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5 Instructional Techniques to End a Course with Purpose

Posted by Jeff Welch on 11/10/14 3:00 AM
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“Finis” is the Latin word for end or conclusion. When it comes to instructor-led training courses, they should end just as strongly as they begin.


I came to this realization years ago after attending a vendor-provided customer service course. The course itself was relatively sound. It was comprised of relevant content, interactive exercises, and many user-friendly materials. However, the anticlimactic ending left something to be desired.


About five minutes before the scheduled 4:30 p.m. ending, the instructor abruptly stated, “Folks, we’re about to wrap things up. Does anyone have any questions?”


Really? Who has in-depth, last minute questions during the final five minutes of a day’s worth of training? From my experience, not many people do. At least none did in this particular class. Our lack of questions was probably due to the fact that we were all thinking about and dreading the horrendous commutes we all faced during that evening’s rush hour traffic.


One could almost hear the clock tick during the lengthy and uncomfortable pause as the instructor waited anxiously for someone to ask a question. Eventually he ended by nervously saying, “Well, that’s all I have. Thanks for your participation.” At that point a few participants applauded with hesitation, while the rest of us gathered our belongings and rushed toward the nearest exit.


From that point, I made a vow that I would conclude my courses with a bit more pomp and circumstance than what I had just witnessed.


In my humble opinion, the ending of a training course needs to have purpose. A purposeful ending brings a course full circle and officially concludes the training event. I’ll share a few instructional techniques I use for ending a course with purpose.

1. Include Q&A

Incorporating a question-and-answer session at the end of your course is an effective way to gauge the participant’s understanding before releasing them into the wilds of the workplace. However, don’t make the mistake of asking the closed-ended question “Does anyone have any questions?” The answer (spoken or unspoken) is typically a resounding “no.”


Instead, I usually ask an open-ended question (e.g. “What questions do you have about the 4-step process we just covered?) Or better yet, instead of asking if the participants have questions, simply ask them a few prepared questions to check their understanding.


2. Incorporate a Review

The questions you ask your participants could be done courtesy of a content-based review. Some review options might be to administer a quiz or facilitate a game modeled after such popular favorites as Family Feud or Jeopardy!


I prefer the game option as it allows your participants to answer content-related questions in a fun, engaging way. You can check their understanding based on the amount of correctly answered questions. As an added bonus, the interaction of the game encourages the participants to stay focused and not get distracted by things like their upcoming rush-hour commute.


3. Revisit the Objective

Purposely revisiting the course objective indicates accomplishment. Ideally, each of your courses should be positioned at the beginning with a clear, performance-based objective (e.g. Prepare an Excel spreadsheet). A well-designed and well-facilitated course usually meets that objective. Revisiting the objective by either reading it or restating it suggests that your training mission was accomplished.


4. Conduct Action Planning

Action planning is a self-reflection technique that allows participants to think about and consider their key learning take-a-ways. The technique can be as simple as allowing the participants to record any ideas, tips, or concepts they learned and their plans to use them back on the job.


While facilitating a leadership course, I once had my participants consider their goals as they related to the course content. I instructed each participant to fold a blank sheet of paper into thirds. Next I had them unfold the paper and label each column: short-term, mid-term, and long-term. Lastly, I gave the group of new supervisors five minutes to think about the information they just explored and commit to using at least one idea as a short-, mid-, and long-term goal.


I found that having the participants actually document and record their thoughts made their information more tangible and concrete.


5. Address Relapse Possibilities

Just because your participants acquired valuable skill and knowledge in your course doesn’t mean they won’t relapse or revert to bad habits once they get back to their jobs. Relapse can and does happen! For that reason, a relapse prevention strategy may be necessary.


Relapse prevention may be as modest as facilitating a brief closing discussion. During this discussion, I recommend focusing on barriers to implementing the participant’s newly acquired skill and knowledge (e.g. lack of time or support). In addition to the barriers, it’s also important to discuss the workarounds and ways to overcome those barriers.


Lastly (if applicable), it might be helpful to offer the training department’s ongoing support as a way to assist with relapse prevention. Inform the participants of any additional learning resources such as online tools, advanced training, or one-on-one tutorials.


This extension of the training department’s proverbial “olive branch” let’s your participants know they will be fully supported as it relates to their training and professional development.


Simply put, instructor-led courses should end just as strongly as they begin. That’s always been my instructional policy. What instructional techniques do you use to end your training courses with purpose?

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Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

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