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NATA - Not Another Training Acronym



Love them or hate them, acronyms are everywhere.  Everytime I go to a new company or read something there are a shed load of acronyms and I have spent a lot of time getting confused and wasted a lot of time just trying to work them out .   

One of my first jobs was for an automotive company, I worked there for several years and  it was drummed into me that CV was always Commercial Vehicles and PC was always passenger car, that so changed when I had to write a CV and then train people to use PC's.   I know how annoying it can be when people throw acryonms at you and just expect you to know what they mean.  To help I have started compiling a list, I  won't add every single one I know as there are just too many but these are quite useful and some are quite funny.  I promise I will add more to it as they crop up but here are some for starters: 

ADDIE - Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation (Instructional Systems Development process model).
AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.  (Another model)
AKA - Also Known As. (Pretty much recognised and understood everywhere)
ALF - Always Listen First. (I Really wish more people would do this)  
BEER - Behaviour, Effect, Expectation and Results. (and yet another model)
BID
- Break It Down. (One of the first rules of training, because you never should try to teach everything in one go. Well you can try but just see how well they get on).
CARE - Crap And Really Expensive. (Also known as most cowboy plumbers, electricians and consultants). 
CRAFT - Can't Remember A Flaming Thing. (Refers to any mandatory training event or just me in my old age).
CYA - Cover Your Ass (Because it will bite you there if you don't).
DSM - Don't Shoot Me (I am just the messenger, well the Trainer but it's the same thing).
FEAR - Forget Everything And Run. (I've just got a new job).
GREAT - Get Really Excited About Today (What I tell everyone at the beginning of a Training Session)
IIP - Investors In People. (Many Employers like to get this before re-organising the company for the 100th time).
KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid (because it makes it easier to retain or you'll be retraining)
KPI
- Key Performance Indicator. (Targets in business generally linked to your performance bonus)
NLP - Neuro-Linguistic Programming. (When you touch your nose I know you are lying). 
PEBKAC - Problem Exists Between the Keyboard And Chair.  (Silent Trainer Talk)
PEACE - Pray Everyday and Cherish Everyone. (Trainer talk for I hope it all works and I promise not to strangle anyone today)
PICNIC - Problem In Chair Not In Computer. (Silent Trainer Talk)
PRIDE - Personal Responsibility in Delivering Excellence. (Another top rule for Trainers) 
SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely (Business goals again generally linked to your performance bonus)
SME - Subject Matter Expert. (Knows everything about the company and the process, not usually the best person for change)
STAR - Show Thankfulness, Appreciation and Respect. (Trainer Motto)
STATE - Staying Together and Trusting Everyone. (Now who wants to be in a STATE?)
SWAG - Scientific, Wild Ass Guess (Not trainer talk but very handy in certain occasions)
SWOT - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. (If you cannot think of anything else to do, then do a SWOT analysis). 
TNA - Training Needs Analysis.
WIIFM - What's In It For Me? (Trainer presentation tips - explain to your audience what they are going to get out of this)
WIT - Works In Theory.(But generally never in practice).
WTFP - What's The Flipping Point. (Response to being asked to train 250 people at the same time for 3 days straight on a system that was going to be binned)
WYSIWYG
- What You See Is What You Get (Pretty much there's nothing else to it)
YOYO - You're On Your Own (What I was told on a one off training assignment with no systems or support)


Discovering Learning Styles

 
 
 
I have mentioned before that to teach or train you have to understand that people learn differently.   People are individuals with their own thoughts and feelings but also with their own goals and objectives when it comes to learning.  To understand how people learn, there are many different methods and models that can be used; after all it is learning styles that have enabled us to understand how individuals learn best.

The very first model I came into contact with was David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory.  As far as I am aware it is one of the most commonly used and well regarded, it has also been adapted by many other well known theorists over time e.g. Honey and Mumford.  In all fairness it does seem rather confusing when you first get into it but once you start delving deeper, you realise how useful these models are in understanding how people process information and ultimately learn. 

David Kolb's Model 

David Kolb first published his learning styles model in 1984, it was something that he had developed over many years and he based it on the Experiential Learning Theory.  Basically he felt that the best learning process engaged four independent learning styles, which enable us to understand how learning styles differ and he modelled them on a four-stage learning cycle, which provides us with a clear cut definition of how experiential learning can be applied to any individual. 


The cycle of learning is a key factor in his model for Experiential Learning Theory, he shows how our 'observations and reflections' are stemmed from our 'immediate or concrete experiences'.  These can then be absorbed and condensed into 'abstract concepts' to provide new suggestions and propositions which can be 'actively tested' and will ultimately allow each individual to experiment with creativity and generate new experiences based on their type of learning preference.    


It is Kolb's understanding that this process defines the learning cycle and allows individuals to sample all areas of learning.   In an ideal learning environment an individual will engage and incorporate these approaches.  I have learnt that for learning to be effective it is imperative that they are incorporated.  As with anything in life, as an individual starts to learn their strengths will become apparent and Kolb has defined that individuals tend to develop strengths in one experience touching approach (meaning whether we watch or do something) and one experience changing approach (meaning how we think or feel).  What then happens is the resulting learning styles are made up of the individual's preference to learning.  I have created a table to show how they are represented:


Learning Style
Descriptive
Parts of the Four Stage Learning Cycle
Converger
Someone who can make practical use of ideas and logical reasoning to resolve issues and problems.
Abstract conceptualisation Active Experimentation
Diverger
An imaginative person who has the ability to think outside the box or from a different point of view.
Concrete experience Reflective observation
Assimilator
Individuals who are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning.
Abstract conceptualisation Reflective observation
Accommodator
Someone who can easily actively engage and put things into practice.
Concrete experience Active experimentation

So when we learn we decide how we are going to touch or digest the experience, subconsciously we will either take:
  • Reflective observation – take in the experience by watching and reflecting on what happens.
  • Active experimentation – just go for it, get on and do it.
At the same moment we decide how to emotionally interpret the experience and will either:
  • Conceptualization – use the process of thinking, analyzing, or planning (abstract) to gain information.
  • Concrete experience – rely only the 'concrete, tangible, felt qualities they have experienced.
It is the combination of the two choices which will enable an individual to understand their preferred learning style and for an assessor to orientate learning in that direction.  

I remember seeing it in this way enabled me to understand that an individual who would rather watch than do and feel rather than think about the experience would have a 'Diverging' learning style.  I have simplified the matrix to show this: 





Here is an explanation of Kolb's four learning styles, given how you process information and how you have learnt in the past, are you able to identify with a particular learning style? 

Accommodating (doing and feeling)

The Accommodating style is one of the most widespread types of learning styles for individuals.  Generally the Accommodating learning style types are very tactile, they are the most 'hands-on' and will rely on ‘gut instinct’ and intuition rather than logic.  They like to ask ‘why’ and ‘what if’, because of their perchance for creative risks they find routine very difficult to maintain.  Accommodating people have a preference to a pragmatic yet experiential approach and will commonly use other people's diagnosis, consequently they rely on others for information to do this.  They are attracted to new challenges and experiences and are quite comfortable with carrying out plans providing they can explore with direct interaction.  The Accommodating individual works better by themselves and will learn more effectively with hands on and practical learning, usually known as try it and do it, rather than hear it and see it.  

 

Diverging (feeling and watching)

Diverging types are generally sensitive people, who are able to take experiences and look at things from different perspectives, often thinking outside of the box starting from the small details to identify the bigger picture.  They prefer to watch rather than do, and have a tendency to gather information and use imagination to solve problems. They are best at viewing concrete situations from several different arenas.  Diverging types of people perform better in situations that require the generation of ideas, for example mind mapping and brainstorming.  People with a Diverging learning style tend to have broad interests; they like to research and gather information.  Focussed on people, they tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be extremely artistic and creative. People with the Diverging style work better in teams and groups as they are able to listen with an open mind, this means that they can easily be influenced by other people and have a need to receive feedback.  A Diverging style learns better with pragmatic instructions and the use of hands on learning, often known as a see it and then try it approach.  

 

Converging (doing and thinking)

Anyone with a Converging learning style will find they are easily able to solve problems, using what they learn to find resolutions to practical issues.  Converging individuals thrive better with technical tasks and problems, meaning they are less concerned with people, including social and interpersonal characteristics and prefer to work by themselves.  Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice and are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories.  They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems quite easily in the way they approach tasks.  A converging learning style is more effective with interaction and computer based training or learning because they have a need to understand how things work in practice. They like facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes, often Convergers work in specialist arenas and have superior technological skills and abilities.

 

Assimilating (watching and thinking)

The Assimilating learning style shows people with the most cognitive, concise and logical approach.  Ideas and concepts are usually more important than people themselves, generally this means they prefer to think than act.   Assimilators require concise, clear explanations such as spoken learning with demonstrations rather than practical opportunity such as role play. They also require documentation to back up what they have learnt, classroom or lecture style learning works exceptional well for anyone with the Assimilating style.  They excel at understanding wide-ranging information and organising it a clear logical format.  People with an Assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts, they have a strong need for control and work better in clean, lean environments than brainstorming or open learning.  

So you may think, well I’m a little bit of this and a little bit of that but there is truth in the fact that we all show clear preferences for a particular learning style.  When an individual learning style is put into effect it has proven that individuals will learn more effectively and retain the knowledge. 

You can see from the types of style above that certain styles will not cope or will find difficulty with other styles for instance people with the Assimilating learning style will not be comfortable being left to get on with it without any direction, notes or instructions.  Such as people who use an Accommodating learning style are likely to fail if they are forced to read lots of instructions and rules before they can start, as their style requires them to get hands on experience as soon as possible to learn in the most effective way.

When creating training for large amounts of people it is not possible to pick and stick with one particular learning style if you want to produce training and learning that is effective for all types, it very much becomes like the saying “You can’t please all the people all of the time” so when designing training or learning it is better to cover all options and use varied styles of delivery to help everyone learn.  For the times that your Accommodating and Convergers lose interest with your Diverging and Assimilating type learning, that is why you, the Trainer are there.

So you want to be a trainer?



When I think back to how I first got into training, I have to admit I never realised it was as tough as it is and I really did think that anyone with knowledge could train.  I have since found this to be complete nonsense.  People often think trainers have an easy job, after all they know the subject and all they have to do is stand there and show everyone else but there is so much more to it than that.  It is hard work and to be effective you need to ensure that you are top of your game.  

If you don't know what the latest developments, techniques and tools there are, how are you going to continue to be an effective trainer?  If you don't understand how people react and behave, how can you empathise and adjust your training appropriately? If you never strive to improve because you feel there isn't any need, then how do you know you are successful? 

In short you don't!  Just because you deliver a course does not mean that you've delivered it! Training is about people, it's not just about the subject, it's about growth and development, change and behaviour, evaluation and analysis. 

When interviewing potential candidates for trainers I have built up a list of key competencies that have been successful in appointing excellent trainers.  You don't have to have all the core skills to be a trainer as you can build them with experience but the base ones you need to have are: 

  • Personable - even the best trainers in the world will not be liked by everyone but as a trainer you are often at the forefront of change.  You are the key to new experiences and learning, if you cannot be approached then you cannot teach in a manner where people will listen to you.
     
  • Change & Flexibility - The willingness to learn, the willingness to impart knowledge and embrace the change that is happening.  Development and training is all about change, if you cannot accept change then how are you supposed to assist others in this process?
     
  • Self Awareness & Empathy - understanding that people learn differently and understanding what each person is going through enables you to adjust your teaching style to the way that people learn.  As people learn differently and their emotions often overtake their rationale, basically means that you need to be able to empathise with people to get the best from them.  Self Awareness means that you need to be sensitive but aware to it.

  • Positivity - training is often working in environments where people are forced to train, and there are times where it is because of a requirement that has to be done because of change.  Generally people find change difficult and it can lead to negativity.  A positive stint on any situation reinforces the benefits and not the requirements for the training.
     
  • Presentation & Creativity - the ability to be able to talk in a sensitive and uncomplex way, without being demeaning.  The ability to create meaningful and interesting visual aids that will engage the people you are training.  To be able to make the most boring subject seem interesting is very much down to presentation and how creative you are with how you relay that information

  • Patience - probably one of the most important traits a trainer can have as people learn differently.  You may be lucky to only have to train one person but when you have a group of people, they will all learn at a different pace.  There are some people that need to understand things several times before it finally sinks in that means that your whole structure could be thrown out.  Is keeping to your times more important than ensuring everyone benefits from what you are doing? No of course not, however being able to relay the same message several different ways is more beneficial than just repeating yourself.  It means you don't sound impatient and you are also testing out the different styles that someone learns by.
     
  • Sense of Humour - probably the second most important trait, there are days when everything can go wrong, nothing works, your class is unresponsive and your subject is death by powerpoint.  A sense of humour will always get you through and on the plus side your classes become more entertaining. 

So do you think you have the skills to become a trainer? Training is a passion and in some respects its a natural path. I find the best trainers are the ones that have that passion naturally, if you force it, training becomes a chore and who wants to do a job that is a chore? More importantly who will listen and learn when it is. 

Personal Development - What does it mean to you?



What I have discovered is that it is the angle from how it is being looked at, which will alter how personal development is actually defined.

For instance if you are employed, your personal development, regardless if it should be, always seems to be focussed on or around your job, or your potential next position within that company e.g. improving your time management, spreadsheet skills, etc.  Then, is it fair to say that if you are self employed you cannot really have any personal development goals? or do your goals evolve around making yourself better at what you do?

I recently read an article on the train that stated "Personal development is our conscious self-improvement and self-transcendence. It is the aspiration to realise our higher self".  Forgive me, I cannot remember where I found the article as I was skipping from one tube station to the next.  From this aspect it is about making yourself a better person and nothing to do with improving your career skills.

So what does personal development mean to me?

Well, I figure that it encompasses improving myself on a number of levels.   So I have my own goals for example, I thrive on knowledge, I love to learn and from that perspective I have my own personal development goal of improving that knowledge but that is not just to do with my job that is also to do with how I live my life.  All in all it's about aiming to be better in my personal and professional life.

Many years ago I decided I was going to learn how to swim, I took the lessons and I learnt, unfortunately something happened and I've never gone back in the water.  This ultimately is a personal development goal for me but one I am well aware will take me time to achieve, but personal development doesn't have to be about the big things it can also be about the little things.  A few years ago I was unable to poach eggs or make omelettes, I decided that I was going to learn how and bought a book, now they are superb, even if I do say so myself.

So how do you achieve those goals, what keeps you motivated and why bother?

Ultimately how you do it depends on the type of person you are, after all there are no hard and fast rules to say you must do this, unless its driven by your employer.    If you really want to develop personally without outside influence then you will, but I am a firm believer that it doesn't hurt to take a little outside look on what you can achieve. 

If you were asked what personal development goals you had, would you be able to say what they were?  most people struggle to think what they would be, however if you were to look at things you would like to be able to do and they are realistically achievable then why not use them?

To Train or Not to Train?



According to Wiki "The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills". It is an apt description but training is also about developing not just acquiring.

Training starts from childhood and for a portion of us we will continue to be trained throughout our lives but how much do we really learn?
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