Monday, September 15, 2014

Three Creative Techniques for Teaching Technical Content

If you are an educator teaching technical content such as Microsoft Excel or other software, many of your students may have had learning experiences that are lecture based or had teachers that employ "show and go" methods.  These students may be so familiar with these passive training approaches that they begin to prefer passive approaches to more effective training approaches which ask the students to explain of technical information and provides opportunities for practicing the new skills.

The question is......

How do you accommodate students' preferences and still use creative facilitation techniques to make the learning active?

Here are three ideas:

1. Acknowledge students' comfort level with lecture and demonstration

Tell students that you plan to use a lighter, shorter version of a lecture in the beginning of the class.  In other words, you will avoid long boring lecture by encouraging participation and offering variety when you must deliver information.  Use demonstrations to introduce technical information and processes.  Remember, your demonstrations also will include practice so that students get a chance to try and apply new skills for themselves.  A good practice for teaching technical content is the 20-80 rule where 20% lecture and 80% demonstration and practices.

2. Recognize the importance of students' roles in acquiring the new knowledge and skills

Share "what's in it for them" with students.  Communicating clearly the benefits of active learning will encourage students to remain involved in the class.  One benefit is that people remember a lot more of what they say and do than what you say and do.  It's called active learning.  The more you involve student throughout the class, the more they will remember and be able to apply after the class.  Students must relate the new material to concepts they already understand.  Teachers must give students a chance to connect the new experiences to previous ones in order to help them learn.  The connections are often made during demonstration, practice and active experiences.

3. Use technical exercises that are relevant to students' environment

One style of exercise is a troubleshooting challenge.  You can set up technology that students use during the class.  This could be a machine, simulation, or software program - essentially anything technical that requires using a successful process to complete a task.  Then invite and ask participants to break the technical item, either by using an approach provided by the teacher in a handout or by relying on their own experience for challenges with the technology.  Once the technology is broken, students work individually to fix the situation.

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Article credits: ASTD Press 2011: Creative Facilitation Techniques for Training

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