How to Teach Anything to Anyone
Most people are familiar with the phrase: Those who can't do, teach. Ironically, it's the converse that creates dysfunction in business. So often these doers get stuck doing and doing because they don't know how to teach their skills and knowledge to employees and colleagues. Talented people end up overtasked and the company suffers from inefficiency.
It's not that top performers can't teach others. Mostly they've just never been taught how to teach or even given a basic process to follow. With the help of my friend, former professor Carolyn Roark, PhD, I have laid out a simple yet effective 5-step process for teaching any subject. Now exemplary people can do and teach.
1. Create a Clear Curriculum
So often people fail in teaching before they start because they don't have a clear plan. Successful teaching requires structured content with clear objectives and milestones. Start by methodically outlining the process you want to share. Use bullet points and keep the language simple. Think about and note the approximate time you think it will take for your learner to comprehend and ultimately master each process. Document how you personally overcame obstacles and gained proficiency for each step. Discuss the outline with the learner so he or she has reasonable expectations for mastery.
2. Make the Material Matter
The only thing worse than trying to learn with no learning materials is dealing with learning materials that are incomplete, vague or nonsensical. The best way to expedite learning is to create detailed documents, videos and pictures that demonstrate exactly how a process should be done. Take the time and make the effort to lay out the details of every step in a logical order with examples and notation. Make the content clear and engaging. You'll save the time later since your learner will likely take a more proactive approach instead of waiting for the information to download from your mouth. You'll get the added benefit of being able to use the material again with future learners.
3. Present With Purpose and Passion
I am always baffled how the most interesting and entertaining people suddenly become lifeless and dull when they have structured material to present. The whole idea behind teaching is to engage and excite learners so they choose to drive their own proactive exploration into the subject. To do this you need to be enthusiastic about the subject. If you don't care about the material, why should they? Demonstrate your passion with energy and focus. Don't just casually throw the information out there. Be organized, specific and explicit about what they can expect to learn and why it's beneficial for all involved. Help them work through the material and make sure they know how to extract the key information. Most importantly, make the process fun. Use humor, visuals and storytelling to encode the messages. If you make it entertaining, you'll engage the learners and yourself so everyone is present and wants to continue the process.
4. Let the Learners Lead the Learning
Lecture is statistically the least effective method for content delivery. People lose interest or get distracted and ultimately retain less information. Find creative ways to make learning interactive with the learners driving the process. Give them exercises that encourage them to ask questions and demonstrate tasks so they can absorb the material in a meaningful way. Help them be smart. Set them up to teach each other as they progress. This will move them to proactively fill in their own gaps in retention and heighten their awareness while they learn.
5. Reinforce With Repetition and Response
Just because the material is presented and the discussion is done, it doesn't mean your job as teacher is finished. You need to work the learner through the actual process and help make adjustments along the way. Set up opportunities where your learner can actually perform the tasks in real time. Make sure the process is set up to allow the learner to fail safely, with nothing critical at risk. Since people can learn more from failure than from success, provide frequent, specific feedback laced with encouragement and praise. Help your learner set specific goals and accomplish each one to gain confidence. Once your learner can self-correct, let him or her fly solo so you can go find something new to learn with your freshly-gained time.
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