Training the Next Generation

There was a great article in the May 2008 issue of Training titled, “Teach Tomorrow’s Leaders.” In it author Jay Jacobson discusses the need to move beyond training to learning.

The next generation of future leaders has had access to the Internet for most of their lives. They are wired to be entertained–almost 24 hours a day. The text-messaging phenomenon feeds their “rapid-fire” mentality, and people now expect information in short, abbreviated doses. As a result, current training techniques often are misaligned with the way the next generation of leaders will learn new information and stay engaged.

In the article Jacobson goes on to give some tips for creating this entertaining environment of learning. I found this one point interesting, “Make sure trainers provide thought leadership and guidance, and are not the preeminent source of knowledge. If the trainer is speaking more than 25 percent of the time, consider it a red flag.”

That’s a really bold statement. We need to let our participants talk and lead the discussion 75% of the time during a training learning session. Aren’t those the people we normally want to kick out of the session? 🙂  In all seriousness I am lucky to get some of my learners to talk at all.

I agree with this in theory, and this is something for us to work towards in libraries. What ideas do you have to make learning more participatory for the learner? Especially for technology training…how can we get learners to take the floor? As we make this paradigm shift do you see your more traditional learners being confused or annoyed by this change in dynamics? What do you think your facilitator/learner talking ratio is?

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. I’m a big proponent for trainers speaking less so that participants can be actively engaged in their learning. It reminds me of an emerging technology class that I taught twice in the same week for a local Phoenix library system. I try to adhere to what I call organized flexibility. This means I use learning objectives, but I really try to take clues from those in the class as to what their needs are and what and how they are interested in learning. This was an introductory class and in the first session the participants were really vocal, asking many questions, giving lots of personal examples, chiming right in. Although most of the class time involved encouraging them to test out the emerging tech tools, by way of making a blog, posting to a wiki, etc., I also gave them 20 minutes at the end to pick from a long list of “fun” technologies to try out for themselves, based on their own interests (such as Pandora, Mayomi, Neopets or LivePlasma). In the second class, the group seemed shy, and didn’t ask questions or share their own experiences. As a result, we ended up with 40 minutes for exploratory time. So I gave them 20 minutes to explore and then the last 20 minutes I had them share the tool they liked best. It was fantastic, they really got excited and many found sites that weren’t on the list and even shared reasons they thought the sites were relevant to library work or library customers. Both classes really went well, but were very different in atmosphere. I think the second group might have been less experienced, or maybe it was just a difference in group dynamics, but I really enjoyed that two different experiences could really work for learning the same material.

  2. Stephanie, Thanks for the illustration of how to make learning more about the participants. This is a great example. It always amazes me how different two groups can be. Often like night and day.

  3. I think this really comes down to knowing who you’re training. The new generations will learn best like this, but there are older generations who still want to be taught, they are used to being taught and you may just have to teach them. You can try to integrate some of the new ideas and make time for more discussions and questions but in the end you’d better be ready to teach them because chances are they just don’t have the experience with leading their own learning the way the younger generations have been allowed. That is not meant as judgment but just the experiences I’ve had.

  4. I find that youth do take a more participatory attitude to training than I had with adults. When I taught adult classes, the ones who talked either had not clue or just wanted to gab. Youth tend to had real questions and sometimes add to the class themselves. That’s why I prefer kids and teen classes.

  5. I definitely incorporate as much hands on as I can. But as I guide the learners in learning I do a LOT of questioning and thinking excercises. The real key is to ask good open ended questions AND allow lots of time for thinking and allow/encourage/facilitate opportunities for discussion. Even if the first person answers correctly, I don’t assume that there might not be other valid ideas. If we get different answers, I offer the opportunity for them to further discuss why they are thinking the way they are.

    I attended a great seminar at CIASTD last December led by Len Mozzi and I ended up making an illustration that is hanging on my cube….

    A good trainer/teacher…
    *talks less, does more
    *focuses, listens
    *covers less, goes deeper

  6. Paul Signorelli says:

    Coming to this discussion a little late, but figure the timing is perfect since I just came across the following yesterday: “Avoid pure lecture at every opportunity. As Professor (Celia) Applegate (1999) puts it: ‘Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.'” Applegate wrote those words in Chapter 2 of “How I Teach,” and I found the quote on p. 241 of Suzanne Bell’s “Librarian’s Guide to Online Searching.” The final chapter of Bell’s book is meant to show readers how to help others learn about databases, and it’s well worth reading for its wonderfully concise reminders of teaching-training-learning basics which many of us know and all too often forget to practice.


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