Even If You’re Not a ‘Natural,’ You Can Learn to Be an Effective Trainer
By Victoria Carter
Anyone who has been asked to instruct others knows that there are challenges. Being a “subject matter expert” is no guarantee of being a great teacher or trainer. The upcoming two-day PDC workshop “Designing and Delivering Effective Training” will help participants learn to “develop an effective training experience.” Some of the essential elements to be covered are “defining goals and learning objectives of the training,” “creating outlines and activities that will achieve the objectives” and “applying the principles of adult learning to your training.”
Scott A. Tepper has a history many decades long in all aspects of training. He holds a master of education degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As principal of Step 1 Ventures, he is a “technical trainer, training consultant and creator of innovative educational and personal development programming.” He talks here about his background, his approach to teaching and his upcoming two-day course for the PDC.
Q: What will people get from your course at PDC?
Scott A. Tepper: People will leave the class with experience in a course development approach that has worked for me and that is grounded in classic educational principles. The course manual also works as a “cookbook” that will help them develop a successful educational experience.
Q: What in your background and training has helped you develop your class?
Tepper: I’ve been developing courses and teaching since the first Reagan administration. In that time, I’ve seen how respecting some very basic principles of educational theory makes for very effective training. In my most recent engagement, I developed a curriculum to teach software developers how to use a particular application development system, and I taught a group of skilled consultants how to be outstanding instructors delivering that curriculum. Once those consultants understood that there are proven reasons to do things a certain way, they bought in enthusiastically, and the evaluations showed it.
Q: What makes your seminar different from other ways of learning to give good training?
Tepper: One of the things I like to do is take people “under the hood” and look at why I designed the class a certain way, or why we are doing a certain thing. I call it “meta-training,” training about the training. We’ll do a lot of hands-on exercises, of course.
Q: Who will benefit from your seminar?
Tepper: Anyone who is faced with the task of putting together training about something they know a lot about. There’s an assumption that if you are a “subject matter expert,” you will also know how to teach that subject and be good at it. Some people seem to be natural teachers, others who want to know how to do it can learn. Also, being able to develop and deliver training can help make you more valuable in your current work, and can help a business expand and reach more potential customers by offering a class on a relevant topic.
Q: Your biography says that you have taught hundreds of people in the US and internationally. What have you learned from these experiences?
Tepper: Flexibility. I may have a course methodology that works wonderfully for one subject, but that does not mean it is right for another subject, or for another situation. For example, I once needed to restructure a curriculum to allow for the best participation of a wide-ranging audience, and to make the best use of my time on a trip to that customer’s site. Be willing to approach every training development task with a blank slate. And it’s like jazz – once you learn to play scales well, you can improvise well.
Q: What is one comment that you have gotten from a past attendee that is most significant to you?
Tepper: When I started working in training, my boss’s goal was that we receive an evaluation comment of “That was the best class I ever attended.” Not “the best class on that software,” not “the best technical class,” but an absolute unqualified “best.” A couple of years ago, my application development class got a comment like that.
“Designing and Delivering Effective Training” will be taught in two sessions on Friday, July 21 and 28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Career Source Career Center, 186 Alewife Brook Parkway, 3rd Floor, Cambridge. Cost is $177 including $10 for materials ($165 if paid by July 14). For information or to register, visit www.pdcboston.org.
Victoria Carter, after a career as an actuary, is reinventing herself as an economic evaluator of social programs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.