“If trainers are asked to be designers, they have to be familiar with adult learning theory in instructional design if they are going to be effective,” Guilkey insists.
And the same applies to subject matter experts if the task of designing a training session is assigned to them. “A lot of people being asked to design are subject matter experts, who have little or no formal training in instructional design,” he says.
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The lack of formal training in instructional design often leads to common mistakes that impact training effectiveness. For example, the top instructional design mistake, especially in instructor-led training, is that trainers “are telling, not teaching,” Guilkey says. “They’re reading from a PowerPoint®. There’s lots of text.” They expect learners to learn from rote memory, and they later assess what learners memorized—rather than how well they can apply their new knowledge, he adds.
To be most effective, training should be collaborative—with a variety of interactions between learners and the facilitator—and take a problem-based approach, Guilkey explains. “A collaborative approach is absolutely critical. It results in much higher levels of learning than rote memory.”
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For example, during aviation training, pilots need to learn about regulations, weather conditions, navigation, how the aircraft works, and other topics, he says. But they also need to know how to apply that knowledge, such as during a simulated flight when they must deal with bad weather and an undefined engine problem. They can collaborate with their instructor during the simulation and, if another learner sits in the back seat and observes, from that learner afterwards.
The trainer should be seen as a facilitator instead of a presenter—for example, dividing learners into groups to tackle a particular problem, Guilkey says. However, he recommends against randomly assigning learners to groups. That’s because collaboration is much more powerful, and higher levels of learning take place, in heterogeneous groups (e.g., a mix of new and experienced employees).