Archive for the ‘Training Tips’ Category
Thursday, April 24th, 2014
What do you do when you have a difficult concept to teach your students? Do you give the best possible explanation and then ask if there are any questions? If you’ve tried that method, chances are you’ve been met with a few blank stares.
One strategy we like and use is the teach-back method. The teach-back method is often used in the healthcare setting to check in with patients that they have clearly understood the healthcare professional’s instructions. It’s not used as a test or a quiz, but rather to gauge if the teacher’s explanation was effective and if there are any points that need to be clarified or reemphasized.
You can use this tool in your classes by partnering students in groups of two or three to have them explain or recap any material you have introduced. You might say, “Turn to the person next to you and take turns explaining what we just talked about.”
A few examples:
- When would you use X instead of Y for your search?
- What’s the difference between Database X and Database Y?
- How do you get the full-text of an article?
While students are teaching each other, you can circulate to listen for misconceptions. At the end, you can ask the class for any points of confusion that came up during their discussion, for volunteers to relate their explanations, or for students to then apply the concept to an example.
Monday, March 31st, 2014
A recent post from the blog Teacher Thought wrote about using what we know about how the brain thinks to create a more productive learning environment. Here are just a few of the ideas from the post.
1) Learning doesn’t happen in a bubble.
“Learning only occurs when the student can connect new information to old information. Teaching someone how a car works is pointless if they don’t know what a car is.”
From the NTC: This comes out in many of the PubMed core competency discussions we have during PubMed for Trainers. Trainers often include a What is PubMed section in their classes. It’s one thing to know how to use PubMed, but knowing why and when to use PubMed can help students choose the best database to start their research.
2) Create a friendly learning environment
“Neuroscience: The brain feels before it thinks. The amygdala (think fight/flight) receives stimuli 40 milliseconds before the cortex (thinking).
Usable classroom translation: stress impedes learning. Try to connect with your students when they come into your class by making eye contact, greetings, and taking a moment to chat before diving into the lesson.”
From the NTC: If you teach online, there are a few things you can try to create a comfortable environment. 1) Create a discussion forum where students introduce themselves. 2) If you teach a live/synchronous online class, consider using a web cam and use people’s names when they enter the online classroom.
3) Teaching for mastery
“Neuroscience behind it: In order for information to be retained it must make its way from short-term to long-term memory.
Usable classroom translation: Use the arts as a tool to enhance and reinforce learning.”
From the NTC: One trainer recently sang a song in class to help students see the difference between two concepts. Later we overheard a student refer to the song as a way to remember the new concepts.
Read the full post at: http://ow.ly/vdK2g
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
In January, I attended a presentation called Making Interactivity Count by Cammy Bean, Vice President of Learning Design at Kineo. You can find her slide deck on Slideshare and I recommend looking at her other presentations as well. Here are a few of my takeaways from her talk. Though her points were geared to the elearning environment, they are highly applicable to the face-to-face classroom as well.
When designing instruction, we try to incorporate interactivity. But what is interactivity? Interactivity occurs on a spectrum and can be human-to-human, or human-to-thing. Even thinking meaningfully can be interactive. Her four strategies for incorporating interactivity are:
1. Get them reflecting! Have your students practice integrating the content into their own mental schema. Ask a question to get them to stop, think, and apply what they have just learned. For example, what are you going to start doing, stop doing, or continue doing with this new knowledge?
2. Get them feeling! Make your stories or examples about real people or put the learner in the story. Ask them questions about the story or why it matters.
3. Get them acting! Build in worksheets or have students assess what’s going right or wrong with a scenario. For example, if you demonstrate a search that returns zero results, have your students determine why and how to fix it. Ask students what they would do in a given situation.
4. Get them connecting! Have your students talk to each other. Use a survey and share the results.
A few other words of caution from Cammy Bean:
- Don’t add interactivity just for the sake of interactivity (or as Cammy put it, Beware the clicky clicky, bling bling!)
- Be sure that the interactive elements have context
- Don’t allow the interactivity to overwhelm the content
What are some new ways you might add interactivity to your classes?
Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Information overload. When presented with lots of new information in a short period of time (during a webinar or in-person training session), how are we to know what’s most important in the presentation?
A Sherpa is a person of Nepalese descent and is known for serving as a guide to mountain climbers, notably for Mount Everest. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Sherpa (a guide) to help us focus on the most important components of a presentation? Enter guided note taking.
Guided notes (as opposed to complete notes provided to students) are a teacher-prepared handout used to help students focus on the key elements of a presentation. If you want to help students understand a new concept, include the description in a prepared handout, but leave a blank so the students have to fill in a missing piece of information. This approach engages students and helps them focus on the key points. The National Library of Medicine Training Center uses this approach in some of their classes.
While a 2006 article published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis didn’t find “consistent differences between the two note formats on students’ mean quiz scores.” The researchers did see more correct answers on quizzes where students had used guided notes.
My suggestion…try it, you might like it.
Click here to read the freely available full-text article at PubMed Central.
Monday, February 24th, 2014
Technology; most of us have a love/hate relationship with it. But wouldn’t it be great if we had a love/love relationship with technology? Specifically, love for an online course we might take or even develop. Karla Gutierrez of SHIFT’s eLearning Blog recently posted an article titled: Bridging the Gap Between Human Learners and eLearning Technology. Gutierrez pointed to 4 “human factors” to consider when designing an online class. Also, as students, we intrinsically want these factors to be present.
I’ve pulled some excerpts from Gutierrez’s article. Just reading about human centered design made me feel more at ease.
1) The human brain prefers to recognize, not recall. Learners should not have to spend more time trying to remember how to navigate from one page to another, than they do engaging in learning the material.
2) The human brain likes chunking by seven. Requiring learners to grasp too many concepts at one time can cause them to “drop” that information.
3) The human brain likes to organize information.The proper placement of information can help learners recall knowledge when they need it.
4) The human brain likes patterns. Use consistent screen design.
The U.S. government has a website about user experience design principles called: http://www.usability.gov
Here is a link to a section called User Experience Basics: http://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-experience.html
Read the entire article here: http://goo.gl/MVvsLt
Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Don’t you wish that any time you taught, your students were completely captivated by what you had to say?
As teachers and trainers, you know it’s important to grab the audience’s attention right away. Whether you teach busy clinicians, exhausted students, or distracted researchers, getting and keeping the audience’s attention can be a real challenge. So how do you do it?
A recent post over at CopyBlogger describes three steps that you can apply to capture the attention of your students. Their post really addresses blog writing, but I think they can be applied to the classroom as well. By applying these steps, you just might find that you have gained ground in the competition for your audience’s attention.
Step 1: Empathize with your student’s struggle. Show them that you understand their needs and the accompanying challenges. For example, you might indicate that you know how important it is to have the most recent literature for their research, but how difficult it can be to make sure you have the best sources.
Step 2: Promise your students a benefit. Let them know right away how they will be rewarded for their attention and why they should pay attention. Will it take them less time to find what they need? Will they impress their attendings with their ability to find the best evidence?
Step 3: Provide reassurance. Let them know it’s not going to be too hard because you’re going to let them in on a few secrets or a simple trick that will elevate their skill. This really doesn’t have to take long, but by using these steps to slightly revamp your introduction, you may find that you have a more attentive class.
Did you notice any of these steps at work in this post?
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
I recently attended the American Society for Training and Development‘s TechKnowledge conference. It was a great opportunity to see new training technologies and learn from others about their challenges and strategies in training. ASTD’s membership is quite diverse and includes those who do compliance training, technical and software training, workforce development, and many other areas. In all the sessions, I found myself looking for ways to apply techniques from other areas to what we do here at the NTC. In the next few blog posts I’ll share some of the tips and tricks I learned in these sessions.
One of the first sessions I attended was about identifying and avoid pitfalls in the virtual classroom. As we (and many others) move more of our classes online, this seemed particularly relevant.
The instructor first described the difference between webinars and a virtual classroom. For her, a virtual classroom uses web conferencing software to facilitate synchronous learning with a high degree of interaction. A webinar, on the other hand, is more one-way communication or simply presentation of information. Here are some of her tips:
- Tip #1: Make sure participants understand what a virtual classroom is and establish right away that it is an active, not passive, learning environment. Use opinion questions at the beginning to engage participants from the outset and clearly communicate that the virtual classroom is for building skills.
- Tip #2: Know the platform you’re delivering in, practice in it, and have someone else as a “producer” when instructing. The role of the producer is to set up the room, assist participants with technical difficulties, answer questions, and help make sure transitions are smooth. Although we don’t really refer to it as a producer, we at the NTC always make sure that another trainer is available to help with these issues. If you deliver classes over the web, I highly recommend it.
- Tip #3: Have a plan for how you will distribute materials. If you have handouts or other materials, how will the students get them?
- Tip #4: Never have more than 2 “tell” slides in a row. Break it up with some kind of interaction.
- Tip #5: Pilot and Practice!
Monday, February 10th, 2014
Here is a collection of 6 tips for practicing a presentation or preparing for a class (with some added commentary by me).
1) Internalize don’t memorize: Knowing the content of your presentation is first and foremost. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use notes to keep you on track and to make sure you cover everything you intended.
2) Present out loud: The first time I did this I felt funny…not anymore. Practicing out loud helps me feel more confident and creates a sense memory…just like Hollywood actors describe.
3) Present standing up: This really makes a difference; make it part of the rehearsal. It’s related to that idea of sense memory again.
4) Present in the clothes you are going to wear: I can’t say that I have done this, but dressing appropriately for the occasion, whether it be a presentation or a snow storm, is important.
5) Time your presentation: I use the stopwatch on my cell phone. Remember to add some minutes to the total of your timed presentation to account for questions. Do the same if you are planning exercises during a class.
6) Visit the location of your presentation: Here at the NTC we travel around the country and teach in computer labs. When possible, we arrange to visit the lab the day before class so there are no big surprises awaiting us.
Read the original post by Dr. Michelle Mazur.
Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Playing music during training? If you’re never experienced this, it might seem like an odd idea. I’ve had this experience during some of the training sessions at the Bob Pike annual conference I attended last year. The instructors played music as people were filtering in to the classroom. The rationale, as this article discusses, is “to alleviate their tension and create a relaxed learning atmosphere.” I’m happy to report that it worked!
Other ideas for music in training are to use it for transitioning from one activity to another (in short bits) and to use song parodies to revisit training content. (If you can sing the exact words to any TV opening credits from your childhood, or sing the words to a French song from the 1970’s when you don’t know any other French, you know how powerful music is as a memory aid!)
Where to find the music? Look for royalty-free music web sites. If you try incorporating music into your training, let us know how it worked!
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
What are some effective teaching behaviors that we can incorporate into our classes for learners of all types? A post from the “Tomorrow’s Professor” mailing list, sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, discussed eight behaviors to consider. The behaviors that particularly intrigued me were:
“Teach for Understanding Rather Than Exposure”: determine the “big ideas” behind the class
“Explicit Instruction”: Tell students what they are going to learn, the rationale for learning the material, and how new material relates to what they already learned.
“Scaffolded Instruction”: The three stages of scaffolded instruction are: 1) Students watch the teacher perform a task; 2) teacher and student do the task together; 3) student does it alone.
“Errorless Learning”: Present the material using smaller steps so that students can achieve success without errors.
You can read the full article here.