training - when I really learnt to throw the monkey
“That was rubbish, I’m not as good at this as I thought” was my first realisation that I needed to work hard to become an excellent trainer. I was quite sure of myself you see; having worked as a trainer for years at a training school, the way we delivered the training wasn’t massively challenging in my opinion. Looking back now, I realised that I needed knocking down a peg or two and was the best thing that could have happened as it helped make me the Trainer I am today.
So how exactly did I come to this realisation? Well, I was well qualified in the system that was used to grade us as trainers, but I had just subscribed onto a one-year University Post Compulsory Education and Training (Old Cert Ed). Our Tutor was called Bob, and he had been in the teaching profession for 40+ years so you can imagine he’d seen it all! The course involved many lectures but also assessments in the workplace looking at our training delivery and in particular how we engaged in aiding the learning and indeed if learning had taken place. The time came to do my first assessment, and I felt quite confident after all, why wouldn’t I be? I’d been assessed many times before on this very lesson, and all was good; the training packages were well written, incorporating everything that was needed and learning would take place as it always had before, or so I thought… Bob is a lovely guy and was very complimentary in his feedback with a lot how I delivered, but ultimately, I had become set in my ways; very scripted without any proper engagement. Looking back, it was the type of training I spend so much time telling people not to do nowadays (mostly tell and PowerPoint-driven)! Bob challenged me there and then and I’ll never forget his feedback. He said to me “Scott, I can see that you are a great trainer with lots of natural ability, but you aren’t delivering the best you can, and your learners are suffering for it. I want you to do the same lesson again, but this time I want you to think hard about how to engage them and to know when you walk away, and that learning has taken place.” I was genuinely gutted but used the feedback positively to come up with a strategy that would do as he had asked but with still with a slightly closed mind still, didn’t quite fully understand.
What I came up with was a hugely interactive lesson with questions and activities throughout and culminated in an exercise where all of the learners had to stick on bits of paper and glue in the right places to show me if they understood the system I had been teaching. Much to my delight (and Bob’s), every single one of the learners got the system right, and for the first time in a classroom setting, I was 100% sure that learning had taken place in every one. The lightbulb moment had happened, and I now know this was the very first time I learnt how to throw the monkey properly. Bob’s feedback to me was that it was an excellent lesson with massive improvement, engagement throughout and of course, that proven learning had taken place. I was chuffed to bits and even more so when I later found out that the question in the learners later exam related to the subject I had taught was 100%! I passed the course, but more importantly, from then on, I knew what I had to do to make sure I engaged in every session, and that learning was taking place. Bob retired from teaching a year later, but I will always remember him fondly and thank him for making me throw that monkey properly and shaping the trainer I am now.
We’d love to hear your stories of how you learnt how to throw the monkey properly and what effect it had you and the people you were training.
Scott Fraser is a Master Trainer at Target Training and delivers our PTT Train the Trainer courses and our Advanced PTT Train the Trainer courses. You can read more about him here.