Look at each of the questions in turn and think carefully about how they relate to your own training experiences. Then click on each box to see tips, advice, guidance and further information.
Communicate clearly to present new information or give instructions
1. Think about a recent training session which you have attended. How was the information presented? Was it easy to understand and follow? What made it easy or difficult?
How we present information depends on our audience. Most people enjoy training sessions in which information is organised and communicated in chunks, and where they have adequate time to discuss and respond. If we have to listen for a long period of time, we generally stop listening. If we stop listening, we stop learning.
Good trainers use visual support (e.g. pictures, real objects, PowerPoint slides) to help trainees understand. They also choose their language carefully.
When training, we need to model what we want teachers to do in the classroom.
2. Think about a training session which you have given or which you might give in the future. What communication skills and visual support could you use to communicate clearly and effectively?
There are different skills you can use to communicate clearly and effectively. If you can use several or all of these in a session, the trainees will be better able to understand and engage with the information.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I seem confident? Have I planned and organised what I will say?
- Do I seem friendly and approachable? Do I smile?
- Am I speaking clearly at the correct volume and speed?
- Am I using body language effectively, e.g. eye contact, facial expressions and gestures?
- Is the language I’m using appropriate? Am I concise?
- What visuals or examples could I use to support understanding?
- Do I actively ‘watch’ and ‘listen’? When trainees look confused or bored, do I respond?
- Do I make time for questions and discussion?
3. Why do you need to ‘actively listen’ when communicating information during training sessions?
When we teach or train, it does not automatically mean that participants listen and learn. This is because communication is a two-way process; we need to listen and watch very carefully – non-verbal communication also ‘speaks’. ‘Active listening’ encourages respect and understanding. It means responding to what we see and hear.
Here are some active listening techniques.
- Paying attention to participants’ body language and behaviour: Are they interested and engaged? Or do they look confused or tired? If the answer to the second question is yes, you need to be flexible and change what you are doing. Don’t just carry on, as no learning is taking place.
- Responding to what you see and hear: Do you need to clarify or give examples? Do you need to pause for questions? Do you need to change the pace? Do you need to adapt your plan? Do participants need a break?
- Showing that you are listening: Give participants your full attention when they contribute. Nod, smile and look interested. Comment and ask questions. Encourage the speaker to continue speaking, so you have all the information that you need. If they don’t think you are listening, they won’t want to make another contribution.
- Giving feedback: Clarify your understanding, e.g. ‘So, what you are saying is …’ ‘What do you mean when you say …?’ Summarise participants’ comments. Don’t ignore misunderstandings or differing opinions. These can be valuable opportunities to ensure that all trainees understand.
- Be non-judgemental: Don’t interrupt – allow the speaker to finish. Don’t disagree directly – open the point up for discussion and invite other participants to comment. Say things like: ‘That’s an interesting point, what do others think?’ ‘Thank you for sharing – does anyone else have a view on this?’
4. What should you do/not do when giving instructions?
Clear instructions are important because trainees need to know what to do, and time is limited and we don’t want to waste it. If instructions are not clear, this will have a negative effect on trainees. They could become confused, frustrated or disinterested and lose learning time. Generally, trainees need to know who to work with, what to do and how long they have.
See below for tips on giving instructions.
- Plan and stage instructions: This is especially useful with complicated tasks with several stages. Give the instructions in the correct order; for example, say ‘First read the text and then do the task in pairs’ not ‘Do the task in pairs but first read the text’. Stage the instructions and use linking words. Do not give all the instructions at the start.
- Make sure you have everyone’s full attention: Don’t give instructions until everyone has stopped what they are doing, are looking at you and listening. Otherwise, you may have to repeat the instructions several times.
- Use simple language and short sentences: Use language appropriate to the trainees’ level and don’t use more words than necessary. Imperatives, such as ‘Work with a partner’ or ‘Please don’t show your partner’, are effective.
- Use gestures to support understanding: For example, when grouping trainees: With ‘You three, you three and you four’, use your hands to show which trainees should work together.
- Check understanding of instructions: Don’t ask: ‘Do you understand?’ Ask short answer questions, for example for a jigsaw reading activity: ‘Can you read your partner’s text?’
- Check all trainees are ‘on task’: As soon as the trainees start the activity, quickly check that each pair or group are ‘on task’. Don’t stop to help one group until you have checked them all. If only one group has not understood, go back and help. If several groups haven’t understood, stop the activity and explain again. If necessary, demonstrate.
5. How will you know that everybody understands the new information? What could you do to check that everybody has understood?
Training participants – like students – may misunderstand, or may not understand the new information you give them. Therefore, it is important to regularly monitor and check understanding so that all the trainees benefit from the session.
Here are some effective techniques for doing this.
In addition to ‘watching’ as you speak, you can move around the room and listen to trainees as they do activities. This will help you to notice any misunderstandings or problems. You can then address these during the post-activity feedback by explaining in a different way or having a discussion.
- When participants respond to questions or give opinions, remember to ask ‘Why?’ or ‘Why not?’ Explanations and justifications show understanding more effectively than a correct answer.
- Use ‘think, pair, share’ or ‘stop and think!’ at the end of each learning chunk. This will help trainees reflect on and discuss what they’ve learned and what they’re unsure about. You can then work together to discuss and clarify any issues.
- Clearly state and clarify the learning objectives at the start of the session. During and at the end of the session, refer back to them. Ask trainees to assess how confident they are and review areas of difficulty.
What changes are you going to make in your training sessions to communicate more clearly?
This is up to you. But be confident and try things out. Realise that things will not always work first time – but don’t be discouraged by this. Be honest with yourself afterwards; think about why it didn’t work, and make the necessary changes for next time. Get feedback from the participants if you can – they may be able to tell you if any part of your session was unclear.