What are the qualities of a good trainer?

In terms of courses and training provided by my employer and training that I’ve undertaken as an adult, several trainers stand out for me as people who not only knew about their subject but who could also communicate it in a way that made me as the learner want to learn more.

Probably one of the best trainers I met at work was an in-house IT trainer who worked for the company where I got my first job. He was patient, gave clear explanations and never tired of answering my endless questions, which often went beyond the course material into other related areas. I wanted to learn as much as possible and he was willing to explore other things once we had covered the basic course content.

If he didn’t have some extra information with him, he would email it to me later.

In terms of language training, my Turkish teacher helped me a lot. She created a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere and helped me to feel less nervous about doing a task that didn’t come naturally to me…speaking. Writing, reading and listening were fun, but in the lessons we focussed a lot on spontaneous speaking, as this was my biggest struggle, which had more to do with confidence than anything else!

This teacher made the training relevant and interesting and in doing so, helped me as a learner to develop my skills and knowledge.

These examples focus on one-to-one training but I’ve had good experiences with group training too.

I remember doing a presentation skills course that gave us plenty of things to think about and then we had to devise our own presentation, based on what we’d learned. The final part of the course was a practical session in which we gave our presentations.

This worked well because it achieved the balance between theory and practice.

I don’t want to single out particularly bad trainers but here are some less than helpful things that I have witnessed:

  • People who just read from their notes or slides and don’t engage with the training participants. The participants could read the slides themselves!
  • People who clearly love and feel passionate about their subject but who can’t explain it in a way that makes sense to people who don’t know as much about it. The reason people are on the course in the first place is that they don’t know as much as the experts. Therefore the trainer should be facilitating their learning.
  • People who have clearly run the same course 100 times and because of that, it has become like a mechanical activity for them. They seem to have forgotten that this is the first and only time this particular group is doing the training and that’s a shame, because it really detracts from the learning experience and causes the learners to disengage because the teacher seems disengaged.

Talking about training and development in English

I am not going to post vocabulary in this article, but I recently published a podcast for people who want to talk about training and development in English. You can listen to it and see the show notes here.

What do you think?

What makes your favourite teachers and trainers stand out from all the others? What qualities do they have?

Have you had any bad experiences?

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