Or at least, it is not as effective as it could be. Students and trainees are bored, ‘trained out’ and know what to expect.

I’ve been a trainer for over 25 years. During that time I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the usual PowerPoint-Lecture-Exercises routine familiar to anyone who has ever been ‘trained’.

Research from the Sutton Trust shows that many teachers and trainers are wasting their time and killing the enthusiasm of their students and learners. For example:

What doesn’t work includes

  • The lavish use of praise
  • Allowing learners to discover key ideas by themselves
  • Presenting information to trainees based on their ‘preferred learning style’.

My attitude these days is to use innovative methods.

  • I founded InnerLandscapes in 2011 to explore (literally) how the natural environment can help us learn and change.
  • The following year I set up OneMinuteIdeas to promote short, focused sessions delivered over the web.
  • I am currently in discussions about short university-style courses on personal development and wellbeing that will be delivered in a new way.

Encourage us to change

Though it is good practice to question traditional methods from time to time, in teaching and training this doesn’t happen much. Teachers and trainers tend to be stuck in their ways, but this is only because they are delivering what the market expects; there is no encouragement to get trainers to ‘think outside the box’ and do something brave, innovative and new.So we continue to sit people in rows and speak at them. We continue to do what we’ve always done , partly because its what the client wants. PsyPost sums up some aspects of this by highlighting what doesn’t work in teaching… Or at least, there is no evidence to show that the accepted wisdom that guides many teachers is right.

Surely, teachers and trainers should be leaders and innovators. I don’t want to put all the responsibility with schools and trainers’ clients, but unless teachers and trainers are encouraged and supported in innovation and risk-taking we won’t get anything new. Millions will continue to be wasted on ineffective teaching and training.

In my career as a trainer and coach I have only once been asked by a client (Adobe) to recreate training sessions that did something different. I was given an entirely free hand to design some short sessions that would help people develop their self-management skills. (I wrote a post on it). The decision to take this risk seems to have been taken single-handedly by the HR department.

Companies who are prepared to break the mould and allow innovation in training could, at a stroke, save money, and improve learning, performance and morale. Done right, they’d also build staff trust and enthusiasm for training.

When choosing how to deliver training a simple mantra should be: “If it’s been done before, don’t use it”. Trainees should be surprised, entertained and engaged, because teaching them doesn’t work very well. Trainers should be challenged to prove that what they are doing works, and to demonstrate how they continue to grow and their techniques to evolve. There are many skilled and talented trainers among us, but we’ll rest on our laurels (did we ever have any?), until allowed and encouraged to go further.


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