Tip #508: Separating the Necessary From the Nice to Know

“Concentrating on the essentials. We will then be accomplishing the greatest possible results with the effort expended.” Ted W. Engstrom

I am in the process of finalizing a 22-day business management program for the owners of private medical practices in Africa and in other underdeveloped countries. It was a huge challenge and the program is almost complete. When all of the materials (the facilitator guides, agenda tables, participant materials, PowerPoint slides, pre- and post-tests with answer keys, and additional reference materials for both the half-day and full-day programs) have been properly branded by the United States Agency for Industrial Development, they will be placed on a dedicated website so that any trainer can find and use them.

My next task is to create 10 to 12 short videos (of 5 to 10 minutes in length) that will introduce the entire program and materials, explain the training philosophy, outline the general methodology, provide a quick walk through of one of the modules, and then discuss how to set up and facilitate some of the participant-centered learning activities used in different modules.

It was easy for me to initially rattle off topics when I was brainstorming. Saying the videos might be five or ten minutes in length made them sound easy and breezy. That was before I faced the reality of having to write scripts for each video, memorize the scripts (if not using a teleprompter), and then stand up in front of a professional videographer to shoot the videos

I now need to identify the potential topics for these videos. And therein lies the problem: how to separate the necessary from the nice to know information.

It’s one thing if you know something about your target audience, but in this case I really don’t.   I can only make assumptions that many of the trainers who are likely to want to use our training materials:

  • are more accustomed to lecture than to facilitating participatory learning.
  • do not know why or how to create a comfortable and informal learning environment.
  • have never facilitated learning activities, such as a gallery walk, relay race, or a case study where the participants assess the situation and come up with the answers themselves.
  • are afraid they will lose control over the group because they have had no practice in group facilitation techniques.
  • do not understand why there needs to be a break every 50 minutes or so, or why we want kinesthetic objects on the tables.

The list can go on and on.

Based on my train-the-trainer experiences in Croatia, Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, and Jordan, these assumptions are pretty safe. The trainers who already understand adult learning principles and use participant-centered learning activities (and I have also met a few of them in these countries) can simply skip over any video they don’t need to watch

But that brings me back to the question: what do the trainers, who are new to participatory learning, really need to learn about before they can work with the training materials?

I know we want to give them an overview of the entire program and the materials associated with it. That would be the first video.

There also has to be an explanation of the training philosophy, adult learning principles, and the methodology. That seems like a lot of content. I’m not sure if that would be one, two or three videos.

Another video would assume that the trainer watching already had a facilitator guide in hand, so I could explain how it is laid out, why it is laid out that way, and how the trainer can use it.

With these, we’ve potentially accounted for possibly five of the videos.

I should do a walk through of one of the training days, referring to the facilitator guide and the participant materials. I can’t imagine right now how to fit that into a 10-minute video. That would be the sixth – and maybe also the seventh- video.

Assuming there are five or six remaining videos that can be made, I know that some must address how to set up and facilitate the learning activities that are likely to be the least familiar to the trainers. I could pare the list down by selecting only those activities that are used most frequently throughout the program.

But then again, there are art projects, games, and skits that only occur once or twice, but might be the most challenging for trainers new to those activities.

And what about group facilitation techniques to: encourage and support participant engagement; handle difficult or untimely questions; manage disruptive behaviors; or simply create new table groups?

There is also the issue of timing. None of my training programs in Kenya and Zambia started with the full complement of participants. Some participants would wander in one, two, or even four hours late. It would seem that I should address how to manage that very probable situation. And if time got short, would they know how to transform a questionnaire activity from a small group assignment to a signaled large group discussion, or would they simply revert to lecture? Won’t they need some guidance on what to do in these situations?

In addition, there is the matter of how to use audiovisuals. Do I need to demonstrate that it is important to avoid certain colored markers, title and then write big on flip charts? Do I need to tell them to turn off the PowerPoint when they are done with a slide, or show them how the PowerPoint slides are arranged, so that they don’t inadvertently give an assignment and then immediately click to the answer key in the next slide?

These are all topics that I have covered in these Tips over the years, so if I can find the time to identify and categorize the relevant Tips, we could provide them as additional references.

However, regarding the videos themselves: which of these topics are essential to the effective facilitation of the training program and would benefit from a video presentation- and which fall more clearly into the nice to know category of information that can be handled through additional references?

Any guidance you are willing to impart to help me make these decisions will be most sincerely appreciated!

May your learning be sweet.


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