aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Getting to the Core

Posted by Ellen on March 16, 2011

“What Are the Core Competencies of a Trainer?” This great question was posted by Ling-Huey on ASTD’s LinkedIn forum, and her question generated dozens and dozens of comments.

Here’s a summary:

Effective trainers …

  • know the subject matter and can adapt key messages to learners’ levels of understanding while helping learners see the relevancy of the content
  • involve the learners
  • exude enthusiasm and passion
  • accept that it isn’t about them — it’s about the learners
  • understand how adults learn
  • model the desired behavior
  • can provide constructive feedback
  • are good listeners
  • can ask great questions
  • must be flexible — things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes a side-track can be a more valuable learning opportunity than what was supposed to come next
  • are able to “tune in” to learners’ reactions and pick up on subtle signs that someone just isn’t getting it or is losing interest
  • are confident and can build learners’ confidence
  • “view each interaction as an opportunity”
  • understand the strategic direction of upper management so they can implement effective tactics to affect change
  • “should be good human beings”
  • are optimistic
  • are greedy about learning from their learners
  • appreciate that what they do is more than a job — it’s a profound responsibility because “one bad trainer can create thousands of bad students”
  • understand it takes many,many years — maybe a lifetime — to become really accomplished trainers
  • have patience not only with learners but with their other stakeholders
  • have an analytical ability in order to measure results
  • possess showmanship and a stage presence
  • “have the heart of a parent to keep solid relationships with their learners”
  • “draw out the collective expertise of participants”
  • practice what they teach
  • must establish and maintain their credibility
  • understands where learners are starting from
  • can anticipate where learners might go awry and knows how to deal with it
  • welcome diverse viewpoints
  • handle challenging questions and situations with finesse
  • create an environment where disagreements can occur
  • without disrupting the learning environment
  • must be approachable and accessible
  • encourage learning from mistakes and engender risk-taking and experimentation
  • have a sense of humor

Whew! That’s a lot! But notice how many of these “competencies” are actually personal traits?

“Core Competencies” are usually skills and knowledge identified as being necessary for performing a function to an acceptable level of competency (i.e., “ability to properly structure instruction with respect to Kirkpatrick…” or “ability to manage the learning environment”).

But aren’t those personal traits as important?

Of course they are! We can define some of them as competencies — the ability to communicate clearly and perform active listening skills, for example.

But exuding enthusiasm and passion or having a sense of humor? It seems to me you either have those qualities or you don’t. Even so, they’re qualities that the best trainers (and facilitators) possess, don’t you think?

So, do we handle the personal characteristics as part of the job interview when seeking good trainers, and leave the competencies as job performance criteria?

What do you think? How do you define a great trainer/facilitator? How do you balance the personal characteristics that make a great trainer with the core competencies of training?

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