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Delivering Professional Training to Kids and Teens


Professional training is for adults after they are in the work force, right? No, not right. Professional training is for kids and teens too, long before they enter that workplace.

Fortunately, the word “training,” which used to refer to what we did for kids who were not academically keen, has now made its way into schools and classrooms all over the world. And it represents a good paradigm shift for educators, even if that shift is sometimes moving very slowly.

Education vs. Training

Most people still want to differentiate these two terms, but conceptually they are the same. If there is any difference, education refers more to academic subjects (English, math, etc.), and training refers to that type of education that presents or enhances concepts and skills that apply to the real world of work and career. These include courses in entrepreneurship, personal finance, technology, leadership, etc. And we cannot begin too early in delivering this curricula to our kids. The question becomes, then, one of how we deliver this curriculum to young people.

Basics of Concept and Skill Delivery

Good teaching doesn’t really change based upon the subject. Research clearly shows that students, whether they are kids or adults, learn best by doing and experiencing, not by listening. And given that the average attention span of an adult in a lecture situation is about 20 minutes, we can reduce that by at least half for kids. Learners have to “do” to stay engaged. This is perhaps one of the reason that summer tech camps are so popular with even young kids – they get to “do.”

Here, then, are some tips for delivering professional training to kids and teens.

Your Role is one of Facilitator

You exist to guide learning, not stuff it down kids’ throats. Yes, there will be introductory information that you may have to present in a “lecture” format, but even that lecture should involve students actively. Break that lecture up into small chunks and ask questions of your students as you go along; allow them to interrupt you and ask questions as they need to; use lots of visuals; and keep it as short as possible. If you have planned carefully, this should be easy to do. Once the lecture is over, it is time for student practice, and your job is to move about as an assistant and a coach, not as a giver of knowledge. Remember, the goal of any lecture is to excite and to show learners what’s in it for them. If they see value, they will want to engage.

Have a Single Objective for Each Session

It is too ambitious to plan for more than one objective. Why? Because training sessions involve practice more than anything else. You present the initial information and perhaps model how something is done. From that point forward, the session must involve student practice. Again, planning is the key. You need to determine the format for practice – will it be individual or in small groups? What is the product you want from the practice? Is it a short-term project to be completed by the end of the session or a longer-term one that will involve several sessions? You have an objective that relates to a skill; other, un-named objectives may include practice in collaborative problem-solving and decision-making, leadership, task delegation, etc.

Provide Options

Kids perform better when they have options to show their mastery of a concept or skills. So do adults, by the way. As you think about the various products that will show mastery, provide these options to students. In an entrepreneurship course, for example, how many different ways can students demonstrate their marketing strategies for their chosen product or service? There certainly are options for videos, slide shows, mock oral presentations, sample Internet content marketing tactics, etc. In a coding class, can students develop a game, a survey or poll, an infographic or a mock website? The more options the better, because that is how you generate learner excitement.

Don’t forget the Feedback Loop

As a trainer, you need to continually improve your skills too. At the end of any session or project, students need to reflect on that experience and to tell you what went well and what did not. That information should drive what you do to improve the training experience.

Professional development and training for young people is a given, considering the competitive and demanding world in which our kids will live. Educators who embrace the concept of training will be a strong part of preparing their preparation for a future of lifelong learning.

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