Friday, February 20, 2015

Event #1: Gain Their Attention

A coworker of mine had so many ideas swimming in her head for the training she was developing for staff. Pairing the right book to the right reader is something near and dear to her heart and she wanted staff to be as excited about emerging readers as she is.  She had all of the content for her training, but she was having trouble figuring out how to put it all together. So, she came to me for help and I let her in on a little secret - Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction.

Robert Gagne, a psychologist known for his learning theories, developed what I consider to be essentials of creating training. Because the 9 events are routed in Behavior and Cognitive schools of thought, they work well in any classroom and fit to most lessons. I’m going to take the next several blog posts to talk about each of the 9 Events starting with Event #1: Gaining the Learner’s Attention.

Gaining the learner’s attention can be defined simply as signaling to the learner that class is beginning. Under this definition, a short introduction would do the trick. You know the one where the trainer states their name, occupation, and gives a brief history of why they are qualified to teach the course. While a brief introduction of who you are is a good thing, especially if the learners may not know you personally, anything beyond that is superfluous information that is just down right boring to the learner. From their perspective, if you are teaching the course then you should be qualified to teach it - no explanation needed. The only exception to this may be if you are speaking to a group outside of your organization. In this case, you may prefer to have someone introduce you.

From there, introductions may go on to give an explanation of what the class is going to be about. Something along the lines of “today we will be talking about customer service and how it impacts our relationships with external and internal customers” is just filler information. Hopefully, the learners in your classroom already know why they are there. If you are concerned they may not know which class they’ve attended you can cut your introduction into a 5 second sound byte that states the class, your name, and your title:

“Welcome to Emergent Readers and Beyond. My name is Jane Smith, the Children’s Librarian here at Main Street Public Library.”

An introduction is nice, but gaining the learner’s attention can go far beyond the basics of stating facts. Typically introductions are followed by definitions or history lessons ad nauseam. There’s nothing wrong with definitions or giving a bit of history on the topic, but doing so should reel the learner in and make them vested in what they are about to learn.

The easiest way to grab the attention of your learners is by telling a story. Narratives are compelling and can be used to help define words or share a bit of history that is interesting. The more compelling the story, the more likely learners will be receptive to the content. Stories are often best when personal to the storyteller, but they don’t have to be. Using scenario situations or asking the learners to imagine a specific situation are all different ways to use storytelling effectively.

Images can also be powerful in gaining the attention of your learners. Starting off with a specific image and asking participants to say what comes to mind allows them to define the subject for themselves. For example, a class on customer service could begin with showing several images of poor customer service behaviors. The class could then define what makes a customer service transaction poor which can then segue into positive customer service behaviors.

In addition to images, you may want to consider video or audio as a way to start  the class. Allow the video to define the class for you and use it as a tool to start discussion. Audio is usually outshined by video but it can be a great tool. Using audio only forces the learner to give their full attention to the what is being communicated because there are no visual clues to assist.

Once you’ve nabbed their attention, you are ready to start training in a more focused environment. Getting everyone on the same page will allow you to begin the next phase - clarifying the objectives.