Skills of Training
The skills of training are those which are actually employed in the training modules. They include the following:
Physically attending and listening
The Trainer must pay close attention to and listen to the delegate throughout the training module. Above all, the Trainer must ensure that delegates are aware that full attention is being given to them. This can be done verbally and non-verbally. The kind of questions posed and the suggestions made by the Trainer are just two ways of indicating an attentive attitude by verbal means and these will be looked at a little later on. Positive and helpful non-verbal attending behaviours include relaxed posture, periodic eye contact, leaning slightly forward towards the Delegate, etc. Naturally, staring, interrupting, unfriendly looks, etc might demonstrate an attentive attitude but they are hardly likely to create a positive climate for the training discussion.
Strange as it may seem, remaining silent may indicate good attention, particularly if it is accompanied by some non-verbal attentive behaviour such as nodding. Often the converse, ie being too quick to fill the silence by asking questions or by replying to a question, can be seen as a poor demonstration of being attentive.
Active listening can also be shown through the techniques of paraphrasing and reflecting on what has just been said. Paraphrasing involves the listener repeating back, not verbatim but in his or her own words, what he or she thinks the speaker had just said. This is a way of ‘checking out’ the content of what the speaker has communicated. Of course, it goes without saying that the listener should paraphrase at appropriate points in the discussion, eg after critical contributions by the speaker, rather than on a haphazard or random basis.
Whereas paraphrasing focuses on the content of the speaker's message, reflection is more concerned with feelings and emotions. The Trainer listens’ to how the other person feels or what has remained unsaid and then feeds it back to him or her in a sensitive or tactful manner. For example the delegate might say:
‘The people in IT have put up all sorts of obstacles preventing me from going ahead. This means that the other deadlines are having to be put back’.
The Trainer in reply, and attempting to reflect the delegate's feelings, might respond:
You feel frustrated by the reaction of IT and this is making you a little anxious about the other targets you are required to reach’.
The good Trainer does not avoid talking about a delegate's emotions, as these may be acting as blockages to his or her learning and development, hence the importance for the Trainer of acquiring the skill and confidence to use reflection.
Asking Questions or Seeking Information
The Trainer needs to be skilful in employing questioning techniques in order to get the delegate to talk about his or her feelings, problems or ideas. The kind of question that help the Trainer to explore these issues constructively are:
These sorts of question are relatively short and usually begin with words such as ‘What...’, ‘When...’, ‘How...’ or ‘Where...’. Although the word ‘Why’ could also be included in this list it must be used sparingly as it could be perceived by the delegate as indicating an interrogative attitude on the part of the Trainer.
These questions often follow on from the answers to open questions. The intention of such questions is to get the speaker to give clarification, or elaborate further on the original answer. As with open questions, probes can begin with words like ‘How...’, ‘What...’, etc. Sometimes probe questions seek ideas concerning a problem brought to the surface by means of an open question, eg ‘What are the alternative ways of handling that difficulty?’
How does that compare with this?’ ‘In what ways does that differ from this?’ Are examples of comparative questions. They may function as open or probe questions.
Questions the Trainer should try to avoid in training modules are:
The Trainer might inadvertently ask a question that supplies the sort of answer he or she was looking for. This may not reflect the real answer that the delegate wished to give as either he or she might not want to contradict the Trainer or is simply happy to go along with what the Trainer is suggesting, eg ‘so that phase had to be aborted because they failed to meet their obligations?’
A Training module should be a constructive and positive experience for the delegate raising and not destroying his or her confidence. This is very unlikely to be the case if the questions posed by the Trainer are critical or raise obvious doubts about the delegate's competence. Such questions on their own or accompanied by sarcasm will, no doubt, lead to a negative attitude towards the training process. Furthermore, testing questions, which can be usefully employed in training, might be viewed by the delegate in a training module as indicating a critical superior attitude on the part of the Trainer.
Although, on occasions, the Trainer may wish to seek specific information through closed questions of the ‘Did you...’ variety, a discussion dominated by these sorts of questions may turn out to be rather restricted. The delegate may respond in a very limited way which is contrary to the spirit of effective training. The conversational balance becomes too Trainer-orientated rather than delegate-centred.
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