The role of the teacher
The role of a teacher is complex and multi-faceted. A good teacher is able to evidence that the people who attend your sessions have learned. There is a requirement to be an excellent communicator in the sense that they must be able to engage learners who have different approaches to learning. The same sessions may need to be delivered in different ways to engage learners. The teacher needs to be organised and the delivery of the session must be well planned. Learning cannot happen by chance but is actually part of a series of well informed and well executed plans to engage and educate the learner.
‘A suitable learning environment is crucial for effective learning to take place. This involves not only the venue and resources used, but also your attitude and the support you give to your learners’
Gravells, A. (2007) Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector. Learning Matters
A teacher must be suitably qualified, experienced and informed, either via formal qualifications or well prepared research to enable them to deliver the training with confidence and authority. I have achieved this via a combination of the necessary qualification from the chartered institute of personnel and development and through several years of practical experience. This enables confidence in delivering the session and in providing examples and answers to questions from the learners. The teaching role is supportive and involves coaching and mentoring. This is carried out in my day to day work assisting managers with cases and advising them of the appropriate steps to take when dealing with staff.
Being a knowledgeable practitioner in the first instance in many professions is not enough. It is essential that you remain up to date with current best practice and any changes to legislation so the training that you deliver is up to date and relevant.
In relation to current legislation it is important that any educators are aware of their legal responsibilities. Most relevant in the training that I deliver are the Employment Rights Act 1996 which gives reference to most of the casework that I am involved in. covers areas such as disciplinary matters and maternity rights. One of the other areas that is given consideration is the Equality Act 2010 which has superseded legislation such as the Disability and Sex Discrimination acts. This is extremely relevant in designing training to ensure you do not unintentionally cause offence or breach legislation that is designed to protect people. Although it is unlikely to occur in the training session this needs to be a consideration in the session content.
A teacher must use Equality and diversity, considering that each individual learner will have varying needs to potentially be accommodated in the teaching session. Ideally I would want the opportunity to speak to the individual before the session about any concerns that they may have by taking them though the lesson plan and activities, taking account of any concerns that they may have and suggest alternatives that would address these concerns. I would consider any additional equipment that may be required and where this could be sourced from or ensuring that if for example someone required use of a laptop then either this could be provided or if they have their own there is somewhere that they are able to plug it in. Support measure such as Access to work or internal funding may provide these facilities for people. The best source of information for ensuring that any reasonable adjustments are in place is the individual themselves. In my training I refer to an example of making the appropriate adjustment such as ensuring that the training session is on the ground floor if a wheelchair user is attending rather than installing a lift to enable them to get to the top floor. Other adjustments can be quite simplistic such as providing your hand-outs in large print if the person has sight impairment or recording the session for people who may struggle with their memory. Working in a highly diverse workforce it is also important to recognise and manage the fact that any workforce is a representation of the local community, some of which may hold views which are at odds with those held by other learners or may hold prejudices which are potentially offensive. I need to be mindful that employees do not breach policy within the discussions and balance this with the rights to tackle issues which may be unpalatable to hear. It is important to remain impartial but also to challenge any behaviours which may be deemed offensive. Serious consideration needs to be given to the individual learner and the fact that a one size fits all training session may not be appropriate. Although it may be partially successful it is certain to fail to engage at least some of the learners. The training should recognise different learning styles and include this in the lesson plan. Without giving due consideration to kinaesthetic, auditory and visual learners via the use of practical tasks, videos and other engaging activities there would be a failure by the teacher to properly consider the needs of the learners.
In ensuring that the teaching environment is suitable there are a number of considerations to take into account. I would need to consider the room layout and giving consideration to learners who may prefer to sit at the front (or at the back!) There may be a requirement for an appropriate space for someone who had physical limitations. Another adjustment may be using colour schemes that are easy to read when operating PowerPoint.
There is a need to ensure learners are comfortable in the learning environment. If consideration is given to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs then at a very basic level this must be met to facilitate good learning.
There are at least five sets of goals, which we may call basic needs. These are briefly physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualisation. In addition we are motivated by the desire to achieve or maintain the various conditions upon which these basic satisfactions rest and by certain more intellectual desires.
Maslow, A.H. A theory of human motivation (1943) Brooklyn College
If for example, I knew that a role-play task would make all the learners uncomfortable and then belligerently went ahead with it this would potentially breach the trust and rapport that has been established. I would be enforcing something that they do now want to be engaged in.
When dealing with adult learners it is important to ensure that the language used and methodology for teaching gives consideration to the breadth of learners you have. In my role I can be expected to train employees in the same session who may be employed in roles as diverse as consultant doctors, domestic supervisors and accountants. The range of professions and skills mean that in order to engage the learners in the session the delivery must be diverse and flexible enough to consider their needs. In applying the policies that they are being taught in the session it is important that you demonstrate the need to respect individuals by showing respect to them. I will often set ground rules for sessions which include managing confidentiality, asking staff to join in discussions with scenarios rather than divulging names, asking that each person is afforded the opportunity to speak if they wish to without interruption. Although individuals can be challenged, people have the right to hold and express their opinions in a safe and constructive way.
As a teaching professional it is important to consider the role that other professionals can have in supporting learners. In the training that I deliver there are several other human resources staff who also deliver the same session, therefore when making any changes I need to ensure that they are fully briefed on the amendments. There is also a requirement within any business environment to consider the direction of travel for the organisation as although the same subject matter can be delivered there are potentially various ways in which you can coach and advise managers to deal with the issue. It may be necessary to adapt your lesson plans to take into account the type of professionals that you are training and/or working for. In managing boundaries account must be taken of your professional role as the teacher and there may be issues which the students are facing which may be beyond your expertise. This could be where the student is having personal problems which although need to be addressed. Potentially this could jeopardise the professional relationship that you have established if you do not advise the student to gain support from other professionals to assist them. An example of this might be a learner asking about getting support with a health issue that might impinge on their employment. In this case I would normally suggest a referral to occupational health so that the issue can be dealt with under professional support. In this way professional integrity is maintained. If the boundary is not established there is the possibility that this could be seen as an opportunity with some students to gain advantage and request higher grades. The way to manage this is to be helpful in signposting the student but being aware that you do not have to actually provide the support yourself. In many cases you may not be best placed with the relevant skills to appropriately support the learner.
In summary the roles and responsibilities of a trainer are complicated due to the need to consider a range of peoples needs when preparing a session. Where these needs are given full consideration however there is a much improved benefit to the learners experience.