How to Help Subject Matter Experts Meet the

This series of articles began by identifying five challenges involved in encouraging SMEs to use participatory learning activities: to help them: (1) recognize the value of participatory learning activities; (2) become open to the idea of actually using participatory activities; (3) see that participatory activities are not necessarily difficult to design; (4) learn how to select appropriate activities; and (5) become comfortable with facilitating participatory activities.

The previous article began to address the fourth challenge: How to help SMEs learn how to select travelguidebook appropriate activities. That article discussed two of the three key factors that impact the decision regarding which learning activity to use.

This article continues that discussion by addressing the last factor:

3. The need to use a variety of participatory activities to meet the needs of different learning styles as well as keep the learners engaged.

To assist SMEs with the third factor, introduce the idea of different learning styles.

Ask the SMEs how they prefer to learn. Very often, SMEs will say that they prefer hands on exercises, demonstrations, or reading. A few might indicate a preference for lecture. If there are several SMEs involved, it will become apparent that they have different preferences. Build on this fact by explaining that individuals have different learning styles.

To keep the discussion as simple as possible, use the basic model of auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning styles. Explain that auditory learners learn by listening, visual learners learn by reading and observing, and kinesthetic learners learn by doing and moving. After the model is clear, relate each SME’s preference to one of these specific learning styles.

When working with one SME alone, the training coach can add his or her own personal learning preferences to the list. This will still provide an adequate indication that different learners have different learning preferences.

Make sure that this discussion does not give the SMES the impression that they will have to design three different learning activities for each content item. Alleviate any concerns in this regard by showing them that most learning activities can easily be arranged or enhanced to meet the needs of all three learning styles at the same time.

As long as the learners get an opportunity to talk- and therefore listen when others talk, the auditory learners will be satisfied. If the learners stand up to gather around a flip chart while a scribe writes on it, both the visual and the kinesthetic learners will be satisfied.

After a satisfactory explanation of the three factors involved in selecting a participatory learning activity, it is important to give the SMEs an opportunity to identify and discuss possible learning activities that they can use. This is the place to emphasize the importance of selecting a variety of activities to keep all participants engaged.

The next article will discuss how to meet the fifth and last challenge: helping SMEs become comfortable with facilitating participatory activities.

Deborah Spring Laurel has provided technical curriculum design and train the trainer programs for the energy industry for over fifteen years. Her curriculum design and master training skills helped the Energy Center of Wisconsin win the 1998 and 2002 Awards of Excellence in Education from the American Institute of Architects, as well as the 2000 Exemplar Award from the International Association of Continuing Education and Training. Her expertise made the National Compressed Air Challenge one of the highest rated training programs for the U.S. Department of Energy. For information about her technical curriculum design services and train the trainer workshops, please contact Deborah directly at (608) 255-2010



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