening, on putting feedback and positive reinforcement into the learning experience. Involvement, rather than favorable impression,becomes the focus.

Instruction is both a science and an art—and the T&D function must provide people who have mastered instructional skills sufficiently to ensure that behavior change does indeed take place in the learners assigned to them.

Recent years have placed heavy emphasis on the importance of ensuring that learners do something other than listen and watch while in class. Indeed, this is the central question: "Do they ever actually learn anything at all by merely listening and watching?" The answer: "No—at least not much that carries over with them into improved on-the-job performance." So recent instructor-training programs (and most instructional design) have moved toward participatory types of learning experience. The word "experience" is not accidental; it implies that learners must experience something during the learning if their performance is to be significantly and permanently altered after the training ends. So it is that B.F. Skinner (1974) points out in About Behaviorism that students must engage in behavior to learn new behaviors.That arch-advocate of facilitative learning, Carl Rogers (1969), points out in Freedom to Learn that learners must participate in order for significant learning to occur.

MalcolmKnowles (1977), whose life study is andragogy, the science of adult learning,insists that adults learn best when they can invest their own valued experience in the learning effort.

All these theories point toward participative learning designs—but with what degree of stress, responsibility, aversive consequences,and control? Teachers who conduct organizational learning experiences face just those questions—and must make decisions. It's up to the T&D manager to provide them with effective counseling when such decisions stare them in the face.

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