How to Teach Others

Facilitating the Program

The actual educational program can be an exciting time of learning for trainers and managers and staff alike. Trainers must be sensitive to the adult learners' backgrounds, experiences and reasons for working in their organization. Trainers must be ready to help participants in translating their learning back in the work environment. Trainers should always discuss both the highlights and the difficulties they encounter through the program with other managers and staff who have experience leading other training groups.

The following are some specific tips that may help you lead a training program.

A Quick Overview of the Program

Before the Participants Show Up

Make sure that you have all the handout materials, any audio visual equipment you need (and make sure you know how to use them), any extra paper, marker pens, regular pens or pencils, schedules, evaluation forms, masking tape, and any other material you know that you will need. It helps to have a standard checklist form so that you do not forget anything that you need. An example of such a form is found later in this resource.

Know the Room

It helps to visit the place where you are going to teach days or weeks in advance of your course so you understand what the location will be like regarding convenience, size, temperature, lighting, etc.

On the day of the session arrive at the teaching location before anyone else (30-60 minutes early) to set up the tables and chairs in the way you would like (in a circle, U shape, or in rows). Know where the lights switches are. Know how to change the heating and air conditioning. Know the name and phone number of the person responsible for the room and equipment in case you need help. Know where the Men's and Women's bathrooms are. Know if there is a place to hang coats, change a baby's diaper, rest umbrellas, put winter boots, etc.

Greeting Participants

At the beginning of any program try to meet the participants as they enter the room. A personal introduction (if they do not already know you) and a short, informal chat will help put the people more at ease. Put name cards at their table with their name on both sides of the card. With the name on both sides you can read their name from the front while people beside and behind the person can also read it. You may also use recyclable name tags that hang around a person's neck. These are better than the sticky name tags which cling to a person's clothes or those that you must pin on, since they may damage clothes.

Starting & Finishing Times

Try to begin the program within 10 minutes of the stated starting time and try to finish on time as often as possible. Trainers and participants are all busy people and punctuality sets a respectful and professional tone.


Introduce yourself and give a bit of your own background so that participants can understand why you are qualified to teach them. Also provide information about the program to those who are not aware of exactly what you do and what they are expected to do.

Add a little information about the teaching philosophy (e.g., adult education principles) behind the program and why it is structured the way it is.

If you plan to have more than one session with the same group, give people a schedule of all the sessions: dates, times, places. Also give a brief summary of each session so that they can prepare before the session.

If time permits, have the participants introduce themselves to the whole group or to one or two other people nearby. You might suggest they give their name, where they are from (department or other organization) and why they took this program.


You must let participants know that sensitive information will be kept confidential by you and the other participants. This is especially true if learners use examples from work and other learners in the group know who, or what, the person is talking about. People cannot feel free to learn if they think other people will go out and repeat (usually incorrectly at that!) what was said in the program.

Organizational Info

Give participants information about smoking policy, where the washrooms and telephones are (if that is not obvious), how often you take a coffee/nutrition break, what happens to the program during bad weather, etc.

Beginning and Ending

At the beginning of each session, give a quick review of the past session(s) and preview what will happen during this session. Answer any organizational questions regarding homework, tests, change of schedules, etc. On flip-chart paper or overhead you can present the schedule or agenda for the session.

At the end of every session do a quick review of the session's content and preview what can be expected at the next session.


Some trainers like participants to evaluate the content, structure and facilitation of each session. Others prefer an evaluation every few sessions, half way through or only at the end of the entire program. You may want to try various methods to see which meets the needs of the program best.

Learning Disabilities

There is a great deal of information these days about learning disabilities. Although some participants may have a real learning disability the majority of your participants will just have different ways of learning. We are often too ready to label someone with a disability. This is unfair. Some people learn best by reading and seeing. Others learn best by hearing things while others learn best by physically doing things.

For example, what we now label as hyperactive children were once just children who needed more activity in their lives and a good nutritional diet. By labelling them hyperactive, we have made their natural style of learning a medical illness requiring treatment and medication. This is not an effective (or often successful) way of helping people to learn.

Some people do have learning difficulties but they overcome them in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. People who see letters in the wrong order (dyslexia) have probably overcome their difficulty before they come to your program. If they tell you they need information in a different form to help them learn, then provide them with what they need as best you can. If people read slowly, then do not ask them to read out loud in a program. Give them enough time to read the material before the next class if your program runs over several days.

Some other things you can do:

Hand out materials before program

If you give people handout materials before the program it allows people with low, or no reading, abilities to get some help with the materials. By giving it to them before hand they do not have to explain or feel embarrassed about any difficulties they are having. If you want participants to hand in homework of some kind, then again, give them an opportunity to take it home so they will have time to understand and answer without the time pressures of doing it in class. For most of you teaching, you are not going to be involved in evaluating people's reading, writing and arithmetic skills. You are probably more accountable that people can do a certain job or skill effectively. Help them learn that job or skill in the most supportive, non-threatening environment you can.

Invite questions

In your Introduction, invite individuals to see you at break time if

they need some assistance in learning from the program materials

or exercises.

Get feedback

Participants should be able to describe or demonstrate their new knowledge and skills. Be sensitive to the ways people feel comfortable about relating that information to you. Again, people do things differently and some people are more comfortable writing than talking or doing something.

Often people with learning difficulties have a long history of teachers trying to help them. Always start by asking them what they suggest you do that will make you an even more effective teacher for them. If they are registering for your program, ask them on the registration form if they have any specific needs that you can help them with. For example, some people have physical needs that involve them leaving the program more often than your scheduled breaks. Other people may need help getting to and from the program. Others have learning needs that are best met by receiving materials before the program begins. Let them help you be the best teacher you can be.

Adapting Instructional Techniques

It is easier than you think to adapt techniques. First you have to get past the idea that adapting information is a form of oversimplifying. People do learn best in different ways and a program that uses different teaching methods will help people learn in the ways that make learning enjoyable and less stressful.

Understanding & Directions

Giving specific and clear instructions is easier said than done. Use a handout, flip-chart paper, chalk board or overhead to write out long or complicated instructions. Give people a visual example of what you expect them to do so they know how you define success. Most teachers wait to tell their participants what they did wrong after the exercise rather than helping them understand what the end result should look like.

Tell your learners that you will go through the instructions once and you will repeat the important parts to make sure that everyone understands. This helps calm people down. If a whole group of people did not follow your instructions correctly, it is your fault not theirs.

Look at your participants' body language to see if they are understanding what you are talking about. Eye contact and being physically close (a few yards apart) to people are important. Get the learners accustomed to giving you non-verbal signs if they do not understand something. When you give complicated instructions for some project, write them out in simple steps to help people understand what you want.

Keep in mind that it is natural for you to look at people you know in an audience or those closest to you. You must scan the complete room, however, so that everyone gets to know that you are interested in them. It keeps them more alert and interested. Right-handed teachers, for example, tend to look most at the left side of a room and vice-versa. Moving your eyes includes everyone in the discussion. Moving around physically also encourages people to remain alert and interested. Remember when you used to be able to sit at the back of a class and not have to worry about participating. You understood then that "out of sight is out of mind".

Simple Visual Aids

One well-placed overhead, diagram, flip chart, or slide at a time is the key. If the participant cannot explain a procedure using the diagram you have created, the visual reference is useless.


Information must be well grounded in memory through relating information to learner's past experience and understanding. Use comparisons, contrasts, metaphors etc. Use "what-if" statements to see if people can take general information and apply it to a specific situation.

Universal Approach

In order to include everyone in the program you need to use universal examples, comparisons, contrasts, metaphors, etc. For example, rather than words like Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries use the term celebration. Many people do not share your ideas of what days they should celebrate. Words like parents and family may hurt people who do not have parents or a family. We have all had people take care of us but that is not the same thing as a two-parent family growing up happy-ever-after.

There are universal ideas and feelings that almost everyone shares and that can be used in examples: fondness for children, laughter and smiles, sense of grief or loss, the basic emotions of joy and anger, and the visual signs of people sharing love.

You must plan your stories, examples or metaphors in advance to avoid isolating people from the group. This isolation has often been incorrectly labelled as a learning disability. In fact, the person may be withdrawn or agitated because your examples or stories bring back painful memories of isolation, racism, sexism, political detention, and more.

Different Ways of Presenting Information

When many of us think about our school years we remember the authoritarian way of teaching where the teacher stood at the front of a class and used a lectern or chalk board to lecture us. They gave us homework, tests and report cards to tell us if we were smart or stupid. Remember your own worst learning experience to remind yourself of what you really disliked about that experience. Mine was a workshop on how to use appropriate humor in teaching. The teacher was without humor, gave orders like a military commander, got visibly and verbally upset when you did not do things her way, made us walk around the class staring into each others eyes or moving in awkward ways, and gave up on her group when she did not get the results she wanted. I am not sure how the program ended since I walked out two-thirds of the way through!

We sometimes forget that some of our best teachers used many different methods to get us to understand specific information or skills without all the stress of proving how smart we were. These exceptional teachers used school plays, the choir, sports, drawing and painting, the 4-H clubs, the scout and guide movement, and many other things to teach life-long knowledge and skills. One-room schools used older students to help younger students learn (and help the older students learn their basic skills even better). They taught memory tricks for remembering long poems. They used music and songs to teach body anatomy. They used competitions to learn spelling and had school newspapers to teach writing and editing skills.

Even before our one-room school houses, there were the Greeks and Romans who taught thinking skills, memorization and speaking skills and practical day-to-day knowledge and skills.

We have a rich history of teaching and the most effective teachers, trainers, educators and facilitators use a combination of those skills to meet the learning needs of their individual learners. We are also lucky because we each teach other people all the time. You are teaching every time you explain something, tell a story, give directions or advice. Helping people to learn is natural. Becoming a master teacher means you can do what comes natural in more effective ways.

The following is just a sample of some teaching techniques. There are literally hundreds of different ways of teaching or helping participants to learn. Each of us has different skills and interests and learners learn best when we use those teaching techniques that are most natural to us. Some musical people use songs to teach complex or detailed information while computer lovers use computer-based training methods to help participants learn by going through a specific software package.

You do not have to be an expert in all teaching techniques to be an effective teacher. You need to use several different methods in each session to make sure that participants who learn differently (i.e., seeing, hearing or doing methods) have an opportunity to use their preferred learning style some of the time.

Overheads/Chalk board

Overheads, notes on a chalk board or flip chart are ways to make sure that the information you are giving people is presented in a logical and memorable way. It forces you to stay on track rather than going off in various interesting directions that do not help the participants learn. It also cues the learner into your understanding of what the key points are for their own notes. Make sure that people at the back of the room can read your writing and see the letters. Use white chalk on chalk boards with colors for highlights only. Use dark colored markers on papers and use other colors only to highlight. Avoid orange, yellow and pink colored markers.


Sometimes video taping a group during an exercise helps them identify their own body language. It also helps them see their areas of strengths as communicators and areas where they want to improve their skills. Have them concentrate first on what they do well and then have them pick one or two things they would like to do differently in the future. Also, using video movies is a way of presenting information in a different way. There are many management and staff development videos available through your public libraries. "Hollywood" films are also a great way to demonstrate specific points. For example, watching films from the 1920s and 30s is an excellent way to present information on the clothing, habits, culture, and technology of that era. See the section on Audio Visual Tools for further ideas.

Songs and Music

Use a familiar song and rewrite the words to highlight information you would like people to remember. Either perform the song by yourself (if the group is shy) or get people to sing along with you.

Other Memory Tricks

You can also use other memory tricks to help people remember information in an enjoyable way. For example:

HOMES = 5 Great Lakes of Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge = the notes of the five lines of a musical staff (E, G, B, D, F).

The hip bone is connected to the... rhyme to help people remember anatomy.


Visualizations are like daydreaming except that someone is speaking to you while you relax. They are a good way to allow people to think or feel emotions quietly about a specific idea. They are used successfully by athletes to prepare for competitions. They are used by patients to help them deal more effectively with their illness or pain management. They are used by actors and public speakers to prepare their performances. They are used in stress reduction techniques and in learning exercises to help children and adults learn math, second languages or just about any other topic.

You often begin with a bit of deep breathing to help people relax. You can use music in the background if you like. While people are relaxing (eyes open or closed), ask them to think about a specific situation. Ask them questions about the situation and allow them quiet time to come up with some of their own answers. After the visualization is over you can get the participants to discuss their thoughts and feelings.

Visualizations can be very simple and short (as described above) or they can involve quite demanding skills of a teacher. If you would like to use visualizations in a more profound and influential way, you should research this particular skill and practice it before using it with learners.

For example, imagine yourself ending a teaching session. You can see the faces of your participants clearly in your mind. You hear the sounds of traffic outside the room. You smell the colored markers you were using to write on the flip-chart paper. You can even remember the taste of the muffins and orange juice you had a break-time. You can feel yourself put the cap on the last marker as you thank the group for their attention. The room is quiet. Then, one by one, the participants begin to smile and applaud your genuine efforts to help them learn. You feel lighter than air. Your face blushes. Everyone laughs. REPEAT THIS VISUALIZATION AS NECESSARY!

Musical Previews/Reviews

Using quiet music (e.g., Classical Baroque, New Age, Sounds of Nature) in the background you can show overheads or slides or information on flip charts or chalk boards to the participants without saying a word. The participants are just expected to read the material in a relaxed environment. This can be used to preview the material for a program or to review the materials that learners have already seen during the program.

Televised Tutorial

Teach one learner a 10-minute portion of a tutorial with the cameras concentrating on just the two of you. The monitors bring the rest of the learners to you as if they were sitting beside you. Change participants every 10 minutes or so to keep attention strong. This arrangement encourages one-to-one teaching while allowing the rest of the learners to watch, learn, and listen without pressure. The novelty of it also makes it interesting for the learners. You can use the finished video tape in various creative ways to teach future learners the same topic or to teach communication skills or body language.


When an activity calls for only 12-20 people, but you have many more than that, present the activity to the first few rows of participants and ask the others to move in closer to observe the groups' activities. Give the observing audience specific things to look for and debrief both groups.

Individuals Teach Each Other

Having people tutor each other helps them understand the material better themselves. Someone who already knows the material will reinforce their knowledge and skill by helping someone else learn it.

Groups Teach Each Other

Have people count off (first person, second person, etc.). Ask the odd number people to close their eyes and place hands over ears. Present information (2 minutes) to even numbered groups and then reverse. Get the odd and even number people to teach each other what they learned.

You can also present information so that the even group covers their eyes and the odd group covers their ears and have them compare notes on what you presented. This reinforces information and has an added bonus of providing sensory training.

Experiential Learning

Begin with an exercise that involves people working together on a specific problem or skill. Once they have finished their exercise one or more people from each group explains what happens to the rest of the groups. This method allows groups to learn from each other rather than just on their own or from the teacher.


Start with groups coming up with as many ideas as possible to solve a specific question or problem. People should generate at least 30-50 alternatives. They must not judge each other's answers or ideas (either good or bad). Requiring a large number of alternatives forces them to go beyond the standard 5-10 alternatives that most people come up with. Their creativity is encouraged by this method. All ideas should be written down without comment and using the exact words of the person who gave the idea. On a different day have the groups classify, evaluate, modify, compare and rank their ideas.

Socratic Lecture

Use questions to encourage participants to form and test an idea or theory, make predictions about what would happen if a certain idea was tried and have them draw conclusions. Comparing their conclusions with other groups will help them identify how similar ideas and theories can result in different, yet equally effective, conclusions.


Roleplaying is just a form of acting out a situation. If participants are working out how best to be more assertive, they might act out a situation where a worker tries to resolve a problem with a supervisor. Once the roleplay is over, the individuals and groups summarize the major ideas and conclusions. Give participants a 2-3 minute time limit. They will often go beyond that limit but giving them a shorter time makes the role play less intimidating for some of them.

Many people are not fond of acting out situations in front of their peers or bosses. Try to find people within your group who you think might enjoy acting out a situation and ask them for their cooperation quietly before that part of program begins. Once people see it done successfully and without harsh judgements they might try it themselves. Never force people to participate in a role play. If they do not want to act in a situation ask them to be observers of body language, the use of appropriate language, and the overall effectiveness of the played out scene.

Role plays can also be done in small groups of 3-5 which are much less intimidating. Once people have done it a few times they often enjoy themselves more and begin to try more dramatic, silly or comical situations which help make their learning even more personal and more memorable.

People generally prefer to act out a situation "done the wrong way" rather than forcing them to show you the "right way". It is easier to feel safe knowing that your mistakes are done on purpose. Some participants are quite comfortable doing role plays that show people doing things well. Use their comfort and encourage them to develop this skill.


A teacher can use a computer screen, model or demonstrate a procedure to get audience input and reactions. Getting participants to do specific demonstrations or projects increases their learning and their long-term memory of that specific knowledge or skill you are highlighting.

Chain-Gang Procedures

Present different steps of a procedure to different subgroups and have them form teams to master the complete procedure.

Press Conference

Divide the group into teams and have each team prepare a list of questions to quiz you (or a panel of experts). While one team conducts the interview, ask the other teams to prepare a summary of your responses.


Create a new board game or physical activity game (e.g., charades) to highlight specific information or ideas (e.g., management skills). You could also divide learners into teams and have them quiz each other.

Write or Perform a Play/Film

Have a group write a play or film script that teaches the audience something in a dramatic or comical way.

Physical Activity

Have statements up on different walls within a room. Have participants move to the statement that they most agree with. Change the statements and have people move around again. This is a more visual way of demonstrating how people think on different topics or issues. You can also use this technique to highlight similarities and differences between participants in a course. For example, to show an imbalance of women and men in a room (or people of different cultural backgrounds, personal histories) have them physically split up so that the differences are more dramatically presented.

When you divide people by visible similarities or differences it is also important to divide them by invisible ones. For example, dividing people with and without children, those who speak more than one language, those who play a musical instrument, those who believe in God, etc. Once the groups are divided ask each one to teach the other group(s) one important fact about their group. Allowing single parents, for examples, to explain some of the difficulties of raising children on their own is as important as two parents explaining some of the difficulties of raising children in a consistent way.

Physical activities can also include giving people an assignment (like in grade school!) where participants go off by themselves or in groups to identify specific places, ideas or problems. They may be given a checklist and asked to discuss their activity when they return. They could go off by foot, car, or public transit. This can be very effective for orientation programs, getting people within a large organization to visit other areas or departments, or to give people an opportunity to go off quietly (e.g., to a park) to think about a major issue without disturbance.

Taking a Risk

Many of the activities presented here go beyond the typical way that people have learned in the past. Some of the activities will be highly successful while others may not meet the learning needs of a particular group at all. There may be great excitement about your teaching methods or real resistance.

Experienced teachers take risks to help their learners acquire knowledge and skills in more memorable and enjoyable ways. When their methods are successful, they share their own enthusiasm and excitement with the learners. When their new method does not work, they explain their reasons for trying, listen carefully to why the participants did not like it and move on to an alternative that is more successful.

When people disagree with your teaching method you both learn. The participant learns about different teaching methods and which methods work best for them. You learn to see you teaching methods through the eyes of different learners to make you an even better teacher. Everyone wins. Even if you make a mistake in your choice of words (may sound racist or sexist to someone else) allow them the pleasure of teaching you. People love to teach. If you genuinely want to help them, you will show your own interest in learning from them.

Most importantly, even when learners dislike a particular method, their dislike of it helps them remember the particular knowledge and skills you were trying to teach. Although you prefer people to learn by enjoying a particular teaching tool, you also help them when they are a bit uncomfortable with a new teaching tool. For example, most people do not like to be video taped but their discomfort helps them remember the knowledge and skills for a long time. You do not purposely try to make someone uncomfortable but when it happens it is still a valuable learning tool.

The important thing to ask yourself as a teacher is: "Would I do it?" If you would not figure out why. Do not ask learners to take bigger risks than you do. Remember that some things you see as normal learning methods may feel risky to people trying something new. We all learn best when we are brought to our edge of comfort when we have to ask ourselves difficult questions and find answers. Do not choose that edge of comfort for your learners. Allow them to choose what is safe and what is a risk, for themselves. Always give people an opportunity not to participate in a specific activity and you will find that few people will take your offer. If you do not give them that opportunity, however, people will naturally rebel against your authority.

When Participants Challenge You

There are many reasons why participants in one of your programs may not want to be there. The most important thing to remember is: Do not be afraid of them or their comments. They are people just like you who are working out a problem or issue in public. They do not want you to fail, any more than they want to fail. Use their energy and re-direct it, when possible, for the benefit of everyone. It would be a far worse situation if resistant people all sat in silence during your program. People want to end their day believing they have done something useful. Few people get up in the morning with the sole purpose of ruining your day or their day. Help them with genuine professionalism and you will usually be successful.

Some people may continue to resist your help by ignoring your suggestions, asking difficult questions, challenging your authority to teach, making inappropriate remarks or distracting other learners. Here are a few examples of why this may happen.


1. They resent being sent to the program by a supervisor or manager. They have not chosen to participate and/or believe they already know the material being taught. Sometimes managers send people to courses to learn a skill which the person already has but does not use in the way the manager would like. Both the participant and the manager lose out in this situation since the manager is not giving the person clear performance expectations. Instead, the manager hopes the teacher will do this for them.

2. Other people appear to resist because they have other things on their mind and your program is not a high priority. Look at your own past year or two. Has there been a death in your family? Have you planned a wedding or a major move? Has someone you know (including yourself) lost a job? Are you in the middle of planning a great vacation? Are there more bills than income? Is you spouse/partner coming home after being away for a few weeks on business? Has your child had trouble at school? Have you been exhausted after reading a great book or watching sports on T.V. into the wee hours of the morning?

All of these things are happening to your students every time you teach. You will rarely know the details for sure. If you begin with the assumption, however, that your program is probably not as important to your class as it is to you, then you begin to understand your participants better. The key then, is to provide them a safe place to be for the length of your program and allow them to choose how active they will be.

3. They are afraid of self-disclosure in front of their peers or managers.

4. They disagree with the teacher about how the program is taught or the content.

5. People sometimes prefer to avoid looking at specific issues (taking flight) and learning ways to deal with those issues.

6. There is some form of individual conflict between participants (status, personalities, history, cliques).

7. Strong leaders (positive attitude or cynical, hostile leaders or those who do not want to be there) and weak followers within group affect how well a program may work.

8. There may be cultural (corporate and personal) styles that inhibit open discussions.

9. They may try to center out one issue or person to concentrate (complain) on to reduce the effectiveness of a program. They may do this to avoid dealing with the real issues or as a personal attack on someone in their organization.


1. Preparation before a program will help minimize a lot of the resistance to it. Sending people information about the program in advance and why it is being held will help them understand what the content, teaching methods and purpose are for the program. Allowing them to speak to you before a program may also help individual participants talk about some of their problems with the program.

If time permits, ask the participants what their learning needs are, what times are best for the program, what ways they like to learn, etc. You can ask a sample of the group directly or use a quick questionnaire to find out some of this information. People who feel involved in the design of a program are less resistant to the learning.

2. At the beginning of the program it is very important to explain the purpose, content and teaching methods even if you have sent written information about this to the participants in advance. They need to know what to expect from you and they need to know what you expect of them. The clearer the rules up front, the less resistance later on.

3. Get people to agree to or change some of the rules at the beginning so that later on they understand that they have participated in how the program will be taught.

4. For people who have very specific complaints about the program, ask to speak to them during a break (or before the course if you know about their concerns). They may have very legitimate problems with the program that are better dealt with in private. You may be able to agree that: (a) they learn the material in a different way which will help them learn how to adapt their preferred learning style, (b) it is better that they not take the course, (c) you can make certain revisions to the program that will meet their concern without damaging the learning for the rest of the group.

5. If a whole group has difficulties with a program (especially if they were told to attend by a supervisor) it is important to deal with those concerns at the beginning of the program. Allow people a few minutes to get their complaints, concerns or problems out in the open. Once their views are heard it is time to decide, as a group, where to go from here. Often people recognize that it is not the teacher who has made them come to a program. Therefore, work together with them to get the most out of the program for their personal benefit as well as organizational benefit. People will learn if they believe the teacher understands their concerns and if the material will help them personally as well as professionally.

6. Throughout the program there may be times when individuals have great difficulty with some part of the content or teaching process. Usually you can discuss these concerns in private or incorporate their concerns in the rest of your teaching. For example, if a person thinks you are not providing enough information about a certain point, incorporate more information into the program, if appropriate. If not appropriate, recommend further sources for the person to use themselves.

7. If someone talks too much or is rude during a program there are various things you can do:

a. Ask other people in the program for their ideas.

b. Privately (e.g., during a break) ask the person who is talking too much to help you in drawing out the ideas and questions of other participants. People who need to talk also need to help the teacher since that means they are sharing some of your power.

c. If someone is rude to you or the other participants it is important for you to clearly describe the rules of behavior that you use in teaching. These generally accepted rules include not using sexist, racist or rude comments. If people cannot follow these simple rules of common courtesy you should ask them to leave the program.

If someone was unintentionally rude or used inappropriate language, try not to make them feel badly or make them lose face in front of their peers. Speak to them privately (e.g., call a quick stretch break) and explain to them why their language is not appropriate.

NOTE: If you have the time and/or you expect some difficulty within a group, you can do the following:

1. Have the group suggest Ground Rules for the session and post these on flip chart paper. Hang the paper in clear sight of everyone in the room.

2. Add any rules you think need adding, such as: the importance of keeping discussion confidential, respect each other's views, only one person speaks at one time, and treat the discussions seriously but not solemnly.

3. If difficulties arise within the group, return everyone to the listed rules. This usually minimizes rude or inappropriate actions.

Teaching with Other Trainers

Teaching with other people has both advantages and disadvantages. Before deciding who should do the teaching and whether you should do it alone or with others, consider some of the following advice:


In good team training situations:

You may complement each other's styles which is a benefit to the learners.

One person can lead the group while the other handles individuals dealing with specific concerns. Also, one person can present the content while the other watches to make sure the process of learning is working for this particular group.

You can get professional development through feedback and observation.

You can develop personally through feedback and observation.

You can experience a synergistic effect excellent rapport between trainers which gives overall greater energy to the group.

You can role model expected behaviors of working well together.

You can share leadership, therefore, reduced dependency on one trainer.

You can check each other's timing and pacing.

You can offset biases.


In difficult team training situations you may find that:

You have significantly different styles that work against one another.

You need added energy to develop or enhance a relationship with the other trainer.

There is a threat of competition between trainers.

There is a threat of competition from participants' perspective of trainers against us.

There is the risk of over-intervening in group process.

Similar failures of trainers will be reinforced.

You have a dysfunctional relationship that is inappropriate as a role model.

You have different pacing and timing with resulting differences in responses to participants.

It takes more planning time since you have to plan your own work plus work out how you will transfer responsibilities between the two of you during the program.

Teaching with other people does take more energy but can give the participants more energy in return. This relationship, like all relationships, takes time and energy to improve communication and role modelling. Each trainer must understand their own, and their partner's, learning and teaching styles, personal philosophy of education, personal motivations, clear expectations of working relationship both in preparation and in delivery and how each will intervene during delivery. Some considerations:

1. Where will each of you sit during sessions when presenting and not presenting?

2. Who will begin and end each session?

3. How do you deal with any difference in your professional status?

4. Will there be a strict schedule of sessions, breaks etc.? How do you ensure the other person finishes on time?

5. Will both of you be present the whole time or only when you are presenting?

6. How will you deal with style differences? How much tolerance for differences is there?

7. What process will you agree on to handle conflicts during a session or in your discussions after a session?

8. What issues are non-negotiable from each of your perspectives? How will you handle these issues?

9. What ethical standards do each of you agree and disagree on? How will you demonstrate those standards to your participants? How will you deal with differences (both between trainers and with participants)?

10. How will you provide each other with feedback during and after a program? How will you learn from that feedback? How will your facilitation and design skills change because of that feedback?

11. Are your training objectives achieved by having two or more trainers? If yes, what can you do to improve the next time you teach together? If no, can you both change to improve for the next program or do you need to consider not teaching the next program together?

Multicultural Aspects

Trainers often find themselves teaching in a situation which includes participants from different cultural backgrounds. These cultural and ethnic differences can enrich our lives. We must understand some of the participants' cultural and personal background to understand their needs and wishes. Understanding different backgrounds can help us reach a wider community of people.

In a training session there are issues of multiculturalism that may affect the amount of participation by certain members. In the "typical", dominant, white North American culture participants are encouraged to ask probing questions and strongly debate each other to make their points clear. In fact, this is the foundation for much of the North American training content and style which is highly valued by educators. This may not be true for other cultural groups. Whichever cultural or ethnic group you represent, ensure that your training session allows for comfortable participation by a variety of cultural groups.

The following tips only scratch the surface of this fascinating area of teaching.

Different participation styles

1. Learners' heavy spoken accent or beginner's English may discourage them from speaking in groups. They may be afraid they may sound foolish, make an embarrassing grammatical or vocabulary mistake or be misunderstood.

2. Some learners may not want to call attention to themselves. A clear example is a Japanese proverb that says, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down".

3. "Saving face" is a common belief in many Asian and Middle Eastern cultures versus North American belief that "we learn from our mistakes". Group dignity is highly valued and therefore participants do not want to risk making a mistake, contradicting another participant or implying the trainer has not explained a point clearly and, therefore, they do not understand.

4. Respect for authority is very common in Hispanic and Asian cultures as well. This respect is both for supervisors and perceived experts (trainers). This respect may discourage participants from challenging the ideas of a trainer or adding information to help make a point more clear.

5. A desire for social harmony often discourages participants from disagreeing with someone or presenting an alternative view point. While many North Americans enjoy the challenge of a heated discussion and do not transfer the debate to the workplace, other cultures do not distinguish the difference between workplace and classroom discussions. This sometimes leads to the mistaken view that someone has agreed with us in a training program but does the reverse back at work.

Some Facilitation Things You Can Do

1. Explain your own perspective and expectations to all participants.

2. Acknowledge that your perspective and expectations may be different from others in the room.

3. Give permission for participation and debate.

4. Try and include people with varying cultures and languages. For example, you might explain privately to a few participants that their lack of participation may cause you to lose face, while participation leads to successful learning. Accept it if they still remain quiet in class. Offer them a different method of participation, such as a written exercise. They want you to succeed and they want to succeed themselves.

5. Give people enough time to prepare their comments and questions especially if English is not their first language.

6. Put people into smaller groups to reduce their anxiety of speaking in larger groups.

7. Set aside time for people to write out comments or questions which you can read out to the group later on (correcting any grammatical or vocabulary errors). You could also provide a list of comments that a person only has to put an X beside to represent their idea. If you handout this material before the program, it allows people to get help understanding it. When they hand in the material the teacher or a participant can volunteer to read the comments on behalf of ALL the other participants. The idea is not to center people out, but rather, make everyone feel included in the learning process.

8. Always allow people to do some things individually before they do group exercises. This gives them time and privacy to collect their thoughts before having to share their knowledge, skills or ideas.

Audio Visual Tools

There are many audio-visual tools that may help you make your presentation more clear and concise. Audio-visual tools are not a replacement for effective training. These tools are intended to supplement your teaching.

Flip Charts


black and dark blue, brown, green and violet are easiest to read. Yellow, red and orange can be used to highlight or write a few words if people are close to the flip chart.


Not in block letters. It is better to capitalize first letter, lower case the rest. Print versus write, unless you have a particularly easy writing style to read from a distance.

If you prepare flip-charts in advance you can write yourself short notes in light pencil on the side of the chart. No one will be able to read these and they may help you remember to present further information to the group.

Sometimes it helps to number your flip charts if you plan to use them over again in a future program.

Guidelines for posters, Over Head (O/H), graphics

1. leave a wide margin; NOTE: if you use overheads that have a paper edge, you can write yourself some notes that only you can read. It may help you remember key points to say.

2. print clearly or use computer-generated lettering (18 point size or bigger);

3. one idea per visual; do not use more than four or five words per line and only 4-6 lines maximum;

4. balance contents (like in a good photograph);

5. highlight the most important elements;

6. maintain a consistent format rather than mixing several different ones. A horizontal or square format is best, because most people are accustomed to reading horizontal lines. Prepared O/H and flip charts are usually vertical (portrait style) or square, while slides are usually horizontal (landscape style).

7. do not have more than three vertical columns. Try to avoid using vertical dividing lines; use space instead.

8. condense information; eliminate unnecessary words or figures.

9. use large symbols and easily understood abbreviations. Avoid using numbers to make a list.

10. design materials so that they can be read easily by the member of the audience who is farthest away.


Use photographs that are easily seen from a distance. There should not be too much detail in any single picture. Enlarge the photos so that people with poorer vision can easily see what the picture is about. For larger groups use slides.

Audiotapes, videos and films

Use only portions of a tape, video or film to make your point. Programs usually do not have enough time to see and hear the whole thing. Prepare the participants for the tape, video and film with some background information and the point you wish to make. Give them a question to help them focus on the point you want to make. After listening or viewing the material, summarize the key points you want to make and allow for participant comments and questions. If the tape, video or film is sensitive and people are particularly moved by the content, it may be appropriate to take a short break to allow people to collect their thoughts.


Make sure the music or voices are easily understood and that the cassette player is of good enough quality for people farthest away to hear the tape.

Videotape and film

Make sure people can easily see and hear the tape or film.

Presenting A.V. Tools

1. Pre-planning includes deciding when the A.V. can be best used, the timing (how long a clip) and that the equipment is working well.

2. Make sure that the audio visuals are appropriate, simple and easily understood.

3. Make sure that tapes, videos and films are cued up before the course so that you do not waste any time during the course.

Physical Environment

The physical environment must establish a safe and encouraging place for people to learn. Too often the place one teaches in intimidates, bores or frightens the learners. It may remind them of unsuccessful or frightening early school days. The environment needs to reflect an attitude of collaborative learning, interest and a safe harbor from outside interferences. An ideal learning environment is difficult to find so the task often becomes one of making the best of a less than ideal situation. Some suggestions include:


Not too small or too large for the size audience. It is better to have a room that is a little too small than too large to encourage group interaction.


When possible, add color to the often neutral toned rooms we teach in. Use posters, a colorful kite on the wall (symbolizing freedom to learn), a few balloons, drawings, something colorful on a table, different colored foods (encourage a pot-luck during a longer course), etc. Using one's imagination encourages others to do the same.


Telephone calls, interruptions, etc., should be minimized.


Placing refreshments at back of room allows participants to get up when they want something to drink or eat. Refreshments usually include juices, water, coffee (regular and decaffeinated) and tea (regular and herbal). Snacks like fruit, muffins, cookies, candy may also be provided. When budgets are very low even a store-bought bag of cookies helps to welcome the learners.


Every 20-40 minutes people should have a quick stretch of some sort. This may be part of a group exercise. Every 1.5-2.5 hours there should be a break for people to use washrooms, telephones, get fresh air, etc.


1. Name tags to wear and/or paper folded into a triangular or "tent" shape to put before the participants on their tables.

2. Binders with printed, three-whole punched handouts and blank pages and/or published books used as course materials. Also any workbooks used during the program.

3. Individual handouts to supplement other materials. These materials may be used during the program (e.g., to explain an exercise, a form for participants to fill out, or a supplementary reading for after the course). Three-holed punch the handouts for convenient storage in the course binder.

4. Pens and/or pencils and other "give away" items.

5. Flip chart paper and easels plus felt-tip markers to write with.

6. Masking tape to hang flip chart paper with.

7. Whatever A.V. equipment you will need for your programs.

8. Miscellaneous items can include: cue cards, colored pens and pencils, crayons, glue, construction paper, string, paper clips, safety pins, rubber ands, coins, games, playing cards, etc. Whatever items you may need to help demonstrate a point through a structured exercise or demonstration.


It is important to evaluate the success or difficulties of any program you offer. The evaluation can help you maintain those aspects of the training that went very well while improving those other areas that did not help the participants learn as much as they could have. There is no such thing as a perfect evaluation since all participants have their own learning needs which can rarely be met within one training event. What you learn from evaluations is what a majority of the participants saw as the benefits and weaknesses of your program. Like all skills, one aims to be an effective trainer; not a perfect one. Perfection is impossible, but striving for constant improvement is not.

Whenever you evaluate a program you must answer some basic questions before you can design an evaluation method.

Design Questions

1. For whom is information being collected? Who will be involved in decision-making process?

2. Who is doing the collecting? Are they qualified?

3. Who is doing the evaluating? How often to get sufficient data?

4. When should you evaluate? (Generally at end of session with a possible follow-up 3-6 months later.) When should it not? (When information cannot be collected or will not be used to change program.)

5. How should information be collected?

6. Where should evaluations take place?

7. What resources are needed and available?

8. Who should prepare data and in what format?

9. Who should provide feedback on data?

10 Who should distribute data?

11. Who should get data?

12 How long should data be kept?

Once you have the background answers to those questions, you can decide what kind of evaluation method would be best. You may decide to combine various methods to get the most accurate evaluation you can. Keep in mind how much time you will have to design, implement and review your evaluation information and how that information will be used. For example, do not spend weeks working on this evaluation if the information will not be seriously used to change your program or teaching methods.

Types of Evaluation

1. To show what knowledge and/or skills the participant has learned, you can use written or verbal tests as well as demonstrations of specific skills.

2. Participant self-evaluation in written or verbal forms.

3. Participants, other trainers and the trainer themselves evaluate the successful completion of the program.

4. Content evaluation by participants and/or trainer.

5. Participant and trainer evaluation of facilities.

6. Follow-up participant learning by using any of the above methods after several weeks or months to see how much the learners maintained. You can also interview the participants, their supervisors and the trainers after several months to see how they self-evaluate their learning.

7. Give people a pre-test before they learn knowledge and skills and a post-test to see what changes there are in the participants knowledge and abilities.

Things to Evaluate

There are different things one can evaluate to improve programs. Most of them involve a participant's learning but others involve specific aspects of the training program including some of the following. A trainer can use the evaluation process to determine how effective some of these training aspects were and revise them according to needs.

1. Preparation of materials and participants,

2. Content,

3. The trainers,

4. Written and visual materials,

5. Activities: group and individual,

6. Time limits sufficient and met,

7. Participation of learners throughout program,

8. Environment helpful to learning,

9. Performance results.

10. Learner self-evaluations. Learners can evaluate:

if their original concerns or learning needs were met,

if their participation helped or hurt the learning process for themselves and for others,

what actions they are going to take to apply what they have learned.

Evaluation Forms

Forms can be very simple or quite detailed depending on what you intend to do with the results. The more detailed the form the more you should use the information to improve the design and the delivery of the program. Participants often are not to keen to fill in evaluation forms so use them only when you intend to use the feedback to improve your programs.

On the next few pages are several examples of evaluation forms.


1. What did you like or find most useful about this program?








2. What did you like or find least useful about this program?








3. Any other comments or suggestions?









(Your Point of View Helps Us Improve Our Program)

NAME: _____________________________ DATE: _______________________

Please circle a number to indicate your evaluation. Five (5) is the highest rating you can give; one (1) is the lowest.


1. Apparent knowledge of the subject  1 2 3 4 5

2. Apparent interest and enthusiasm  1 2 3 4 5

3. Clarifies, simplifies theories or abstract ideas  1 2 3 4 5

4. Confidence in self and ability  1 2 3 4 5


1. Voice level  1 2 3 4 5

2. Voice tone  1 2 3 4 5

3. Use of examples 1 2 3 4 5

4. Asks meaningful questions  1 2 3 4 5

5. Encourages student contributions  1 2 3 4 5

6. Student interest generated  1 2 3 4 5

7. Pace and flow of lesson  1 2 3 4 5

8. Mannerisms and gestures  1 2 3 4 5

9. Understandability (choice of words, etc.)  1 2 3 4 5

10. Learning atmosphere created  1 2 3 4 5

11. Control and direction of class  1 2 3 4 5

12. Appearance (dress, etc.)  1 2 3 4 5

13. Multiculturally unbiased  1 2 3 4 5


1. Organization of lesson  1 2 3 4 5

2. Thoroughness of preparation and presentation  1 2 3 4 5

3. Logical Progression of Lesson  1 2 3 4 5


1. Organization of Materials  1 2 3 4 5

2. Easy to Read  1 2 3 4 5

3. Sufficient Information  1 2 3 4 5

4. Self-Instructional  1 2 3 4 5

What did you like most or find most useful about this program and the resources used?






What did you like least or find least useful about this program and the resources used?






What would you change or do differently about this workshop?






How would you change this evaluation form?






Any other comments or suggestions? (Please answer on the back of this page.)


There is no such thing as a perfect teacher. The best we can hope for is to provide people with a learning environment that encourages them to build on their strengths and develop their knowledge and skills to meet their own learning needs. We do this by providing the basics of effective teaching:

1. 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.

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

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

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

5. Help people to reduce their fears, stresses and learning barriers. Competitive learning is useful but confrontational learning is destructive.

6. Accommodate different learning styles, speeds and needs by providing information visually, verbally and through hands-on exercises or demonstrations.

7. 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.

8. Encourage individual learning as well as learning in groups.

When we concentrate on the basic attitude of helping people to learn, we fulfil our mission while also providing a teaching role model for learners to use when they go on to teach others.


Whenever you finish learning new information it is helpful to take a moment or two to evaluate what you have found most useful and what you would like to do with that information. This process can be very useful whether you write out the answers or just think about them.

1. What general concepts, ideas or techniques have you learned?






2. List at least three techniques from this resource that you could use immediately.






3. What other concepts, ideas or techniques do you want to learn?






4. Is there anything you have learned that you could pass on to your colleagues, family members or friends?






5. Do you have any further comments or ideas you want to record based on what you have learned?






How to Teach Others

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Copyright © 1993, 1999, 2006 Harry van Bommel

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