This blog relates to the unit TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning from the course TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
Can we really teach just anybody to be a trainer? Can we teach just anybody to be a concert pianist? We can all agree that it takes a special talent and passion to be a concert pianist. The same applies to being a trainer.
What makes for a superlative trainer? Of course they must know their subject – that goes without saying. But knowing your subject and being able to impart the knowledge and skills to others are two different things.
A trainer needs instinct, talent and passion. They need confidence in their own ability while empathising with the learner’s lack of confidence. It’s important for us to remember where we came from and how hard it was for us in the beginning. We need to “leave ourselves outside the door” and focus on our learners. When you focus on your learner and what they are thinking, you don’t have time to be self-conscious.
We may start with a session plan, but we also need to think on our feet and know when to throw the session plan out the door and, instead, give the learners what they need when they need it.
We have a number of DEL units in the TAE and no doubt they will provide additional knowledge and skills but if the trainer is not born to train, all the teaching in the world will not make them into a trainer.
Written by Sandy Welton
Post your thoughts on what makes a great trainer.
Attributes of a great trainer include passion, kindness, patience, comprehensive knowledge of the topic and most importantly a constant reflection on their own experiences as a learner.
For me personally, I believe age and experience are what has given me the skills to be able to teach.
Hi , passion, commitment, critical thinking, continuous growth and emotional intelligence, and the ability to create inclusivity and psychological safety are all essential parts of being successful in group training. I believe anyone who wants to develop as a trainer has the ability professionally and personally. And we ourselves will always be eternal students.
I do believe that hard work and most of all passion are important attributes of a successful trainer. Although, I disagree that we are ‘born’ to be trainers. I do not believe that we should ‘gatekeep’ the profession of the trainer. Just as we need to promote and celebrate the diversity of our learners, we also need to do the same with trainers, as long as they are passionate about what they are training.
I wouldnt go as far as saying you need to be born into it. But I certainly agree that passion and an enquiring mind are essential ingredients. The energy from a trainer, either positive or negative will be picked up on by all attending the course. Their displayed competence, willingness to impart further information, go above and beyond to answer questions in detail and engage with students will form a large part if not the largest part of why the course was either successful or not. I believe you can train a trainer, but whether they end up a good one will depend on skills, knowledge and above all, attitude.
I agree to a certain extent, passion is essential for the delivery of engaging, meaningful training. However, I’m not certain everyone is born with the gift to train and this is something that can develop over time. I would suggest that I’m a good case for this point.
In year 10 at high school I completed 3 weeks work experience as a PE teacher in a primary school. At the end of the experience my supervising teacher said I was too quiet, lacked confidence and the inspiration to teach. I wrote a comment underneath saying I did not enjoy the experience and would never be a teacher. Six years later I was in a classroom teaching and upon reflection I was very ordinary to begin with, but over time my skills and passion blossomed.
For more than 25 years my life has been focused on the development of young people, as a teacher, youth programs director, sports coach, youth leadership mentor and volunteer with numerous youth groups on three different continents. I’ve presented to groups from 5 to 200+ and it was definitely something that didn’t happen overnight. Quite possibly there was a spark inside that just needed opportunities and a willingness to take a risk, then fan the flames. I would say in my case it has been far more nurture than it was nature.
A trainer must be a lifelong learner, someone who never stops growing, adapting, and bringing new ideas and strategies to their own life. In this way, they stay current and relevant, and also remember the journey of going from someone who knows nothing to becoming unconsciously skilled at what you do. An inspired, enthusiastic trainer has the opportunity to be a light beacon, helping others find their way when they get lost.
I think a great trainer is an individual who possess a natural instincts, appropriate knowledge and skill. Such an individual would also have a calling, which could be a motivation and guiding principle to do the best in their field. With training such an individual would be more focused and understanding, to deliver a group or individual focused training.
I’m not sure how much intrinsic skill and talent is involved in being a teacher or trainer. Yes it is there, but the growth mindset that leads us to learning and developing is just as much part of the trainer as it is the learner. We must always be curious, growing and improving.
“…if the trainer is not born to train, all the teaching in the world will not make them into a trainer.”
This is a very strange article to post in a training education forum – particularly in a forum hosted by an organisation called the International Teacher Training Academy – as it seems to completely devalue the work of educators in the training sector (as well as the entire soft-skills training industry) with a wholly unsubstantiated assessment of the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate.
I don’t think I have ever disagreed with any article more thoroughly. But let’s run with it.
If this was actually the stance of a teacher training organisation, the organisation should be screening all potential candidates to see if they are “born trainers” prior to admission into the course in order to comply with the principle of fairness and the organisation’s ethical responsibilities. Otherwise, those who are not “born trainers” are all being set up to fail. Maybe they will meet the assessment criteria and be awarded the qualification, but this “will not make them into a trainer” according to the author.
But how would you screen for or assess such a thing? The author seems to rank attributes such as instinct, talent, passion, confidence and empathy highly. But these are just personal attributes – the outcomes, if you will. How would you then go about determining how the candidate reached those outcomes in order to find out if they were born with these attributes or developed them throughout the course of their education and life experiences? More to the point, why would it even matter – especially in the VET teacher training sector?
How would you apply the principle of validity to such an assessment – which states that nothing over and above the stated requirements should be assessed – when the requirements of a “born trainer” can’t be defined beyond a list of personal attributes that may have been reached by any number of pathways? How would you create benchmarks or model answers for such an assessment in order to comply with the principle of reliability?
The notion of a “born trainer” is so intangible, so nebulous, that it would be impossible, which is why I think assertions such as this should not have any place in the VET training sector.
I remember once at teachers college, a fellow student said “just because you know information, doest mean you can teach it!” Not everybody agreed that day – and I sat on the fence. At some point in life we all teach or support someones learning of something.
What I do believe is that you do need the knowledge base to teach a specific topic/subject. Your passion for the subject and the students/learners, supports your ability to teach.
But there is more to it than that? How many times have we heard parents mention that their child grew/learnt in leaps and bounds with one teacher and not with another . . . . . does this reflect the teachers teaching ability, the students ability to learn, the relationship between the student and teacher . . . or all of the above and more?
It seems to me that a great trainer begins with few assumptions about their learners, which leads them to start with the basics, explaining not just WHAT they will teach but also WHY it is relevant to the learner. Learners who don’t know how the information is going to benefit them can easily switch off, or struggle to encode the information in a way that allows them to recall it later. The best trainers start a topic in a way that reaffirms those who know things about the topic already, while tactfully bringing those who know very little up to speed. Great trainers are relaxed, animated, they include thoughtful pauses and humourous anecdotes in their delivery, and they draw in their audience with their body language and use of strategic communication techniques. A great trainer is usually someone whose passion for the subject (in general) endures, but they are also self-aware enough to not lose themselves in their enthusiasm, leaving learners behind. Good trainers also have to manage the classroom dynamics well – dealing effectively with those who contribute too much or who are making it difficult for others to learn, while giving each learner confidence that their input is welcomed. Trainers who arrive with sweet treats also seem to do well!
‘I believe if you are passionate enough about your subject, passionate enough to share what you know with others and have a love of learning more about your subject, with hard work and determination you can become a great trainer.’ Lisa Phillips
The discussion about what makes a ‘superlative’ trainer could be seen in is most simplistic form as another exploration of the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate in the context of teaching/training. That is, are superlative trainers born with the necessary characteristics or talents or can they be developed by careful nurturing? Or perhaps there has to be equal contributions from both?
Many of this have reflected on this particularly after participating in classes eager to learn from an expert in education and training only to be disappointed in the lack of passion, patience and professional delivery.
Also is it possible that some of the most engaging teachers/trainers have left themselves completely outside the training arena when they engage and entertain as they impart the skills and knowledge the learners need?
So continuing with the initial thought, of nature versus nurture, is a good engaging trainer a born extrovert who loves interacting with others, is able to read body language, and derives satisfaction when others learn? Can we actually teach people in training such as this to be reflective about themselves, empathetic to others ( when they themselves may never have struggled to learn anything), read the faces of the learners and to totally leave themselves outside the training arena ?
Further, while it may be possible to create a list of all the characteristics of a good trainer and even to assign some to ‘nature”and others to ‘nurture’ it is doubtful that all would be found in any one person and exhibited in all situations.
“We need to leave ourselves outside the door and focus on our learners”.
I could not agree with this more, as a teacher as much as our role is about imparting knowledge, the action and role we play actually has nothing to do with us as individuals and everything to do with out learner and the way they learn. It is our role as teachers to be able to quickly adapt and pick up on the different styles and ways of learning and each learner will have a different way to learn. This is where the intuition and passion comes in, to have the intuition of quickly figuring out the way a person learns and operates offers a big hand in the way we deliver our lessons as a teacher, I truly believe this intuition is something you are born with and cannot be taught.
Sikiki, it is a pleasure to work with someone who is passionate about what they do.
I completely agree with the statement that educators/trainers are born and not made…I took the path of business management but invariably found myself in a training/hr role hahaha.
I never saw myself as an educator but I now have a Master of Teacher and have been a secondary teacher for the last five years, having retrained out of Tourism. I’m moving into Adult Ed now and find that I should have bitten the bullet and become a teacher when I first left school! Oh for the wisdom of hindsight.
I also am with David, ITTA have been fantastic. The professional delivery and friendly support that I have received doing my TAE40116 has been so consistent and encouraging. I have recommended ITTA to our HR department and I hope they are selected as the organisation that provides the TAE40116 upgrade for our teachers.
Thank you Sandy and Carolyn 🙂
Andy – Yes, you are right – it comes back to the argument about nature or nurture, and in your case it looks like it was both (fortunately).
But … my question is … if you weren’t a born trainer then, at this late stage, could I turn you into one? In my experience it’s a resounding “No”.
An interesting view on what makes a trainer. It is clear to me that this comes back to the age-old discussion of nature versus nurture. Is someone good at something because their parents were good at it? Is it in the genes? Is it just chance that they were born that way? Or is it because their parents raised them in a way that mirrored the training concepts – questioning them, challenging them to find the answers? It may not have been the parents raising them this way it may have been a role-model or mentor (many of which we meet at school – teachers). Was all of this done in such an enjoyable environment that the individual then followed this path.
This is all very interesting, and I don’t have the answer, that’s the beauty of it.
For me – my journey had me born into a family of teachers. My mum is a primary teacher and ex-vice principal, my dad is a high school teacher. Later, my step-dad was a primary teacher and now my brother is a primary teacher and vice principal. I avoided this by taking the path of engineering through university before realising I wasn’t enjoying it. I worked in hospitality for a number of years assisting with the management and training of new staff. I then took a career move into finance working at a major bank. Within each role I found myself helping others to learn the job. So after many years of avoiding my calling of being a trainer of sorts I found myself in the role of a workplace coach and am absolutely loving it. It has given me great opportunity to do the things I love and it seems to come naturally to me (or were they nurtured into me?).
Thank you very much ITTA team, recently completed an RPL process to upgrade my two TAE Diplomas to the 2016 version AND my TAE40110 to TAE40116.
As always, I cannot comment highly enough on the assistance and support I have received form ALL the team at ITTA.
I am so impressed I keep coming back to do more and more because the team is so professional AND I am now marketing ITTA to all my VET Trainers/Assessors to use ITTA to gain or update their Training and Assessment qualifications. I am so proud to call ITTA as my preferred supplier 🙂
David, thank you for the lovely feedback. I was just looking at the title of this Blog “Trainers are born, not made” – this is what really makes the difference. I know you are passionate about training and assessing David, and as one of our TAE candidates you certainly demonstrated through your commitment and quality of work that you are a born trainer! Keep up the great work.