CRAIG and Stanley are trainers from different training consultancy firms. Coincidentally, they were commissioned by the same client to run a similar training programme concurrently with two groups of engineers on the same day.
Craig prepared his training notes meticulously. On the day, he started the training session on time, read his notes well and covered the contents to the last line.
He worked hard to make sure all the content was covered according to this lesson plan. He did not worry that the participants in the classroom were quiet. His lesson plan did not require a lot of interaction — anyway, he would not be able to cover all the subject matter if it did.
At the end of the course, Craig’s participants gave him an average rating of 2.8 out of 5.0 in the “effectiveness of trainer” segment. One participant wrote on the feedback form: “The trainer was reading from the presentation slides and his explanation of concepts was unclear. I could not relate what we covered to my work.”
In the other room, Stanley’s training session was active and exciting, with high learner involvement.  His classroom was noisy and filled with laughter most of the time.
At the end of the run, Stanley scored an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.0 in the “effectiveness of trainer” segment. One participant wrote on the feedback form: “Very engaging trainer — plus, I was able to apply what he taught to my work.”
Both Craig and Stanley are subject-matter experts, but why did they have such different training outcomes?
The answer lies in the approach each of them used. Craig’s approach was teacher-centred and Stanley’s approach was learner-centred.
Below is a teacher-centred versus learner-centred chart to help you understand the difference:
After understanding the difference in approach, you can now transform your training by using the learner-centred approach in the following ways:
Think of yourself as a learner
Put yourself in the learner's shoes and ask a few questions before attending the training course:
What is the training about?
What do I want to learn?
What is motivating me to attend the training?
What are the programme’s relevant applications in the practical world?
Is the content delivered in an easy, simple and clear way?
Is there variety in the teaching method?
Identify your learners’ needs
Conduct a pre-training assessment to find out what your learners need. Mel Silberman, author of Active Training: A Handbook Of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples And Tips, outlines some points to consider when identifying learners’ needs:
How many participants will attend the workshop?
What are their academic backgrounds and working experiences?
What common tasks are currently carried out by them?
What are their skills levels?
How familiar are they with the subject matter?
What are their attitudes and beliefs towards the training subject?
What are their age and gender profiles?
What are their cultural backgrounds?
What are the pressing issues that need resolution?
Is the training voluntary or mandatory?
How familiar are participants with one another?
What do the participants and their managers expect from the training programme?
Engage them at all times
Here are some things you can do to engage your learners and encourage them to participate more actively in class:
Recap previous learning sessions and clarify any issues before conducting a new class activity;
Speak in a warm and expressive voice, use humour if appropriate and use real-life examples to draw your learners into the topic, making them want to pay attention and listen to you;
Use simple and clear language, avoiding jargon as much as possible;
Share personal experiences that are relevant to the learning content;
Play inspirational music during class activities;
Move around during class activities to observe your learners’ progress, and make yourself accessible should they need your help;
Compliment your learners’ contributions, such as ideas, feedback, shared experiences and opinions;
Link the purpose of the activity to the content being covered; and
Summarise the main points at the end of each learning session to help participants better retain what they have learnt.
Adopting the learner-centred approach in your training brings many benefits to participants. They:
Learn to make connections and associations by relating the subject matter to their own life experience;
Gain a deeper understanding of what they have learnt;
Learn how to communicate their ideas and knowledge with others. This becomes a self-assessment activity, where the learners gain more insight into how well or poorly they actually understand the concepts at hand;
Can apply what they have learned in the classroom to their own work situation; and
Are more motivated to learn.
Lastly, training must be enjoyable and empowering. As an old proverb goes: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The teacher-centred approach (Craig’s approach)
Expert teacher teaches subject matter. Learners listen and become educated in a subject.
Teacher dispenses wisdom and learners absorb it. 
Motivation comes from the desire to get good grades (that is, extrinsic).
The teacher stands at the front of the classroom and the learners sit in rows in order to take notes or dutifully reply to the teacher’s questions.
Each individual is assessed according to his merits or abilities.
Learners are “given a fish”.
The learner-centred approach (Stanley’s approach)
Everyone is a learner, including the teacher.  Each learner’s experience is valued and they learn from the teacher and one another.  The teacher even learns from the learners.
Learners seek out knowledge and understanding rather than passively absorbing it (being spoonfed).
Motivation comes from within. Learners are truly interested in what they are doing and opportunities to pursue one’s interests are created and cultivated.
Learners assemble in a variety of configurations, including groups. Learners’ social energies are positively channelled rather than negatively disciplined.
Each learner is able to play to his strengths while learning from the contributions and strengths of the group’s members. Each learner is a collaborator on a shared task.
Learners are “taught how to fish”.
Article by Terence Chiew, a professional trainer, curriculum designer and career coach. For more information, e-mail tc@terencechiew.com or visit www.terencechiew.com

CRAIG and Stanley are trainers from different training consultancy firms. Coincidentally, they were commissioned by the same client to run a similar training programme concurrently with two groups of engineers on the same day.

Craig prepared his training notes meticulously. On the day, he started the training session on time, read his notes well and covered the contents to the last line.

He worked hard to make sure all the content was covered according to this lesson plan. He did not worry that the participants in the classroom were quiet. His lesson plan did not require a lot of interaction — anyway, he would not be able to cover all the subject matter if it did.

At the end of the course, Craig’s participants gave him an average rating of 2.8 out of 5.0 in the “effectiveness of trainer” segment. One participant wrote on the feedback form: “The trainer was reading from the presentation slides and his explanation of concepts was unclear. I could not relate what we covered to my work.”

In the other room, Stanley’s training session was active and exciting, with high learner involvement.  His classroom was noisy and filled with laughter most of the time.

At the end of the run, Stanley scored an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.0 in the “effectiveness of trainer” segment. One participant wrote on the feedback form: “Very engaging trainer — plus, I was able to apply what he taught to my work.”

Both Craig and Stanley are subject-matter experts, but why did they have such different training outcomes?

The answer lies in the approach each of them used. Craig’s approach was teacher-centred and Stanley’s approach was learner-centred.

Below is a teacher-centred versus learner-centred chart to help you understand the difference:

After understanding the difference in approach, you can now transform your training by using the learner-centred approach in the following ways:

Think of yourself as a learner

Put yourself in the learner's shoes and ask a few questions before attending the training course:

What is the training about?

What do I want to learn?

What is motivating me to attend the training?

What are the programme’s relevant applications in the practical world?

Is the content delivered in an easy, simple and clear way?

Is there variety in the teaching method?

Identify your learners’ needs

Conduct a pre-training assessment to find out what your learners need. Mel Silberman, author of Active Training: A Handbook Of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples And Tips, outlines some points to consider when identifying learners’ needs:

How many participants will attend the workshop?

What are their academic backgrounds and working experiences?

What common tasks are currently carried out by them?

What are their skills levels?

How familiar are they with the subject matter?

What are their attitudes and beliefs towards the training subject?

What are their age and gender profiles?

What are their cultural backgrounds?

What are the pressing issues that need resolution?

Is the training voluntary or mandatory?

How familiar are participants with one another?

What do the participants and their managers expect from the training programme?

Engage them at all times

Here are some things you can do to engage your learners and encourage them to participate more actively in class:

Recap previous learning sessions and clarify any issues before conducting a new class activity;

Speak in a warm and expressive voice, use humour if appropriate and use real-life examples to draw your learners into the topic, making them want to pay attention and listen to you;

Use simple and clear language, avoiding jargon as much as possible;

Share personal experiences that are relevant to the learning content;

Play inspirational music during class activities;

Move around during class activities to observe your learners’ progress, and make yourself accessible should they need your help;

Compliment your learners’ contributions, such as ideas, feedback, shared experiences and opinions;

Link the purpose of the activity to the content being covered; and

Summarise the main points at the end of each learning session to help participants better retain what they have learnt.

Adopting the learner-centred approach in your training brings many benefits to participants. They:

Learn to make connections and associations by relating the subject matter to their own life experience;

Gain a deeper understanding of what they have learnt;

Learn how to communicate their ideas and knowledge with others. This becomes a self-assessment activity, where the learners gain more insight into how well or poorly they actually understand the concepts at hand;

Can apply what they have learned in the classroom to their own work situation; and

Are more motivated to learn.

Lastly, training must be enjoyable and empowering. As an old proverb goes: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The teacher-centred approach (Craig’s approach)

Expert teacher teaches subject matter. Learners listen and become educated in a subject.

Teacher dispenses wisdom and learners absorb it. 

Motivation comes from the desire to get good grades (that is, extrinsic).

The teacher stands at the front of the classroom and the learners sit in rows in order to take notes or dutifully reply to the teacher’s questions.

Each individual is assessed according to his merits or abilities.

Learners are “given a fish”.

The learner-centred approach (Stanley’s approach)

Everyone is a learner, including the teacher.  Each learner’s experience is valued and they learn from the teacher and one another.  The teacher even learns from the learners.

Learners seek out knowledge and understanding rather than passively absorbing it (being spoonfed).

Motivation comes from within. Learners are truly interested in what they are doing and opportunities to pursue one’s interests are created and cultivated.

Learners assemble in a variety of configurations, including groups. Learners’ social energies are positively channelled rather than negatively disciplined.

Each learner is able to play to his strengths while learning from the contributions and strengths of the group’s members. Each learner is a collaborator on a shared task.

Learners are “taught how to fish”.


Article by Terence Chiew, a professional trainer, curriculum designer and career coach. For more information, e-mail tc@terencechiew.com or visit www.terencechiew.com