What classes do you require trainers to attend after they first begin teaching? Instructor development is a significant component of your training organization, yet training managers often struggle to provide opportunities specifically for the trainer. Does your instructor development focus on building subject-matter knowledge and skills, instructor skills, or both? Instructor development programs have four possible elements.
Subject-Matter Experience and Expertise
Encouraging a trainer to gain additional experience and expertise in his or her specific area of interest is probably the most common instructor development pathway. As an individual transitions from the student role to instructor, there will be holes in the individual’s knowledge base. It’s very important to teach instructors to recognize their own knowledge gaps and provide tools for self-education. If an instructor has a specific interest, provide relevant opportunities whenever possible. If the training organization can recognize common knowledge gaps, then make an effort to provide additional depth whenever possible.
Classroom and Instructor Abilities
Many people attain the title of “instructor” or “trainer” by virtue of train-the-trainer programs. These programs blend subject-matter knowledge, instructional methodology, and administrative procedures into classes ranging from 24 to 80 hours. While extremely effective at building an instructional cadre quickly, instructors are often at a disadvantage unless they have prior instructional experience. There are many opportunities to develop instructional ability outside the training organization.
Community colleges are a good, inexpensive resource for rounding out the abilities of these trainers. Public speaking classes are excellent at building confidence in new trainers while teaching valuable lessons about audience dynamics, persuasion, and language selection. Classes in video production and photography provide trainers with a valuable skill. Classes in new media and web design can be very useful when preparing trainers to develop and teach online classes.
Nearby colleges and universities frequently conduct instructor development workshops; work with them to include trainers on adult learning theory and instructional methodology.
Leadership and Management Programs
For many individuals, a training position may just be an intermediate stop on the way to a leadership or management role within the company. Skills in fields such as project management or human resources can be valuable in both the short term support of the training center, and the trainer’s career path. Again, community college programs can be a cost-effective source for these sessions.
Another way to develop instructors is through participation in local professional associations or governing boards. Many communities now offer “leadership academies” bringing together individuals from government, public safety, education and business for an immersive experience lasting six to twelve months. Encourage instructors to be active in any national professional associations related to their teaching activities.
According to a 2008 study by Bersin and Associates, over 85 percent of U.S. companies offer some type of tuition reimbursement program as part of a benefit package. Companies support a wide variety of programs and structures and serve three basic purposes. Tuition reimbursement is a recruiting tool for recruiting talent that may still be completing a degree. Supporting an instructor’s development as they seek relevant degrees can be a valuable motivational and retention tool.
Your Instructor Development Program
There is no “one size fits all” instructor development program that will fit every training organization. Look at these four areas, and try to provide at least one opportunity from each category to each instructor on a recurring basis. If evaluations identify concerns about an instructor, these same types of programs can help bring the individual up to speed.