By Toni Vega Aiken 2016-06-10 03:49:38
Seven secrets for improving your school nutrition training efforts. THE DEVELOPMENT AND DELIVERY OF SUCCESSFUL TRAINING IS NOT WITHOUT ITS CHALLENGES. Your adult learners are a diverse group comprised of varying ages, education and confidence levels— how can you possibly meet all their needs and be effective in getting the message through? Do not despair, for you are a school nutrition professional! You deal with a complex system of rules, regulations and requirements to deliver healthy school meal programs to your students every day. So, you’ve got this! Let’s get started with what we already know. We know that adult learners bring a lot to the table. We know that adults come to a training session with a lifetime of individual experiences, biases and insecurities about learning. Unlike children, adult learners need “buy-in” for training and education activities. Adult learners are typically busy, juggling work with family and, sometimes, more than one place of employment. Adults need to understand why the training is necessary and relevant to them before they make a commitment to learning. Another factor to consider is the reality that adults have varying learning styles; we don’t all learn in the same way. In fact, for most people, real learning happens as a result of more than one learning style! Be sure to review “What’s Your (Learning) Style?”, on page 40, to help you recognize your own personal learning styles and become a better student. In this article, however, we will concentrate on advice designed to help those of you who create and deliver training to the adults working in school nutrition. Each of the following seven concepts about adult learners is paired with accompanying trainer tips that you can begin applying in your instructional efforts immediately. SECRET 1 SELF-LEARNING and PERSONAL BELIEFS Every adult learner has some personal belief about how she or he learns. “I never get all the jargon; I need to just do it.” “Whenever a teacher calls on me, I say something stupid.” “Training usually puts me to sleep.” “Tell me once, and I got it.” These beliefs have been developed through their own life experiences, both those related to education and otherwise. Such personal viewpoints are based in both positive and negative experiences. Moreover, they may not be entirely accurate and can either enhance or interfere with the individual’s ability to learn. Remember that new learning or training may sometimes raise insecurities in your adult learners. Trainer Tips: You can’t address all the self-perceptions of your adult students. What you can do is create a positive and safe environment for learning. As the trainer, you set the initial tone of the training. Explain to your learners why their participation is important and how they will benefit from the training. When you can make your participants become more comfortable, they will be more open to learning. Never forget that you are there to help, coach and advocate for your learners. They should always feel safe, never threatened or in fear of embarrassment over what they may not know. SECRET 2 RELEVANCE and WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? (WIIFM) Adult learners need to know the relevance of the training. This is essential in your training endeavors, as your participants will tune out and mentally shut down if the training is not directly relevant to their work and life. Each must be able to identify the “what’s in it for me” benefit. What makes the training necessary and meaningful? What gets them past the knee-jerk “I’m-so-busy-this-training-better-not-be-a-waste-of-my-time” suspicion? If your adult learners don’t make the WIIFM connection quickly, they will disconnect. Participant buy-in is absolutely essential for an engaging and worthwhile training session. Trainer Tips: During the first few minutes of your training, you should communicate the purpose, relevance and the WIIFM benefit to participants. Be prepared with clear and concise learning objectives that advise participants what they will learn. For example, learning objectives should be phrased as follows. “At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to: 1. Demonstrate proper receiving and storage procedures for food and other supplies; 2. Identify the steps to reducing food safety risks.” Then, you can further elaborate. “These steps are important, because they help to reduce food safety risks in the meals we serve to our students. I think some of you will be surprised to learn some of the risks that come from improper steps—and you might change what you do at home, too! When we’re finished, you should have a good understanding of the procedures—and how to handle problems.” Don’t over-complicate the concepts, as this will alienate your learners. Want to go a step further in engaging your learners? Before you begin the official training, ask them to offer opinions as to why they think the topic is important, why it is important to them or what they hope to gain from the training. When you take an active interest in your participants and demonstrate that you value their engagement in this educational activity, they will be more open to learning—and more likely to retain what they learn. SECRET 3 PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE and NEW LEARNING CONNECTIONS It is important for your adult learners to draw connections between the new training and their previous knowledge and/or skills. Such connections aid participants in remembering the new information, as well as being more likely to implement the new concepts, information or skills being taught. Trainer Tips: Help participants to take advantage of their own experiences as related to the new topic by creating opportunities for sharing. This helps your participants apply the new training to what they already know. You may need to assist or provide some guidance to help your adult learners make the connection. If time allows, provide a period of peer-to-peer interaction. Listening to others’ experiences and being able to ask questions increases attention. Let’s say you are conducting training on calibrating bi-metallic thermometers. After reviewing temperature danger zones and the calibration process, ask attendees to share past experiences. “Have you found this difficult or easy in the past? Why or why not?” When they make the connection between their understanding of the concept and their experience, the training is now more relevant, personal and immediate. SECRET 4 SOLUTIONS-DRIVEN and PROBLEM-CENTERED Unless they are engaged in a very specific educational pursuit, such as a degree or certificate, most adult students are not content-driven learners. This means that while the content of the training may be important, they are more likely to respond to and/or seek out educational activities that provide solutions to a problem. For these adult learners to buy in to the training, it must be developed in a way that is more than a lecture on a particular topic area. Most of your school nutrition students want solutions-oriented training that clearly and tangibly connects to what they do at work, especially if it solves a nagging problem or improves a result. Will this training help us improve our health inspection score? Will it help us to prep meals with less stress and more efficiency? Will this new recipe mean that more kids will eat breakfast? When the training offers such a concrete connection, trainees are more likely to retain what they’ve learned. Trainer Tips: One of the best ways to establish a problem-solving approach to training is to provide specific solutions-driven activities that involve your participants in working through the problem. You can engage your learners simply by asking how they would handle a given situation and encouraging discussion. For example, recent incidents of poor quality whole-grain pasta dishes have led you to train staff on how to work with this product. Begin by explaining the situation and then ask, “Why do you think the pasta isn’t turning out well? Is it overcooked? Is it improperly held? What are your suggestions for improving?” This engages your learners in contributing the solution and being receptive to the steps you will present. Survey your participants throughout the training to find out how they are responding to the new concepts being taught. Offer them practical solutions and when possible, the time to discuss new applications. SECRET 5 ACTIVE LEARNING and PARTICIPATION We can’t emphasize enough the inadequacies of lecture-intensive training. Adult learners need to be encouraged to engage in the training through different types of active participation, including large- and small-group discussion, role-play, hands-on practice, quick polls/feedback and more. Retention of learning is higher if the audience members are active and involved participants. The following quote, often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, sums this up, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Trainer Tips: Always seek ways you can reduce the amount of lecture-only content, or at least break it up into easy-to-digest portions, each followed by some type of active participation break. For example, let’s say you’re conducting training on the components that comprise a reimbursable meal, but to reach the maximum number of staff, you must provide this training in a classroom setting, without access to the props available in a kitchen. Avoid simply scrolling through your PowerPoint slides—no matter how colorful they are with descriptive visuals. Find natural break points to add an activity. Maybe it’s an oral true false quiz based on the last five slides. Perhaps you distribute a handout at this point with a case study scenario and ask students to pair up to find the errors you’ve hidden within. Make the breaks progressive, so that students are engaged not just with the most recent slides, but all the information relayed thus far. You’ll want to be on the lookout for the passive participants “hiding” in your audience. Without causing undue embarrassment, find ways to entice these individuals to more engagement. For example, one exercise might be breaking into pairs, where each individual in the pair is assigned a different activity. Perhaps the responsibility for reporting small-group discussions to the larger assembly must be shared among everyone at the table and so on. When you plan to engage these passive participants before you conduct your training, you won’t risk being caught flat-footed. SECRET 6 EMPOWERMENT and EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS Engagement can result when you empower your participants. Find ways to strike a positive emotional chord with students; learning connected to emotion is more likely to be remembered. Providing opportunities in which they feel that they have something to contribute—whether it’s an opinion, an example, a confirmation or a question— adds value to their learning, leaving them more receptive to the transfer of knowledge. Trainer Tips: Never use fear as a motivating factor for learning, as it causes the brain to react in a fight-or-flight syndrome. Fear hampers real learning. Pop quizzes where someone is on the spot can backfire, unless you make it fun and give incentives for overcoming hesitancy. For example, if you’re going to call on audience members to ensure they are engaged, give each a reward, whether their answer is correct or incorrect. “You get the ‘good try’ sticker for your name badge, Gladys. Here’s a candy treat, Domingo, just because that answer was so creative! I’ll give a leave-one-hour-early-no-penalty gift certificate to the first person who comes up to the front and performs a role-playing exercise with me.” As a trainer, you are tasked with coaching your learners. Good coaches practice good connection skills. Ask for personal reflections and examples. For example, ask audience members to share the biggest frustration they have with the topic area, giving them a safe space to vent. Then, explain how the learning objectives are designed to help them move past such frustration. Make eye contact with the student who is speaking. Be an active listener— repeat what she said and thank her for the comment before moving on. Connecting to your participants right away engages them and shows that you value them. This builds their confidence and aids in their learning. SECRET 7 FUN and SOCIAL Creative instruction isn’t just for the kiddos. Adult students love to laugh and have fun, too—and you should be able to have fun while you are training. Social learning supports a community of learning. Peer-to-peer interactions that include levity and break down barriers can create a network for the learners. They see themselves in others and others in themselves, validating their need for the new information and demonstrating that they are not alone in their training needs. Trainer Tips: “Game-ification” is a real thing. The term is used to describe any activity in which the processes have been adapted to echo game-type activities, whether a timeless game from childhood or television game show or a popular digital offering. This is a terrific way to encourage active and engaged learning in a non-threatening space, in which students are almost expected to make mistakes, learn from failures and try again. Successful models range from adaptations of a spelling or geography bee to a “Jeopardy”-style activity to musical chairs or tag! Most non-professional trainers would find themselves hard-pressed to find the time, energy and creativity to turn every training activity into a game. There are many other ways to make training fun. In addition to the rewards and incentives mentioned in #6, you can add silliness with simple props (pass around the “success spatula,” bat around a beach ball, conduct your training in costume). Pose really outlandish scenarios for discussion. Go crazy with the myths portion of your myths/facts activity. IT’S ABOUT THEM Whether your adult students are your own staff or those who do not report to you, when wearing your training hat, you need to think of those participants as your customers. You are providing them with a service by training them, so be prepared to provide excellent customer service! In doing so, you set the stage for their success. Reduce any barriers to learning. Make sure that you are in a well-lit room. It’s inadvisable to turn lights down, or off, during training even if you are playing a video or presenting slides. Allow participants to take notes. (Some people need to do this in order to retain information.) Make sure that there are no physical barriers that could obstruct their view or ability to participate. Make accommodations for those who may have vision or hearing impairments. If possible, set up your training space so participants can see each other (and not the backs of heads) in an effort to create engagement between participants. If your training session is more than an hour in length, create an agenda or schedule to share with participants. They need to know when they are getting breaks or meals. If attendees are in a training session for several hours with no break in sight, they will lose interest. Following are a few more tips for training success: • Be conversational. • Be prepared to answer questions. • Prep sample questions that you can pose for engagement or just to keep the conversation going, if your audience is shy. • Always develop clear and concise learning objectives that advise participants what they will learn. • Text on slides should be minimal; emphasize visuals that help to convey the concept or skill. • The adult learner is more likely to remember the new training and offer better recall when information is represented both verbally and visually. If possible, provide a one-page overview of the training in advance to prepare your learners. Consider a worksheet or quick activity to gauge their current understanding of the subject at the start of the training, and ask them to complete it a second time after training to measure the transfer of knowledge. You’ll find more tips in SNA’s new Training Content Development Guidelines tool (see the box on page 56). So, how did we do in training you? What are the key takeaways from this article that you learned? If you answered “engagement,” “participant buy-in,” “variety” and “fun”—then we’ve succeeded and you are closer to achieving greater success in your instructional efforts. The next step is yours: applying what you’ve learned. ADULT LEARNERS: AT A GLANCE Adults learn by being actively engaged in their learning through discussion, feedback and activities. • Adults learn by reflecting via analogy and comparison. • Adults need to compare their own experiences to the experiences of others. • Adults need to link new information to what they already know. • Adults learn through the relevance of the training to their life and work. Abstract or complicated concepts will lose the attention of the participants. • Adults learn by practicing and applying new knowledge and strategies. Make time in the training for practice, interaction and discussion of new applications, strategies and knowledge. • Adults learn by solving genuine problems, applying training content to their unique and specific issues and encounters. NEW TRAINING TOOL! Want more helpful guidance on the development of training content? SNA has a resource for you! The newly developed Training Content Development Guidelines document is a 13-page downloadable PDF that walks you through writing and evaluating learning objectives, creating content and applying various learning methods. Download this document today at: https://schoolnutrition.org/trainingguidelines. Toni Vega Aiken is SNA’s senior program manager.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Training+the+Trainer/2507268/310083/article.html.