Direct Instruction & How Thought Leaders Teach

Friday, May 31, 2013

On Friday, Manoj’s class was on Direct Instruction, which has components essential for  trainers to grasp and understand. Of course, I instinctively use some of these components without realizing their form or structure when I get an opportunity to speak to people.

For example, I would resort to the Lecture style if I were to speak to my Trainee friends at the IITD programme. But even with them, I wouldn’t lecture endlessly. Attention span of people is very limited and if I lecture beyond 10 minutes, I would bore them to death. In this style, effectiveness of communication would depend entirely on me. Eye contact, body language and presence of mind would play a major role in this type of instruction. How well I prepare the content, my energy levels as I communicate and empathy are other important factors.

I haven’t really practiced Explicit Teaching yet. This style is about explaining, demonstrating through examples and practicing individual components of topics, in a thorough manner. The trainer has to communicate the purpose of the learning, explain what to do and demonstrate how to do followed by many opportunities to practice the lesson or skill learned.

Drill and Practice is important not just for students in schools, but also for those who are much older, like me. I tend to relax at the learning venue and if the trainer takes time to repeat certain explanations, the learning has better chance of taking root.

Compare and Contrast style is very effective while teaching. My group of 4 was asked on Friday to compare and contrast what we understood by ‘Self Confidence’ and ‘Self Esteem.’ The activity forced me and the group members to think and the learning experience was truly exhilarating.

I think I am quite good at the use of Didactic Questions. I am able to take listeners to the heart of the matter by asking them questions. Socrates was very famous for this style of teaching. Questions starting with, why, what, where, when and how can be very effective tools in the hands of a good trainer to ensure the listeners comprehend the lessons and enlarge their thinking.

After going through these styles, Manoj showed two examples of Direct Instruction.

One was Daniel Coleman’s talk at Google. I could see that his grasp of his subject was phenomenal. But I thought the delivery left a lot to be desired. There was hardly any emoting or display of ’emotional intelligence’ in the style of delivery. Perhaps the senior executives at Google would have felt quite comfortable with that style of delivery.

The next talk by Robert Cialdini on the 6 Principles of Influence was in another league altogether. He made eye contact, he engaged the listeners, his examples were very succinct and he had built up his talk in an edifice of order and structure, making it easy for people to grasp his message.

Having content is not enough. There should be energy. And the focus should not be on the subject knowledge of the speaker, but on how receptive the listener is to grasp the message. If listeners do not understand, the problem is rarely with them.

Being a trainer is fraught with many challenges. There are also those exhilarating opportunities in transforming people through the power of persuasive words delivered with energy and emotion.



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