The Ten Minute Trainer

This week’s Adventures with Agile meetup was a seminar by Sharon Bowman, author of Training from the Back of the Room. As with all the best talks it was both engaging and informative. We were taught in my favourite way; by doing what we were learning. As one person on my table said, “This is incredibly meta.” Here are my takeaway points.The Right to Pass Right at the start Sharon told us that if we didn’t want to do any of the activities we could say so upfront, and that our colleagues would be fine with that. Giving people the right to not participate takes away any anxiety that people may feel about what is upcoming, and therefore takes away a potential blocker for activities that the learner may be happy to join in with.

Quick Chat Immediately after Sharon’s first slide we were given a couple of minutes to chat within our groups about what we already knew about the topic. This immediately engages the learner with the content that is being presented to them, and the people that they are with. This (and the following quick ___ ) are particularly important for agile teams, especially if they’re in the early stages of team life.

Quick Write, Quick Draw After another couple of slides we did the next activity. We each had an index card and on one side we wrote a user story about what we were each hoping to get out of the event. We were then told to turn it over and draw a representation of what that will look like. These are priming techniques, that are making the learner more receptive to what they’re about to be talked. Sharon preferred labelling it as the learner making a connection with the subject.

Make Activities Relate to the Content Most of us have far more information to impart upon our learners than we have time to impart it in. As a result, doing ice breakers that have nothing to do with  the content are not making full use of the time  we have. We want to have time for our learners to speak to each other, but let’s make the most of it by getting  them to engage with each other about what they’re learning. They may even be able to teach other about their experiences with the subject previously, or what they hope  to experience in the future.

Standing Survey This is where everyone gets up out of their chairs and moves around the room to interact with people from other tables. Ask the learners to go and ask a particular questions to a few people from other tables. When they return to their original tables, ask them to share what they learned.

Graphic Organiser This is a sheet of  paper with some visual on it that the learner can write what they’re learning on. My placing text on a page it helps the learner to remember things in the long term. There are some great ones available on Google. Throughout the evening Sharon was consistently reminding us to add the technique we had just learned onto the sheet.

Ten Minutes As the title of the talk suggests, ten minutes is an important length of time. The trainer (facilitator, etc.) shouldn’t be talking for any longer than ten minutes, fifteen at the most. This is the length of time that one person can hold the attention of a room for. After this point the learner’s mind will start to wonder. Sharon illustrated this well by only speaking for short periods of time before giving us another activity to do.

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