How to Teach Others

For Beginning Trainers

The information in this complete self-study material is designed for:

1. People who are only going to teach one or two programs and then stop teaching.

2. Beginning teachers who already have expertise in other areas. For example, this would include people who know how to use word processors and are now going to teach others to do the same.

3. People who are experienced teachers who want to improve some of their knowledge and skills.

The following suggestions will help you decide how to use the material best for your personal needs:

1. Teach only once or twice

If you are only going to teach once or twice, then do not spend a lot of time going over all the material in this package. You have probably been asked to teach because you have a special skill or expert knowledge that others want to learn.

Teach this knowledge or skill in whatever way you feel most comfortable. Since this is a one-time event there is no need to panic yourself with becoming an expert teacher. If you have done presentations in the past, stick with what worked best for you. Spend some time reviewing what you did that worked and what you did that you would like to avoid doing the next time. Follow your instincts.

You may want to look at some of the teaching tips described later in this material. Pick one or two techniques that you find most comfortable and add them to your normal way of presenting things. This will add a little variety and take some of the pressure off from you having to do all the talking.

Do not be surprised if you end up enjoying teaching and want to do more of it. Look for opportunities to teach more often and develop your teaching skills as you need them. There is always room for one more effective teacher in any organization!

2. Beginner

If you are new to teaching but are expected to do quite a bit of training in the next little while, then I suggest you work through the exercises in this material. These exercises will help you understand how you learn, how others learn and what are the principles and characteristics of adult learning.

Read through the rest of the information in this package before you begin to design, teach or evaluate your programs. As well as using this material, speak to people whose teaching style you have liked in the past. Ask them for suggestions and, if possible, to attend one of your programs to provide you with honest feedback about your program and your teaching methods.

Come back to this material regularly at first to fine tune your work. Force yourself to go beyond the normal way of doing things to make your programs more effective and enjoyable. Ask the participants what they liked and what could be improved. Take every opportunity to watch other teachers and learn from their strengths. Also take every opportunity you can to teach and to help other beginning

3. Experienced

Those of you who are experienced teachers can always learn to enhance your knowledge and skills. One of our biggest errors as teachers is that we sometimes forget the basics while we develop specific skills. Do some of the exercises to remind yourself of the basics. Skim the rest of the material to see what information may be new or presented in a slightly different way than you are used to. Constantly look for ways to improve this material for your own benefit and the benefit of your program participants.

The Basics

Teachers must constantly review and apply the basics of good teaching. This includes all three categories described above. Both the beginner and the experienced teacher can benefit from applying the basics to their programs. The basics include:

1. Provide a natural, comfortable, safe and colorful learning environment.

2. Help learners build on their strengths and identify their own learning needs.

3. Build people's confidence rather than trivialize or threaten their knowledge and skills.

4. Help people to reduce their fears, stresses and learning barriers. Competitive learning is useful. Confrontational learning is destructive.

5. Accommodate different learning styles, speeds and needs by providing information in a variety of ways: visually, verbally and through hands-on exercises or demonstrations.

6. Learning may be a serious effort, but it does not have to be solemn. People can have fun, enjoy their learning and still develop their knowledge and skills seriously. In fact, when people enjoy their learning they learn more, faster and remember it longer.

7. Encourage group learning as well as individual learning. It is often best to give people time to work on an exercise by themselves first. Then follow-up with a group exercise or activity.

8. Tell people at the beginning what they are expected to learn, what they can expect from you, how the material will be presented, how they will be evaluated, how you will be evaluated and what educational principles you use in your teaching. See page i for an example of how I do this in written material.

9. Summarize and review the material with people. People remember most what happens at the beginning and at the end of a learning experience. This last step is avoided most often by teachers because learners are usually keen to leave the program quickly when it is near finishing time. There are creative ways to summarize materials described later in this material that may encourage you to include a summary or review at the end of a section of learning or at the end of the program.

Exercise 1: How You Learn

Before you get into the specifics of how other people learn, find out a bit more about how you learn. If you become more aware of how you have learned in the past, you can take more control over how you want to help others learn in the future. You will be able to make choices based on your knowledge of what does, and does not, work for you and understand that other people may, or may not, learn the same way you do. Use this information later on in this resource when you begin to plan or revise a learning program.

Think about some recent learning experiences you have had at work, at home, at school, or while you were on vacation. Think about what you enjoyed while you were learning. Think about what you disliked. Use the following questions to identify some of your own learning preferences:

1. I learn best when... (Note things about the environment, the time of day, the topics, people involved, etc.)

2. I have the most trouble learning when...

3. The best thing a teacher can do for me is...

4. My best learning experience was when... (Give details, e.g., when you learned a skill on a vacation, during survival training, going through a difficult relationship, etc.)

5. My worst learning experience was when...

6. My best spontaneous learning happens when...

How to Teach Others

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Copyright © 1993, 1999, 2006 Harry van Bommel

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