As students we have all experienced many excellent instructors and some that were not so excellent. Instructors role is to be one of the motivational factors in the delivery of content that is absorbed by the student. The role of the Instructor has been evolving and even as of this writing the use of “virtual” training will again challenge the Instructor to evolve even more. If the Instructor struggles with technological advances - how is the student struggling? This article will try to identify the challenges of being an excellent instructor.
The instructional delivery method chosen should be in the student’s best interest, not the instructor’s. Instructional content delivered for the student is used to inspire, to help, to inform and change the student’s behavior that will make a huge impact in the student’s ability to execute on the fireground flawlessly. For the instructor, it should be about contributions—for the student it is about impact. The instructor is the influencer. Instructors are striving for the student to absorb the information and execute to perfection the skills being taught. Instructors should understand the psychology and science of teaching (pedagogy is tough for many instructors to identify with pedagogy and then to pronounce). The skills necessary to deliver an influential class is dependent upon the Instructor’s ability to deliver the information in an informative, interesting and an entertaining manner. You must structure the presentation in a manner that leads to learning.
Mindset is a complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values, and dispositions to act in certain ways. Each of us has a mindset that influences the way we interact and accomplish our goals. There is a proactive mindset that I used in the development and delivery of a Fire Officer I course. I was looking for an innovative and creative delivery system that met the needs of the students. The system would challenge the status quo for firefighter certification in the State of Indiana, but not in education in general.
- It is not about the Instructor; IT IS ABOUT THE STUDENTS.
- The focus of the instructor is on the student NEEDS to master the topic being discussed.
- It is about the student listening to you.
- It is about the student understanding what you have said.
- It is about the student interpreting your message to an output.
- It is about the student translating the content into action.
- It is about the student taking your message and creating an outcome.
- It is about the student knowing the instructor cares.
- The student needs to know the Instructor cares about them.
- The student needs to know the Instructor wants the student to be successful.
- The instructor has a single purpose to engage the audience.
- An instructor is in the sales business. You are selling information. Your content may be called “edutainment.
- Deliver the information in a manner that creates action because without action learning has not taken place.
- The instructor is a listener.
- The instructor presents information in an interactive method.
- Instructors quit using the word “me” and “I.” Start using the word “we” and “you.” Instructors should not be afraid to confront controversy. Controversy is compelling and when used appropriately can engage the student.
- A “shocking” statement can lead to great interaction between the students and the Instructor.
- Instructors should use questions in their delivery. Questions create curiosity in the student to want to know more.
- Instructors should strive for credibility with students. Don’t bluff. If students don’t see you as credible, they will not relate and will let go of the rope. Credibility is something you grow through what you know, who you are, what you do and how you communicate.
- Instructing is about influence...
Instructors should realize they are leading students to a desired goal or state. I suggest that you pull students along versus pushing them along. Fire Instructors are dealing with adults. You can set the expectations. If the student chooses to not meet expectations, that is primarily their fault. Some students will not hold on and will drop off. That is okay. No program or project is 100%. If you can get 80% of your students to hold on, I would declare that a success. In today’s world with all of the competing activities, you can’t push the majority in one way or another but you can put the rope out, ask people to grab ahold, and begin pulling in a direction. People today have so many opportunities to be engaged in a diverse world full of optional activities. They will hold on only if they are highly motivated for a specific purpose. When something else comes along that looks more appealing they may let go of the rope and grab onto another rope.
Stories are crucial to every presentation if they are captivating and compelling to make the theory of your information real. In order to be a good storyteller the instructor must have done their homework. There are four components of the delivery of information. Preparation, Presentation, Application and Evaluation are the 4 components to delivery. When you first went to instructor class you were probably told that you would spend 1 to 3 hours of preparation time for every presentation. After instructing for more than 30 years I believe that is still true for me today. I think that applies even to presentations that you have done repeatedly. Thera are no shortcuts to the preparation component of instructing. If you don’t adequately prepare, the students will be able to notice.
Students want to know the answer to the following questions - Why is this important? - How does it relate to my job? - How will I apply the information? - When will I apply the information? - Where will I apply the information?
According to digitalinformationworld.com, in 2000 the average attention span for an adult is 12 seconds. In 2015 the attention span was 8.25 second and may be even less in 2021. The average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. This challenges the Instructor’s delivery style. As Instructors we are trying to provide information to students with a “goldfish” attention span. Content today should be delivered in 20 minute chunks to help the student maintain attention, retention and focus.
You can overcome some of the attention span issue by focusing on the content of the information and be clear in your message about what they need to learn. The Instructor who presents a particular topic must change the presentation every “20 minutes”. Change can be as simple as: Change from lecture to activity; from interactive to a video presentation, from a lecture to an exercise. I believe that is one reason why the TED Talks concept of delivery is highly successful, and there are many more options to change the delivery of the information so the students can maintain attention.
Knowledge, beliefs, commitment, patient, innovative, values, attitudes, passion, dreams, imagination, and vision are all characteristics of highly successful instructors. Every instructor does not have all of these characteristics equally.
Each instructor who delivers with passion, struggles with many of the actions discussed above. These are just a small picture of instruction. Like any problem if you identify the problem you can fix the problem. Look at yourself and see how you can improve your delivery style.