In our continuing series on designing training courses Kate Foreman suggest ways of defining the most appropriate individual learning method

This week we are going to look at how to decide on what type of training would be most suitable for a given group of learners. To do this, we will need to examine the different types of training that are possible and the different learning preferences that might be demonstrated by those for whom the learning is intended. Think about how you prefer to do your learning: Are you a reader? Or perhaps you enjoy listening, or looking at pictures? Maybe you prefer to be shown how to do something and then practice it yourself in your own time? Whatever your preference, there is no right or wrong way. However, what you are learning may have some influence on how you can learn it. For example, it would be difficult to learn a new language simply through looking at pictures. The truth is, while we all demonstrate preferences, we tend to learn through a combination of mediums. Consider the language-learning example again. You actually learn through:

  • Listening
  • Repeating
  • Writing
  • Reading.
  • All of these are valid methods, but when linked together offer the most effective way of truly getting to grips with the subject. There are many different names ascribed to various learning preferences, depending on who you read, but the most vital thing for you to understand is the preferences in your group of learners. You will find a variety of differences and you may not be able to address all of them all of the time. But it will give you the opportunity when designing your training material to at least ensure that there are activities that will engage the interest and learning preferences of the people concerned. Knowledge of the differences will also enable you to be alert to when training interventions are not working and will give you clues to why they may not be appropriate.When you think about methods of training, what picture does your mind conjure? A classroom? Overhead projector? Taking notes? Playing games? All of these may be valid – let's look at the basic methods that are available.
  • The lecture
  • The demonstration
  • Technical training
  • Interactive training
  • Discussion and group learning
  • Role play
  • Learning through questions
  • Adventure learning
  • Individual learning
  • Feedback.
  • You may not have thought of or experienced some of these, but they are all valid and are all available to you. Some will be more suitable for specific learning objectives than others, but never dismiss a method simply because you haven't used it before. You will need to:
  • Consider what has to be learned
  • Consider the resources (including time) available to you
  • Consider the learning preferences that must be taken into account.
  • Only by systematically checking through these against the options available will you be able to arrive at a solution that will allow you to cater for the subject and the learners in the most effective way.As an exercise, I would like you to consider the some ‘types' of learner and decide, based on the description and the learning alternatives listed in the table above what would and would not be an appropriate type of learning material or situation for each. Don't be put off by the labels ascribed to each learner. These are taken from a particular school of philosophy called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP for short), but there are many other relevant schools of thought. Hopefully, these will give you a starting point for further consideration of what learning preferences are all about.Given that in a group of ten learners you are likely to find at least one of each of the above types, you will need to have a grasp of what is appropriate for each if you are to have any chance of making your training successful.When you have undertaken this exercise, I would like you to consider the staff that you are likely to train. You might like to ask them to look at the table and decide which category they feel best describes them. Then consider current training or training that is likely to take place in the future and, in light of what you now know, decide how well those individuals are likely to respond. Last, ask yourself this question: how much money have we already spent on training that may not have been suitable for the learners?Next week we will begin to tackle the nuts and bolts of constructing the content of your training in order to get the best possible outcome – that is, learning that to can be transferred to the workplace. Do please continue to give us your feedback, as this helps us to address the particular needs of you, the readers.
  • Kate Foreman is director of training and competence with the RWA Group
  • Answer to last week's MOTSo how many of you spent time considering whether the insurers should be told about the suspicions and the report to the police?Well if you did decide to tell insurer's about this without the client's authority, it is my opinion that this is a breach of confidentiality and you could be in trouble.If you did decide that this was a material fact (which we think is nonsense) and chose to tell the insurer, let me remind you that the broker is not party to the contract (in most cases) and the duty of disclosure does not fall on the broker. If you thought the information about the suspicions and police involvement was material you should have told the client and sought instructions.What is more important (and in real life the broker forgot) is the need to advise insurers that the client has been banned for driving for a month and changed vehicles.Be honest! How many of you spotted it? If you did not you must give yourself an ‘At Risk' mark.The learning point is that sometimes it is the simplest of omissions that cause the largest negligence claims. Sometimes we are far too clever for our own good (and I count myself in that group) and we need to pay more attention to what is obvious.