Training should be highly interactive and engaging for the learner. However, if trainers are not clear in their set-up of activities, there’s the potential to lose credibility. No one wants their learners saying, “Wait! What??”
Here are eight tips to help start an exercise with minimal confusion:
1) Include complete details in the exercise instructions. The instructions should include:
- Why it is important – rationale for the exercise
- How they are to do it – process to be followed (e.g. “Each table group will brainstorm and list on their flip charts…”)
- What they should produce – specific end result or product of the activity (e.g. “A word or phrase to characterize…”)
- How long it should take – time limits of the exercise (e.g. “The time for the exercise will be a maximum of 6 minutes.”)
- How the exercise will be debriefed (e.g. “A table debrief will follow…”)
2) Provide clear instructions in the lesson plan. The instructional designer knows the instructional purpose of the activity; therefore, s/he should provide clear, step-by-step instructions in the lesson plan, including the items shown above.
3) Present the exercise in writing. If the instructions are complex, written instructions will allow individual review or clarification. This instructional technique will appeal to those who have a visual learning style.
4) State the activity instructions verbally. A brief, verbal statement of the exercise instructions will help reinforce the instructions. This instructional technique will appeal to those who have an auditory learning style.
5) Chunk the instructions. With a complex exercise, provide the instructions in chunks or steps (e.g. “The first step of this team exercise is to pick a partner, so do that now. Now that everyone has a partner, the second step is…”).
6) Restate the instructions. Summarize the instructions, as some participants may not have understood them the first time through. It will also confirm for those who heard it the first time that they got it right.
7) Prime the pump. This expression means to “do something to start the action.” In the case of exercise instructions with an output, give the learners a specific example of one of the outputs (e.g. “For example, one characteristic might be…”).
8) Monitor the activity. The trainer should quietly supervise each group, but not intervene unless there is confusion about the exercise, or the exercise objective is not being achieved.
For simple activities it might not be necessary to use each of the tips or instructional techniques listed. However, this is one of those cases in training where more (explicit instructions) is definitely better (than a confused classroom).
What instructional techniques do you employ to ensure your activity instructions are clear and your learners understand what’s expected of them?