How to Teach Others


The best way to learn is to help other people learn.

The following information on teaching others is designed to help experienced and beginning teachers or trainers. I hope the material is equally helpful to all teachers, educators, facilitators, instructors, and content providers. Whatever the term, the goal is the same ­ to provide a learning environment and framework that allows learners to acquire knowledge and skills for professional and personal development.

This book is not meant as a replacement for an in-depth teaching or train-the-trainer program. It does present practical information on adult learners and the design, teaching and evaluation of programs ­ the basic building blocks of any teaching program.

The best training programs are those that meet the needs of your organization's mission statement, strategic and operational plans, and the needs of individual managers and staff.

The best way to use the following information is to read through the material quickly and highlight areas that you think may help you in designing or improving your education program. The other material may be helpful in the future but for now concentrate on what can help you most, right away.


In this material you will read the words teacher, facilitator, educator and trainer. People who teach full time see themselves in different ways and so give themselves different titles to reflect their philosophy of teaching. Facilitators believe that their job is to help people learn for themselves. Trainers often teach people "hard" skills that require technical expertise such as computer training, high-tech skills, and how to run machines, or "soft" skills such as sales training, communication or supervisory skills training. Educators and teachers combine facilitation and training but also like to think of themselves as using more theory along with specific skills teaching.

I use all four titles inter-changeably in this material because the distinctions between educator, teacher, facilitator and trainer are not very clear, even in the teaching profession. Whatever title you prefer for yourself is fine.

Teaching Styles

I have not written very much in this material about different teaching styles (see Appendix and the Reference section) because most readers are not full-time teachers. The theory and application of different teaching styles is important to learn for those who are full time teachers, but for the rest, you need knowledge and skills that build on your natural teaching style. Concentrate on meeting the needs of the participants in your programs and you will always have successful programs.

The principle of using these skills effectively is to participate actively in the process of using these skills, organize your skills, persist during difficult times, and be creative. The more effectively we use our skills, the more time we have to enjoy other parts of our lives.

Memory Aids

The following memory aids are intended to help you incorporate the information presented with your own knowledge and skills.

A content guide is a sequential preview and summary of what exists in the resource. Content guides are used most often by people who prefer to remember information in a sequential, logical format.

A memory map is a diagram that previews and summarizes the contents of each resource. Memory maps are used most often by people who prefer to remember information in a visual format.

There are several approaches for using these content guides and memory maps. Either:

1. Use the content guide and/or the memory map to preview the resource.

2. Use the content guide and/or the memory map to review the resource after you have read it.

3. Use the content guide and/or the memory map to preview and review the resource.

When you have decided how you want to use the content guide and/or the memory map you can begin to add your own personal notes and ideas directly to these basic preview-review pages. Use your creativity to add personal ideas to these pages so that they will serve you better as a memory tool. Use different colored pens to highlight specific points or to color code significant pointers to information in other resources. Change the order of the information or revise the diagrams in whatever ways you think might help you. Do not be restricted by what I have presented since the content guides and memory maps represent only one way to remember the knowledge and skills in the resources.

Content Guide

Beginning Teachers

How You Learn

Principles of Adult Education

Characteristics of Learners

Designing Programs

Facilitating Programs

Audio Visual Tools

Physical Environment


Memory Map


My teaching career started in Grade 6. I was asked to tutor another pupil in Mathematics. I was hooked! For over 35 years I have taught in many different learning environments including in-house training within corporations, elementary school, junior and senior high school, colleges, universities, post-graduate programs, and in such not-for-profit settings as a childrens' prison and community centres. Each environment and group of learners provided another adventure in learning.

Part of the teaching experience is to go beyond what you are used to and try things that meet your learners' needs more than your own. This book is about doing just that. Some of you will be comfortable with some or all of the alternative ways of teaching. Some of your learners will be comfortable with some or all of these methods as well. You need to understand the learners before you before you determine the best way to help them acquire the knowledge and skills they need.

This book has evolved over the past decades with feedback by managers and staff using the material, by learners and by Deb Thivierge. One other person in particular, Janet Klees, provided not only encouragement and support but was also instrumental in developing the memory maps, doing some of the research, most of the editing, and helping to organize the material. Her contribution was invaluable.

I also want to thank my family and friends who have given me their encouragement, their good humor and the example of always looking for wonder.


How to Teach Others

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Copyright © 1993, 1999, 2006 Harry van Bommel

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