TYPES OF CLASSROOM TRAINING METHODOLOGIES
Training is defined as the act of teaching person-specific skills or behaviors. In the corporate world, training has the same definition (minus the animal, of course) and its primary goal is to improve an employee’s current competencies and perhaps add new knowledge in preparation for additional tasks or a promotion. Three things are taken into consideration when developing a training plan – knowledge, skills, and attitude (KSA). Knowledge is what a person knows (or should know) and is further divided to 3 categories: declarative refers to the pool of information an individual possesses and is the “default definition” of knowledge, procedural deals with application (how the knowledge is used) and strategic has to do with decision-making (what to do with knowledge). Skill, on the other hand, is the proficiency of how someone does something such as work. Lastly, attitude is how a person acts and thinks which in turn affect behavior and motivation (which can have a significant impact on one’s output at work, for example, well-motivated employees usually perform well compared to those who don’t like what they’re doing). Training programs are often planned to improve on all three at once, but that is usually not the case since it depends on the objectives set for them by the organization. For example, training focused on improving employee attitude and motivation at work might not be able to impart new knowledge regarding their job. These programs are then implemented via cognitive (oral and written means such as lectures and manuals) or behavioral (simulations and activities allowing the participants to perform what is being taught such as roleplaying) methods discussed in more detail below:
Lecture, the basic and the usual training methodology used. It involves presenting the material in front of the participants (either via a computer screen or in a board) and the lecturer discussing it. Participants can ask questions for more details or take notes, so they have a reference to read later on. Sometimes, they can even ask for a copy of the lecturer’s materials. For lectures to be useful, topics must be discussed in sequence so that the participants can follow what’s going on. For example – Topic A must be tackled first as Topic B requires an understanding of its concepts) and that the lecturer must be engaging (or at least articulate or not monotone) enough that the participants don’t get bored, and consequently not absorb the information being relayed to them.
Discussion is another usual methodology employed in training. The main difference between discussions and lectures is that the former encourages output from the participants and the exchange of information. This assumes that the participants have knowledge about the topics and that the training is more of clarifications than imparting new knowledge. Discussions are also considered more effective than lectures as “active” participation and questioning improves retention of information. It ensures as well that topics are touched upon in more detail as output from both parties is combined and articulated increasing each other’s repertoire of knowledge.
E-Learning – it involves the use of computers, other technological devices, and the Internet. Software and electronic simulations can be created to teach participants without the need for an instructor, setting up “practice” environments, or exposing them to unfavorable situations. E-Learning reduces costs for the organization and allows more accessible information to the participants as they can access it anywhere provided they have a decent Internet connection and the necessary systems. Even improvements to the training can be easily made by just programming algorithms that record participants’ learning curve, capabilities, and output. E-learning can also replace “traditional” personal training methods as lectures and discussions can be done via video communication if not pre-recording them for download and later viewing of the participants. Disadvantages that come with adopting an e-learning training system include the need to have and maintain specific software and systems to utilize it effectively and that it may prove to disengage to participants after some time compared to personal interactions.
Simulations – allows the participants to perform what is being taught to them in a controlled environment. Examples of simulations and similar activities include:
Equipment simulators – these machines are designed to replicate the functions, movement, and processes of the real thing as closely as possible without the accompanying hazards. They are ideal for pilots, engineers, ship crew and other technology and mechanic-intensive jobs. Current equipment simulators can even mimic the effects of outside factors such as the weather and machine failure that can affect the real thing for an “all-rounded” training.
Business games – if equipment simulators are to machine-related jobs, then business games are to how an organization functions and each department interacts with one another. Participants are given their roles and responsibilities and tasked to perform them in certain situations. Feedback is then given if they did well or not, and the “games” continue until the objective of the exercise is achieved. Those employing this training method must ensure that focus is maintained on the lessons rather than the fun and competition.
In-Basket Technique – this “business game” narrows down the scope of training to specific positions and responsibilities. Participants are asked to act and decide as if they are a particular position (such as an operations manager or project coordinator) in different situations. Feedback is then given, praising the correct decisions and asking participants to look for alternatives for the wrong ones. This training method is often used to choose among candidates for managerial positions and improve the knowledge of those working in those posts.
Case Studies – used to simulate strategic business decisions and their potential impact on business operations. The trainer first presents the current situation (or predicament) of another (usually fictional) organization, and the participants are tasked to comment on it (or find solutions) using guide questions. Short case studies typically take a few minutes and an hour at most to analyze while longer ones may take up the whole training session (or even be discussed the next time). The answers are then evaluated and reviewed among the trainer and participants to determine their merits. The aim of this training is not the correctness of a decision but the process they are made and appropriateness to the situation at hand.
Roleplay – the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the word “simulation”, it involves the participants acting out a role in a given situation. Compared to “business games” and “in-basket technique”, roleplaying is more spontaneous and less structured as the participants are given leeway on what their role is and how they do it. This methodology makes it ideal for topics like communication, decision-making conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills development as it allows the participants to make quick decisions and fosters cooperation and understanding among them. The aim is to see an individual’s behavior, interaction with others, and how it affects the organization. Although some may not like this training period as it puts them uncomfortably in the spotlight. Another disadvantage of this methodology is that it can be difficult for a participant to generate feedback or learn something if they need to act or critique the performance of their peers (having to memorize lines or think of a situation while someone else is performing or unable to observe the performance properly to form a coherent opinion).
Behavior modeling – the trainer gives an example of a desired or ideal behavior in a particular situation, and the participants are tasked to replicate it. Sometimes, the trainer and some participants will act side by side, allowing the rest to observe and take notes.
To summarize, simulations provide a controlled environment wherein procedural knowledge can be tested and refined. Often, existing knowledge of the job or organization is required to make a realistic simulation (or as realistic as the training will allow). Each of the different types caters to a specific need and responsibility, namely:
Equipment simulators – for machine and technologically intensive jobs
Business games – for everyone directly involved in business operations and processes
In-basket technique – for managers and those making decisions for the organization
Case studies – developing analytic and problem-solving skills of the members of the organization
Roleplay – to see how an individual behaves and interacts with others
Behavior modeling – to show appropriate actions for a given situation
On-the-job Training (OJT) – usually done by students before graduation to prepare them for the work their respective courses entail. Employees of an organization teach the participants about the responsibilities they might be performing in the future and allows the latter to apply what they have learned in their studies. It can also involve experienced employees teaching new or underperforming ones the “ropes”. OJT can be handled with the following methods:
Job-Instruction-Technique (JIT) – the trainer orients the trainee about the basics and responsibilities that come with the job. The competencies and knowledge of the trainee are then determined (by checking school or employee records or previous work and job-related experiences) to which a training plan is formulated to address deficiencies. Afterward, goals are set which the trainee must comply with, and the process moves on with the trainer demonstrating how the job is done, whom to report, needed output and tools to be utilized. Once the trainee is familiarized with all aspects of the job, he or she is asked to do it under the guidance and supervision of the trainer. Questions and suggestions are recommended to ease the transition. Completion of goals and progression should be monitored until the end of the training.
Apprenticeship – usually done in Western Europe in place of OJT. The assumption is that the apprentice is already knowledgeable about all facets of the job and that the trainer would need to refine his/her skills. If successful, an apprentice is certified and given journeyman status, allowing him/her to train an apprentice. Government agencies and trade organizations often set standards to be met by apprentices.
Coaching – provision of one-on-one training and instruction and commonly used for underperforming employees or those with the potential to be a star. Performance must be constantly monitored, and feedback and guidance given until improvements are made. The aim is for the trainee to either improve or realize his/her potential. Coaching is also another humane manner in which an organization deal with underperformers to avoid the need for termination.
Mentoring – a more experienced employee, usually someone from upper management, takes someone, likely those with exceptional skills and talent, under his/her tutelage and personally teaches them everything about the organization and the job. It differs from coaching in that the trainee is most likely a star performer and improving his/her place in the organization or to replace the mentor in the future.
Training is a necessity for all organizations to remain relevant and updated with all the developments in their respective industries. Its aim is for continuous improvement and conducted with a variety of methods. A good training program doesn’t rely on just one methodology but on a combination of techniques that catch the participants’ interests and meet the organization’s needs, ensuring that the former receive all the knowledge imparted to them and incentivized to keep. There is no “one size fits all” solution, but the important thing is that they cater to the organization’s improvement.